Belfast Telegraph

Tesco not fudging duty to help Northern Ireland producers show off and sell wares

By Rachel Martin

A sisterly fudge company is among the small producers from across Northern Ireland which are getting the chance to show off their wares in Tesco.

The supermarket giant said the 'pop-up shops' were a way of helping out fledgling businesses which might not otherwise get their products in front of consumers or on to shelves.

As part of the programme, Tesco will give the producers the opportunity to engage with members of the public, showcase and sell their products in-store - even if they do not actually have Tesco listings.

Another of those taking part is Warrenpoint-based business Squeeze Wheatgrass.

The company produces juice shots in four flavours: original wheatgrass; wheatgrass, orange and lemon; wheatgrass with beetroot and wheatgrass with apple and pear.

Owner Jacquelyn Stewart said she had already found a keen market among lovers of a healthy lifestyle.

But she said she hopes the tastings will give her the opportunity to bring her wares to the mass market and assess her product's appeal in a large retail environment.

Sean Largey, commercial manager for Tesco Northern Ireland, said it had identified a fondness for local produce in the region.

"Local truly has a huge emotional tag for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"To be able to give a helping hand to the next generation of local food and drink businesses is something that lies at the heart of Tesco Northern Ireland's ongoing commitment to the region's food and drink industry."

Blackthorn Foods, creator of Melting Pot Fudge, will also showcase its products in store in an attempt to grow its business.

The three-sister operation, which was established in 2004, currently supplies farm shops and delis but has also started exporting to America.

The award-winning fudge and toffee company was set up by sisters Jenny Lowry, Dorothy Bittles and Cathy Johnston.

The fudges, which are gluten-free, dairy-free and soya-free, come in four flavours and are marketed under the company's Melting Pot brand.

The sisters' new "free-from" fudges come in a range of four different flavours: Madagascan Vanilla, Chocolate, Stem Ginger and Chocolate and Chocolate and Orange.

Dorothy Bittles, who is a director of Blackthorn Foods, said: "We saw a developing opportunity for a range of products that are made without dairy, gluten and soya, and decided to invest in creating products to meet this demand.

"We are a family-run company producing award-winning fudge made in small batches, so the opportunity to be involved in the Tesco Artisan Programme has given us the platform to reach an audience that would be difficult to reach on our own.

"Response to the new range has been immensely encouraging and we are particularly excited about giving customers the opportunity to trial our new non-dairy fudge, as this latest product innovation was inspired by a family member who became lactose intolerant - we believe everyone should have the opportunity to have a little indulgence in their life."

Sauce company PEPPUP, which was founded by Luca Montorio - a native of Turin now living in Newtownards - is also taking part in the promotion.

Belfast Telegraph