Retailers put Irish goods centre stage
Consumers keenly search for value when shopping, but outlets are also having to react to customer scrutiny over whether food is produced in Ireland
LIDL, THE German discounter, and Tesco, the third largest retailer chain in the world, have been wrapping themselves in the tricolour in recent weeks and urging consumers to keep the local economy going by going through their doors.
Throughout August, many members of Tesco’s Clubcard scheme have been getting an interesting brochure along with their vouchers which highlights many of the Irish foods the State’s largest supermarket has on its shelves.
It repeatedly reminds shoppers of its commitment to buying locally produced foods. The high quality of “Irish produced” is referred to over and over again, and a quick flick through its pages would have you believe that Irish produce is the best in the world.
Mind you, if you lived in the UK, you would get quite a different impression. Tesco there is running an almost identical promotion as part of a campaign which is dubbed “Love British Food”.
It is showcasing 4,000 local produce lines in stores and reminding would-be shoppers that it is the biggest retailer of locally sourced foods in that country too.
Tesco probably doesn’t care that much about Irish food or British food. What Tesco cares about is making money. And it knows that now, more than ever, consumers here and there want to buy local – and it is falling over itself for us to do that.
Research carried out three years ago found 25 per cent of consumers made their choices on the basis of where food was produced. According to the Government, the figure is now 35 per cent.
It would be easy to be cynical about such a campaign. Easy, and probably wrong. The retail giant has many critics in Ireland – and much of the criticism directed its way is entirely warranted – but to its credit, it does buy a lot of Irish food.
In fact, it buys more Irish products than Germany, France or the United States, and the export value of Irish produce sourced by the Tesco group is more than €700 million. The total economic value of Tesco to Ireland is about €2 billion a year.
That is, by any measure, a lot of money.
Over the past 15 years, Tesco has worked with Bord Glas and food producers to improve the supply chain and it points out that as a result of its efforts, 100 million tomatoes are produced in Ireland annually while 80 per cent of the onions it sells are grown here too.
Tesco is not, of course, a saintly operation. Far from it. It is a very tough company to do business with and puts huge pressure on producers to deliver exactly what it wants at the lowest possible price. Meanwhile, it makes margins here that its counterpart in the UK could only dream of – we are not called “treasure island” by the large international retail chains for nothing.
Lidl, for its part, is also very heavily pushing the Irish origins of much of its stock, while Aldi has over recent years spent a lot of time, effort and money building up its locally produced stock and has secured contracts with many artisan producers that are of benefit to the retailer, the producer and – ultimately – the consumer.