From taste to traceability – the importance of supporting local

From taste to traceability – the importance of supporting local

It’s our annual celebration of Northern Ireland’s growers, producers and manufacturers – the Neighbourhood Retailer Love Local edition!

In our February-March issue, NR champions the cream of the NI crop, continuously striving to meet consumer demand.

As consumers become increasingly more aware of the benefits of buying local produce, so has the focus of retailers on ensuring they have the best of Northern Irish and Irish produce on their shelves. The advantages are two-fold as it also encourages a further focus on sustainability.

The need for local has only been emphasised in the last number of years, with Brexit, covid, the Ukraine war and issues around the Red Sea shipping crisis changing how we view the supply of food and how we supply food.

Indeed, recent rises in potato prices in supermarkets represent wider issues in the supply chain, with fruit and vegetable shortages on shop shelves highlighting the difficulties with relying heavily on imported produce.

“What happened there has highlighted that the farther the field from the shelf, the more unpredictable the supply of it is. The closer the product is grown, the more reliability there will be for getting that product to the shelves,” Deputy President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, John McLenaghan explained to NR.

Image: White’s Oats

“There are of course other benefits to this such as cutting down distance and costs and improving sustainability. Vegetables grown here will have a higher nutrient density and value compared to those grown in bulk in a quicker period,” he added.

As Michael Bell, Executive Director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) points out, for a region of our size, Northern Ireland punches well above its weight.

“Together with what I call the wider ‘eating ecosystem’ – farming, transport, cold stores, packaging, retail – we are a £4.9 billion industry, supporting 113,000 jobs. We feed 10 million people,” said Mr Bell.

“Over the past year, Northern Ireland food and drink companies have continued to grow and drive that success through what has been a challenging environment. Inflation, hyperinflation even, continued to be an issue throughout 2023. Prices of feed, fertiliser and energy remained high, driving the price of food at a rate that had not been seen for multiple generations.”

Northern Ireland is a hot bed of producers and manufacturers, who are only too keen to show off their wares to customers across the province – and in our latest issue we celebrate them all!