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Northern Ireland food and drink sector has shown true grit

Asda: sponsor Food and Drink Company of the Year

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Opportunities: Joe McDonald, corporate affairs manager at Asda

Opportunities: Joe McDonald, corporate affairs manager at Asda

Opportunities: Joe McDonald, corporate affairs manager at Asda

There is no doubt we’re living through historic and challenging times, impacting on all businesses and organisations.

And those challenging times impact on Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector which has continued to demonstrate its resilience over the past two years. .

The wider food supply chain supports some 113,000 workforce jobs and generates £4.9bn in added value for the local economy.

Without doubt the sector’s commercial success is built on the passion, ingenuity and hard work of food and drink companies of all sizes, right across NI.

Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, inflation, staffing shortages, soaring energy costs — none of these hurdles are easy to navigate.

But thanks to its ‘true grit’ approach, Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry manages to steer a path through.

Surely that alone is a cause for celebration.

The sector’s success has been highlighted most recently at the NI Food & Drink Awards, which Asda also sponsors.

Each of the entrants and worthy winners are proof that food and drink has grown to be of strategic economic significance — and offers much potential.

Since Asda entered the Northern Ireland market in 2005, it has always been clear on its support for the local agri-food sector — it is central to our business, and we know locally sourced products are equally significant to our customers.

Asda seeks to create opportunities for local suppliers, to extend their reach across the GB store network.

This has worked to the benefit of several local companies such as Finnebrogue, which has grown to become part of our national supplier network.

While the challenges of the pandemic have been many, the impact on shopping habits, together with the reality of lockdowns also offered scope and opportunity to our local supply base, with 2020 proving to be a record year for some.

Aligned with the ‘stay at home’ message, the interest in home baking and cooking from scratch created growth for Northern Ireland’s flour millers, egg businesses and our local pork and bacon processors to mention just a few.

Likewise, with the easing of restrictions, children back to school and the workforce starting to return to the office, we’ve seen further changes in shopping trends with local suppliers of ready meals, convenience items, and food-to-go products, all benefiting from upward sales growth.

What this shows is that NI’s food and drink businesses are quick to respond and adaptable to change — qualities which are great strengths and will see them thrive in the future.

And in the land of retail, where the cost of living remains a top issue, Asda looks forward to working effectively with its local suppliers and stakeholders to ensure we continue to offer the range, choice, and value our customers want and need.

I would encourage food and drink companies to make the most of this opportunity to showcase their credentials, gain well-earned recognition, and consolidate their positions as drivers of the Northern Ireland economy.

There is certainly a lot to celebrate.


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