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Friday 22 September 2017

Irish Country Meats sole suppliers to Belgium chain

ICM push out Kiwi lamb to land big Belgian contract

Irish Country Meats is now the sole supplier to Belgium's leading supermarket chain Delhaize Group
Irish Country Meats is now the sole supplier to Belgium's leading supermarket chain Delhaize Group
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

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."

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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.

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"At first, I thought that this might be just be 'green washing', but having asked the hard questions I really believe that the Origin Green scheme is the only one in the world that clearly communicates the sustainability of a grass-fed system. There is a similar grass emphasis in New Zealand, but there is nobody to tell us that message," he said.

ICM's managing director Joe Hyland said that the contract allowed the company to divert more of their lamb from the whole carcase trade into higher value premium cuts. However, 70pc of the contract is being filled by British lamb processed via ICM's Belgium plant at Lonhienne.

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