IT’S that time of year when everyone gets to unleash their inner food judge. Grow with Aldi and SuperValu’s Food Academy are getting ready to unleash their latest clutch of local food producers out into the world after preparing them all for the bright lights of supermarket shelves up and down the country.
Aldi Ireland have unveiled 43 brand new products from 24 Irish suppliers for this years’ Grow With Aldi campaign which kicked off on 19th May for two weeks. A diverse range of products from non-alcoholic mixers to bread mixes, black and white pudding roulade and chips, honey, peanut butter, coffee, herbal tea and a variety of condiments are just some of the products competing with each other for a spot on Aldi’s nationwide product listing, of which up to just six top selling products will be selected. It’s like X-Factor for food, only tastier!
Cork is ably represented this year by three producers. Hanley’s Puddings, The Sibly Food Co, and White Rabbit BBQ.
Hanley’s Puddings is a family business established in 1957 and headed up by husband-and-wife team Anthony and Geraldine Considine. They make an award-winning black and white pudding roulade; what does it means to them to participate in Grow With Aldi?
“Our journey with the Grow With Aldi programme began in January and we have found it to be a hugely positive experience,” says Anthony.
“We’re proud to say that we make exceptionally good puddings but getting our product to market is an entirely different challenge. With Aldi’s support, Hanley’s has grown, not just in terms of sales volume and turnover, but also in terms of marketing know-how and a deeper understanding of what the consumer really wants. Aldi even ran a special course to help us navigate the paperwork involved in dealing with a major multiple which was a huge support!”
The Sibly Food Co was founded by Matthew Collins in 2018 when he was 21 selling healthy treats from a rickety food stall at a Christmas market in Cork. Fast forward four years, and now he is stocking shelves in 150 Aldi stores across Ireland with his range of protein balls!
“It has been a fantastic few months for The Sibly Food Co. since selected for the Grow with Aldi programme in February.
"There can be a perception that large retailers are difficult to get a hold of, but this could not be further from my experience of how Aldi operates. The team have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge supporting me every step of the way as a small business owner from Cork.”
For a small business like Matthew’s, this kind of an opportunity can feel surreal. Producers put in enormous work to get to a place stage where they can be placed on those shelves and into the kitchens – and mouths – of thousands of eager consumers right across Ireland.
In a nutshell, this is what is so great for programmes like Grow With Aldi. But what happens after those two weeks, and all the figures have been tallied up, and 37 products are unsuccessful. What then?
Try again next year, of course, or take what has been learned and use it to keep pushing their business forward Take White Rabbit BBQ for example. Stephen Vaughan founded White Rabbit Bar and BBQ on MacCurtain Street in 2015 and has quietly garnered a loyal following of diners.
Essential in-house sauces became the first products to roll through the Grow With Aldi programme in 2021, and this year are back with a Cold Smoked Butter - buttery elixir with added umami pow! And if we’ve learned anything from the past two years, it’s to pivot, flex, and absolutely use every tool in the box to make the most of everything you’ve got. That’s the White Rabbit way, as Stephen explains: “Our involvement with the Grow With Aldi programme has been a game-changer for White Rabbit and the production side of our business. It has enabled us to scale our retail offering, which began as an offshoot of our restaurant business, to a viable stand-alone enterprise.
"It was not a challenge we took on lightly but having the Aldi team mentor us through each step made it a whole lot easier. This is our second time participating in Grow With Aldi programme, and while we are a lot more experienced this time, the support provided by the programme has been invaluable.”
Also preparing to launch are four Cork food producers who are this year’s SuperValu Food Academy graduates. OTOFU make handmade tofu from non-GMO organic soybeans; Malay Kitchen are coming with their delicious Thai pastes and sauces; The Good Dairy Co are turning beautifully creamy milk into luxurious ice creams just in time for summer; and Kinsale Honey House who produce natural unpasteurised, unfiltered raw honey from their own hives.
Research carried out by SuperValu found that 81% of customers said local played an important part in choosing what products they buy. Covid pandemic was cited as a catalyst for this intensity of focus to seek out, support and buy local food.
This year, SuperValu are making extra effort to highlight this demand for local food buy launching a Taste of Local initiative in all stores, kicking off with this year’s Food Academy producers.