Lidl Northern Ireland gives a £2m ‘Kickstart’ to local producers as fresh batch of suppliers are picked for development programme

13 artisan suppliers picked for this year’s Kickstart Supplier Development Programme which will showcase 33 new products instore this September

Tuesday 18 June 2024: Lidl Northern Ireland is set to give a ‘Kickstart’ to a new batch of 13 local producers from across the region who successfully earned a place on the retailer’s coveted Kickstart Supplier Development Programme – an initiative that the retailer has invested more than £2 million in to support 29 local agri-food producers and facilitate export of home-grown produce through Lidl’s international store network, boosting local businesses.

Following a competitive Dragon’s Den style pitch process to find this year’s most innovative products, 13 suppliers across five counties were handpicked for the programme after an intensive application process which saw producers put through their paces with a business pitch to Lidl’s buying team and a taste test to select the best in category.

Successful producers will now see their artisan offerings, spanning 33 new products, on sale on Lidl’s shelves across its 220 stores across the island of Ireland from September 19th for a limited time, while stocks last.

From delicious overnight oats to farm shop meals and mouth-watering hot sauces, this year’s assortment will have something for everyone, with a focus on protein packed products and showcasing the fruits of Northern Ireland’s apple orchards, with cider, gin and spiced apple punch all in this year’s mix.

Now in its seventh year, Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart programme is backed by the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA) and aims to support small and medium-sized local producers to boost their brand, enhance their supply and reach new customer audiences.

Before the products hit the shelves, this six-month development programme offers suppliers dedicated business support from Lidl Northern Ireland’s in-house experts, advancing their product, brand and business with practical guidance on how to scale production, drive production efficiency, as well as product development and packaging support, allowing them to optimise on-shelf opportunities in the Autumn and scale for success.

Since launching the programme in the region in 2018, Lidl Northern Ireland has showcased over 50 innovative home-grown products, offering small and medium sized producers the opportunity to reach over 2 million weekly Lidl customers across the island of Ireland and get a foot up in breaking into the competitive supermarket retail sector.

Kate O’Driscoll, Supplier Development Manager at Lidl Ireland, said:

“Northern Ireland is a region famed for its food and drink and every year I’m impressed by the innovation, quality and craftsmanship that suppliers clearly pour into their products. The standard is always incredibly high and this year was no exception.

After a competitive application process, I’m delighted to add 13 local suppliers to our Kickstart programme this year and bring 33 new, locally made products to shoppers across the region.

What makes Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart programme so impactful is that we can immediately facilitate export opportunities for all successful suppliers that make it onto the programme. Not only do they have the opportunity to sell their products locally within our regional network of 41 stores, but also within our 179 stores located in the Republic of Ireland, reaching more than 2 million weekly shoppers which is a huge boost for small businesses.

We’ve also worked with Kickstart suppliers to further grow their reach through our wider store network, including supplying our Lidl GB stores with Hellbent’s deliciously tasty Shakalaka Boerewors, bringing a taste of home to even more audiences.

As a retailer committed to sourcing locally and supporting our agri-food industry, we are proud to champion quality products at great value, delivering on our ‘Big on Quality, Lidl on Price’ promise for our customers.”

This year’s intake will see products from Bertie’s Bakery, Blackfire Food, Cloughbane Farm Foods, Mrs K Global, Green Fingers Family, Lecale Harvest, Long Meadow Cider, Rosie’s Bakes, SLICED, Armagh Cider Company, Strangford Coffee Roastery, Sweet Robyn’s and Woodlab Distillery hit Lidl Northern Ireland stores this autumn.

Michael Bell, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said:

“We are delighted to team up with Lidl Northern Ireland to launch its successful Kickstart programme, and to welcome 13 incredible producers from Northern Ireland on board as they embrace this fantastic opportunity to promote their products.

“Securing a place on the programme is a huge achievement for local SME producers, often providing them with a game-changing break into the competitive grocery market along with ongoing business support as they work to fulfill their potential.

“Food and drink is Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturing sector, contributing almost £6 billion in value to the region and accounting for more than 20% of total manufacturing employment. It’s a huge driver of economic growth and further underscores the need for initiatives such as Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart programme to further grow our agri-food industry and cultivate home-grown suppliers.”

The Lidl Kickstart Supplier Development Programme is just one of the many ways in which the retailer supports the local economy.

In 2023, Lidl Northern Ireland significantly boosted the local agri-food industry, procuring £455 million across the region, representing a 30% rise, year on year. Of this, 80% percent of the goods are shipped outside Northern Ireland, using Lidl’s expansive international store network.

As the retailer marked its 25th anniversary in the region last month, a major economic report revealed that it contributed a record £360 million into the local economy in 2023 – doubling its annual economic contribution over the past five years – and supported almost 7,000 jobs right across the region.

For more information on the Kickstart Supplier Development Programme, visit lidl-ni.co.uk/kickstart