Agriculture industry chiefs from Northern Ireland have welcomed a new ‘Switch to Local’ initiative by Tesco which could generate millions of pounds for the local economy.
The Tesco-driven Switch to Local campaign aims to encourage consumers to think twice about where the brands and products they buy come from and to switch at least one item on their weekly shopping list for a locally-produced or home-grown alternative.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA launched the scheme at Stormont and was the first person to sign up to the major new initiative. The NI public has been urged to pledge its support to the initiative by joining this campaign on facebook and on the project website, and reinforcing that commitment by changing their shopping habits.
Minister O’Neill congratulated Tesco on their initiative and said: “I have long been an advocate of supporting local produce and increasing the awareness of those products which are grown, produced and processed in this region. Our food stands out in terms of its quality and flavour and in many cases is renowned on the international stage, but there is an ongoing need to keep the subject of provenance and sustainability at the forefront of our local consumers’ minds.
“Credit is due to Tesco for taking the lead in ‘Switch to Local’ and I know they will put the necessary resources into making it a success. I encourage all other retailers and food service outlets to take similar steps and for processors and trade bodies to become involved where possible, as it is clear that customers find that buying local produce is important to them.”
Michele Shirlow of Food NI said Switch to Local had the potential to generate millions of pounds for the local economy: “There are over 700,000 households in Northern Ireland. If every local shopper switches one item per weekly shop at, say, £1 or £2, imagine the impact we could see on sales of NI products: it could be many millions of pounds over the next six weeks alone. That would be a significant economic boost with the potential to create new jobs and aid expansion by local food and drink producers.”
Caoimhe Mannion, Marketing Manager, Tesco NI said: “Tesco in Northern Ireland is firmly committed to sourcing as much as possible from local suppliers. This region produces an array of superb products, including high quality meat and seasonal vegetables and is home to a number of world class food manufacturers and producers, as well as smaller local artisan companies whose products we are proud to bring to our customers.
“We work closely with the food & drink industry here, we are hearty supporters of it and we are heavily invested in seeing it grow. We hope this campaign will educate shoppers and help them to give the local farming and food industries an extra boost.”
“We know that consumers here care about where their food comes from. By seeking out local produce, shoppers will know that the money they are spending supports a local firm, stays in the local economy, secures jobs and provides long-term stability for the agri-food industry here. We can all do our bit by switching even just one product.”
This is the next phase in the Tesco Taste Northern Ireland campaign aimed at connecting consumers with the people and places behind a wide range of local food & drink in its stores here. In recent months, Tesco has also switched to sourcing 100% of its Tesco pre-packed beef, pork and chicken from three NI processors and thereby supporting 3,000 local farmers. 100% of Tesco brand eggs and milk are also sourced from Northern Ireland.
Caoimhe Mannion continued: “This is a simple matter of looking a little more closely at the labels on your shopping. The “country of origin” on fresh produce will tell you if it’s grown in Northern Ireland. Other local products throughout our stores are indicated with the Taste Northern Ireland logo on the shelf or on the pack. We have over 90 local suppliers and many hundreds of local product lines so there is plenty of choice.”
The campaign has been welcomed by a range of food industry bodies including the Livestock & Meat Commission, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the NI Food & Drink Association.
Chief Executive of the Livestock & Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC), Ian Stevenson commented, “LMC is delighted that Tesco Northern Ireland has taken the initiative, with its supply chain partners, to champion support for local produce to consumers. LMC is a strong advocate of the importance of provenance and of traceability from farm to fork and we would encourage consumers to include local quality beef and lamb as part of a healthy balanced diet”.
Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair said; “Northern Ireland has a world class agri-food industry and there is plenty of top quality, excellent value food available that retailers can fill their shelves with. Promoting local food is something we’ve been asking retailers to do for a while now and I am pleased that Tesco’s ‘Switch to Local’ initiative is directing consumer focus towards NI food. Tesco is showing a commitment to championing local food and while it will remain to be seen if this translates into primary producer profitability, this initiative is a positive step in the right direction and I would hope that other retailers will follow suit.”
Shoppers can join the campaign online at www.facebook.com/tastenorthernireland or visit www.switchtolocal.info