Mercadona, Spain’s largest supermarket retailer with over 1,400 retail outlets and sales of over 17 billon euros was the largest supermarket represented. Closely followed by Eroski with over 1100 stores in Spain and France. Gadisa, located in the north west of Spain, has over 400 stores and Más y Más, from the Alicante region, around 130 outlets. Together they offer comprehensive coverage of the Spanish marketplace.
As well as meeting Northern Ireland companies for one-to-one presentations of local food and drink, the buying team visited several factories to see processing operations at first hand and to discuss requirements.
The two-day visit was the first from Spanish retailers organised by Invest NI, which runs an extensive programme of activities including ‘meet the buyer’ opportunities to promote sales of Northern Ireland food and drink in Europe and further afield.
Prior to this visit Invest NI also organized an event with El Corte Inglés in Madrid where the products of over 26 NI companies where presented to senior buyers. El Corte Inglés with over 300 stores and sales of over 16 billon euros in one of Spain’s most important retailers, being very similar to Marks & Spencer in structure.
Carrefour Spain, part of Europe’s largest supermarket chain has also requested a meeting with Invest NI to ascertain the potential of NI food and drink’s companies.
Food and drink processing, a £4 billion industry, is Northern Ireland’s biggest manufacturer and most important exporter. Around £1 billion worth of food and drink is exported from Northern Ireland to markets outside Great Britain.
The buyers had an opportunity to see the broadest range of Northern Ireland food and drink including meat, dairy products, snack foods and beverages such as craft ales and beers. They also had an opportunity to outline their business requirements particularly in terms of new products likely to appeal to shoppers across Spain.
Karl Devlin, Invest NI Business International, says: “Hosting such an influential retail delegation in Northern Ireland enabled our companies, both large and small, to show the premium quality and outstanding value for money of the food and drink readily available here.
“Spain is Europe’s 5th largest economy with a population of almost 50 million, importing over 21 billion Euros of food and drink produce each year and is therefore an immensely important European marketplace, one which we have targeted for growth across all our processing sectors. There’s also considerable interest in British and Irish products from around one million expats now resident in the costas and the 16 million who regularly visit Spain on holidays.
“A number of Northern Ireland companies, including those specialising in meat, speciality cheese, breakfast cereals, snacks and health foods, are already well-established in Spain, and we have been encouraging and assisting many others to look closely at opportunities.
“We now have an agreement with a food marketing consultancy there, which has been tasked with helping companies to grow sales of existing products and also to explore opportunities with Spanish retailers to develop new food and drink ideas for consumers there.
“The visit, in addition, enabled our companies to learn about Spanish business procedures and specific requirements in areas such as logistics, packaging and labelling.”
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