Food and drink from smaller artisan companies in Northern Ireland went on sale on the shelves of almost 150 Aldi supermarkets across the Republic of Ireland at the weekend.
All the companies are hoping that their original products will ‘stick’ with shoppers there over the two-week long promotion within the German-owned discounter’s imaginative ‘Grow with Aldi’ promotion.
Unfortunately for the local companies, shoppers here are not able to show their support for Northern Ireland food and drink artisans due to the absence of any Aldi stores here. Aldi Ireland has no plans to set up in the Province in the short-term.
The Aldi Ireland deal is big news for the participating companies, mostly artisan enterprises, because it represents first-time business with a supermarket leader in the Republic.
It gives them an opportunity to gain invaluable experience of dealing with a grocery leader and one with an international dimension.
Other artisans, the best example being Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt in Bangor, Northern Ireland’s only yoghurt producer, are now doing good business with Aldi. Hellbent, another, has recently begun supplying its boerewors sausages to Aldi in Scotland.
Hellbent is included once again in Grow with Aldi with two products – Boerewors Chakalata flavoured sausages and pork belly products, leading Louis Ludik, who founded the business with fellow South African Schalke van der Merwe, to say: “Aldi is proving to be a great customer and an excellent retailer with which to do business. We’ve found the Aldi Ireland team to be tremendously supportive and genuinely interested in our products, which are all made from Irish beef and pork with unique South African spices,” he adds.
Developed in partnership with Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, Grow with Aldi is designed to help the very best Irish suppliers develop their brand.
To date, Aldi Ireland has invested almost £3 million in the Grow with Aldi development programme in a bid to find the very best Irish suppliers. As a result, for a limited time only there are over 108 new products, from 57 Irish suppliers, including the eight from Northern Ireland, now readily available in store.
Another featuring for a second time in the scheme is Burren Balsamics of Richhill, a producer of fruit-infused balsamic vinegars. Burren developed a special balsamic for Aldi last year and has now been included for its novel Letterbox Larder packaged spices and other culinary ingredients.
Six of the participating companies are Food NI members – Burren Balsamics, Hellbent, Hilden Brewery, Irish Black Butter, Ballylisk of Armagh cheese, and Woodlab Distillery.
This year the Grow with Aldi message also focused on sustainability, and entrants were encouraged to demonstrate how their product/company is focusing on sustainability within their business.
Dr Ulrich Dyer, a scientist who developed the award-winning Symphonia gins, is understandably delighted to feature on the shelves in 145 Aldi stores in Ireland.
“It’s a marvellous business opportunity for us to raise our profile in the Republic with such a respected and successful retailer of spirits,” he said. We’ve already learned a great deal from our discussions with Aldi and look forward to working closely with the team to grow sales.”
In the past four years almost 800 Irish suppliers have entered the Grow with Aldi programme, with the programme receiving the highest number of entrants ever in 2021.
Winning first time business with a major food retailer is Karri Kitchen in Portadown, a recently established manufacturer specialising in gourmet Asian fusion meals, which is run by Shera McAlorum, originally from Jakarta in Indonesia, and husband Chris, a Portadown businessman.
Shoppers in the Republic are now able to enjoy Shera’s unique, fresh and healthy chow mein noodles and mango chicken curry created using recipes from her childhood in Indonesia.
Shera, 33, later moved to Sydney in Australia for her education and earned a degree in business management and marketing at the respected Australian Pacific College (APC). She worked in hospitality during her time at APC.
“Hospitality and clean, healthy eating have always been part of my life. It’s how I’ve been raised, my work experience, and our lifestyle,” she says.
Shera opened the shutters on Karri Kitchen in October 2018 and began producing an attractive and authentic range of ready meals such as mango chicken curry, chicken chow mein noodles, black pepper beef, and spicy coconut chicken curry for local food stores.
Andrea, 33, started hand-making granolas as part of a healthy food initiative. She came to realise that with “the right food, right exercise and the right mentality, my body would do what it’s meant to do itself … heal.
“It wasn’t only my body that needed healing, but my thinking and attitude too,” she explains.
All granolas are homemade by Andrea “to make sure I can add that special pinch of love”.