Irish Country Meats sole suppliers to Belgium chain
ICM push out Kiwi lamb to land big Belgian contract
Irish Country Meats (ICM) are now the sole suppliers of lamb into Belgium's leading supermarket chain Delhaize Group, having displaced all imports of New Zealand lamb into the retailer over the past year.
With a 30pc share of the Belgian retail market for lamb, thought to be worth close to €250m annually, the move represents a major coup for the Camolin headquartered group. New Zealand lamb is currently being offered at 15-30pc lower prices than Irish product, depending on the time of year.
Despite the price differential, and initial internal resistance to the move, Delhaize's lamb buyer Jean Van de Put said the category is up to 5pc more profitable for the chain since the switch to ICM product.
"It was a risky move. But we had high levels of waste with New Zealand product, for several reasons. Firstly, the 10 week shipping time required us to try to predict sales volumes nearly three months ahead of the sales period, which was a nightmare, especially with promotions," said Mr Van de Put.
"But the product also had a shorter shelf life, which didn't go well with the fact that we were getting huge containers of the product with each delivery."
The Belgian buyer, who is in Ireland to see how Irish lamb is produced, said he preferred dealing with ICM than international meat traders.
Bord Bia's Origin Green programme also appears to be paying dividends, with Mr Van de Put singling out the scheme for praise.