Two Mid Ulster firms are to feed into a new £200k fresh food range for customers of SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO customers.
Headed up by Henderson Wholesale, which is part of the Henderson Group, Cookstown’s Big Pot Co. and Quinfresh in Dungannon are two of four local producers chosen for the ‘The Kitchen’ range.
The 39-strong line of products is a collaboration between Wholesale’s fresh team and local award winning producers and food supplier, and will consist of mains, sides, desserts, family tubs and meals for one.
The range is a further development of the innovative ‘Meals Made Delicious’ range which launched in 2015, and is already creating sales of almost £2m a year.
The new locally produced meal range perfectly complements the award winning SPAR ‘enjoy local’ range which provides shoppers with great value local products.
Regular produce suppliers to the company, Big Pot Co. has created five fresh family tubs that complement the line’s convenience focus.
These include beef Bolognese, vegetable soup and Chinese chicken curry.
Other local producers include Daily Bake in Armagh, Willowbrook Foods in Killinchy and Quinfresh from Dungannon, ensuring only the best home-grown produce is used for each product.
Neal Kelly, Fresh Foods Director at Henderson Wholesale said: “We launched this particular line of products in 2015 as the Meals Made Delicious brand.
“Since then, we have seen sales of £2m per annum, however we knew we could meet the demand of the consumer more effectively by evolving with the market.
“Our award winning local suppliers helped to develop ‘The Kitchen’ range.
“This is a whole new take on convenience and ready meals; everything is freshly made with the consumer’s convenience in mind.
“We want to be the consumers’ first port of call for a fresh and valuable solution for tonight’s tea.”
To help create products that were given the stamp of approval by consumers, the company worked with Ulster University Business School’s Food and Consumer Testing Suite (FACTS) to help test, develop and define the new range.
Various mains and sides were tested including the potato and cheese bake and the green vegetable medley, which all of the panellists said they would buy.
The chicken and broccoli bake from Daily Bake proved a winner, with 89 per cent of panellists saying they would buy it.
“This research has become invaluable to shaping the fresh products we produce for the market,” Neal continued.
“These are blind taste tests with participants only being told where the products come from once they have finished the tasting.
“It gives us great insight into what consumers think about a product, uncovering their preferences and ultimately helping us make a better product with our suppliers.”
Paddy Doody, Sales & Marketing Director at Henderson Group added: “The investment of over £200k into The Kitchen range is testament to our dedication to leading the market for tonight’s tea.”