Dale Farm now a global big cheese after deal to supply cheddar to Lidl
Supermarket giant Lidl has announced its biggest ever deal with an agri-food firm in Northern Ireland as Dale Farm becomes its global supplier of cheddar cheese.
Dale Farm, the biggest dairy firm here, will be supplying cheese from its Cookstown factory to Lidl stores across the UK, Europe and the United States.
The co-operative is now Lidl's biggest cheddar supplier, and Dale Farm told the Belfast Telegraph the contract is likely to lead to an increase in the size of its workforce.
Lidl's Northern Ireland director Conor Boyle said: "Dale Farm has been a valued and trusted Lidl supplier for many years, and this deal strengthens and secures that relationship for the future.
"It is a coup for Dale Farm and for Lidl, allowing us to introduce and showcase this stunningly good product to our customers around the world."
The cheddar range will go on-shelf in Lidl Ireland under the supermarket's Rathdaragh own brand, in the UK and Europe as Valley Spire and Milbona, and in the United States as Preferred Selection.
The deal comes at a time of possible expansion for Dale Farm.
It is one of four suitors in the running to enter into a joint venture or partnership with Monaghan-based co-op LacPatrick, which collects milk from around 700 dairy suppliers in the border counties of Northern Ireland.
Dale Farm, which employs around 1,000 people, said: "As Lidl's business continues to grow, so will Dale Farm's, and as such, the rollout of this significant contract will ultimately lead to the creation of jobs within Dale Farm."
Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association said the deal proved "the dynamism, drive and growth potential of Northern Ireland's food and drink sector".
"It proves that our companies are ambitious and can compete - and win - at an international level, " he added.
"It is also testament to the success of teamwork across the entire supply chain, and builds on Dale Farm's solid credentials as a leading dairy processor and a global exporter."
Stephen Cameron, Dale Farm Group commercial director, said the deal was "great news" for the 1,300 farmers who form the co-op.
"The scale of this contract is testament to the high standard of the milk our farmer-owners provide us with to consistently create world-class cheddar cheese.
"It also demonstrates the continuing strength and sustainability of our farmer-owned co-operative business model."
Dale Farm reported pre-tax profits of £7.9m in its latest results.