With so much discussion going on in the Irish farming industry about Brexit and free-trade agreements at present, I thought it was time to ask the Irish farmer to have a look at their primary market, the UK, and the presence of Irish products on its supermarket shelves.
With the annual pilgrimage to the Cheltenham Festival nearly upon us and Aintree soon after, it is a good time to make a suggestion and, hopefully, gain some feedback.
A quick Google reveals that Cheltenham offers the full gamut of UK supermarkets; Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco [where you will find Irish beef] and Lidl, Aldi and Morrisons where you probably won’t. It also has a Waitrose and that is where I suggest one goes if one aspires to being a producer of premium foods. As food retail chains go, few are better than Waitrose.
As one cannot expect a racegoer to spend hours trawling the aisles of supermarkets, I would suggest to focus is on the meat and dairy shelves; that is after all what Irish farming is about; at least when we are talking exports. And please do not just investigate the chilled-produce shelves but also the delicatessen and butchery counters. It is the latter that often, conveniently, use national flags to highlight the country of origin. Just how numerous are the green, white and orange flags of Ireland? The counters are also staffed so do ask for Irish. Elsewhere one may have to read the small print.
So, what to look for? Kerrygold butter is a good starting point as it is likely to be the most obvious. How does it look upon the shelves? Is it asking you to put it in your basket or trolley? How does it compare with the competition in terms of presentation, packaging, its storyline and its price? Does it have unique selling points? And then move on to look for other Irish produce.
Ireland has two near-national quality assurance schemes, both of which are well known to Irish farmers and Irish farmers. Given that Ireland exports a few multiples of its domestic market size to the UK, just how visible and strong is Irish QA scheme presence on the UK supermarket shelves? Do they highlight that the premium status of Irish produce? Do they and other point-of-sale presence of Irish produce say, “buy me, I am Irish and I am special”? One would hope so.
This is only a suggestion knowing that a few Irish folk will be crossing the water soon. But I will go further, if you find yourself in the USA, Germany, the Gulf States or even China and you have an interest in Irish farming and food, please take the time to walk the aisles of the food retailers, it is always a surprisingly enlightening experience.