A new era for Food Force Ireland

A new era for Food Force Ireland

Food Force Ireland to enter a new phase as its annual Direct Supply Trade Exhibition returns  to the Culloden Hotel & Spa on September 24, 2019.

Once again Food Force Ireland (FFI) members are preparing to descend on the Culloden Hotel & Spa for a full day of trading, securing one-off deals and furthering relationships with Northern Ireland’s top suppliers.

With more suppliers than ever before vying for a spot at the exclusive Direct Supply Trade Exhibition, members are once again spoiled with the calibre of deals and promotions to be secured on the day.

“There’s been a lot of interest from new suppliers to come along to the show, which is great for our members as they will be seeing an even wider variety of new products,” says FFI trading controller, Debra Johnston. “It’s also a fantastic opportunity for local suppliers to meet and be able to sell to Northern Ireland’s leading group of independent retailers.”

As a mutually beneficial day for FFI members and suppliers, a highlight of the yearly occasion is the awards ceremony where a select number of accolades are handed out to the year’s most assiduous suppliers.

New for 2019, is Licensed Supplier of the Year which members have been voting for behind the scenes. For the first time, an alcoholic drinks supplier will be commemorated, along with suppliers in the categories; ambient, bakery, soft drinks, and chilled. An overall Account Manager of the Year award will also be handed out to an individual who has gone above and beyond for members over the last year.

“The introduction of Licensed Supplier of the Year is to reflect the growing side of our business. Around 37 of our members now have off licences as part of their overall offering and it continues to be a category that members are using to drive footfall and sales in-store.”

After celebrating 25 years in business last year, Food Force Ireland has a new presence for 2019. The organisation’s greatly-admired leader, Henry Emerson, is stepping down as chairman making way for new Chairman, Jonathan Crawford.

“Henry Emerson has been the most inspiring employer I have ever worked for. He has a very shrewd business brain and sees answers to dilemmas before anyone else knew there was one. He is first and foremost a gentleman, quiet and dignified and devoted to his family. He brought all these qualities to his Chairmanship of the Food Force “family”.  Without him at the helm I doubt we would have made 25 years! I would learn something  new everytime we spoke. He was a mentor and confidante and I think he wouldn’t mind me now being able to call him a friend. I am grateful to him for all of the last 18 years with the company. He inspires and expects hard work. I am going to miss his quiet ways and strong leadership and wish both he and Marian a long and happy and healthy retirement.

I am very happy to see Jonathan Crawford take over the role, a very safe pair of hands who has also been mentored by Henry for many years. His family are longstanding established pillars of the Maghera township and they display the same qualities as Emersons in their business ethics. I have had a close working relationship with Jonathan in his role as our Financial Director and look forward to his era of chairing the group and bringing strong leadership to our already strong group.  My only issue is working for a much younger Boss! That can’t be right.  I wish him and the new board members success in their roles.

As the board moves forward with the next generation of retailers steering the way, the future is bright for Food Force Ireland members; present economic and political challenges aside. Having worked alongside Henry Emerson for most of his time on the Board, incoming chairman, Jonathan Crawford is well equipped to carry on the trusted FFI values while new board members will add a fresh perspective to proceedings.

“The whole ethos of FFI is that we are stronger together,” says Debra. “The new board brings the best of the old FFI, along with a new vision for the future. By linking all of this together we can react to any challenges a lot more quickly than our competitors.”