Bronagh Henderson, marketing manager of Henderson Group in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland’s biggest grocer best known for its network of Eurospar and Spar supermarkets across the Province, says shoppers are increasingly looking for local food and drink, especially as they prepare for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
The group is already recognised as one of the biggest purchasers of local produce and an enthusiastic supporter of smaller producers, including artisans through innovative buying initiatives for successful schemes such as The Chef and The Kitchen ranges, which are available at Eurospar and Spar stores, among the most modern of their kind anywhere in Northern Ireland.
Keeping value, provenance and quality at the top of their wish lists, Bronagh says shoppers are increasingly demanding locally sourced groceries. And it’s a growing demand that she fully supports and is influencing the group’s buying strategy.
“Eating local food is better for you, for the environment, for your taste buds and, perhaps most importantly, it offers great value for money, as well as quality and outstanding taste.
“Sourcing local food also means we continue our support for local suppliers – and that’s really good news for the wellbeing of our economy,” she adds.
“That’s why we’ve partnered with our finest local producers to offer a range of products that our shoppers love, and not just for Christmas. Over 75 per cent of our fresh food is sourced locally all year round.
“And we now offer top quality food and drink products from 180 local suppliers, from well-known local brands to our own-label Spar enjoy local, The Chef restaurant quality meals, The Kitchen and The Greengrocer’s ranges too,” continues Bronagh.
The Chef range has been developed by experienced restaurant chef Carl Johanesson and his team at a purpose-built kitchen at Randalstown, County Antrim. Four of the gourmet meals won stars in this year’s Great Taste Awards.
As well as backing local food producers, the fast moving group, which also includes an extensive foodservice operation supplying the hospitality industry here, is a long time backer of local farm produce.
This Christmas Spar and Eurospar, she explains, have put local suppliers front and centre of their festive campaign, from Fresh Fields carrots from Newtownards, Stephen Murdoch and Andrew Herron’s Brussels sprouts, grown in Comber, to Karro Foods’ gammon in Cookstown, William Orr & Sons potatoes in Crossgar, and the Great Taste Award winning desserts by The Kitchen, made in Craigavon by Davison’s Puds,
Bronagh continues: “From the Christmas gammon to pigs in blankets, the all-important sprouts and the festive pud, our Christmas dinner offering is sourced from local fields and farms, keeping up our support for the agri-food industry and our food miles down.
“We have competitive price points throughout the ranges, with our Greengrocer’s Brussels Sprouts, Maris Piper potatoes, carrots and parsnips all 89p, Cookstown 1.5kg gammon at £7 and desserts by The Kitchen at £2.99,” she adds.
Bronagh says: “With Christmas dinner being the most important meal of the year, and with consumers hopefully being able to come together and celebrate properly this year, we are combining our strengths of excellent locally run stores and fantastic local suppliers to ensure our shoppers’ Christmas dinner is an extra special one this year.”
The group has been an important supporter of UK Great Taste winning brands such as Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, winner of the Product of the Year in the Quality Food Awards 2021, Dale Farm dairy products, Denny’s and Cookstown meats, Wilson’s Potatoes, Craigavon, and Irwin’s Bakery.
In recent years the group has expanded its purchasing to include smaller and artisan producers such as Omagh’s Kennedy Bacon, Glastry Farm Ice Cream from Kircubbin, Hellbent in Belfast, and Dunmurry’s Millar Mo flavoured milk drinks.
The group also introduced smaller producers such as Hellbent and Kennedy to Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Northern Ireland throughout the Province.
Henderson Group is a local family-owned and managed business achieving 84th place on the latest 2020 Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 100 league table of the UK’s private companies. It is also ranked third in the Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies 2021 and second in the Ulster Grocer Top 75 Northern Ireland Food & Drink companies 2021.
The Group owns the Spar, Eurospar, Vivo, Vivoxtra and Vivo Essentials franchises throughout Northern Ireland.
Four companies make up the group – Henderson Wholesale, Henderson Retail, Henderson Group Property and Henderson Foodservice.
Henderson Wholesale has been distributing food and grocery-related products to the convenience retail sector for over 120 years and is the largest operator of its kind in the country.
Henderson Retail owns and operates 101 Spar and Eurospar stores in Northern Ireland and was named Independent Retail Chain of the Year at the 2021 Grocer Gold Awards.
Henderson Foodservice is a market leading supplier to the catering industry, providing a vast range of products to hotels, schools, restaurants, etc, across Ireland.
The group employs around 4,500 people across Northern Ireland.