GERMAN discount retailer Lidl has discretely removed Britain's Union Jack from internet images of some of its 'Deluxe' range of products that it's selling in Ireland.
Two products being sold in stores here and in Northern Ireland in the run-up to Christmas – Beef Wellington and Beef Bourguignon – carry the easily recognisable Union Jack flag, identifying the goods as using British beef.
But on Lidl's websites north and south, as well as a glossy magazine recently distributed here by the multiple, the flag has vanished from images of the packaging. In the same product images on the retailer's British website, the flag remains in place.
And while the flag remains on the two products being sold in the stores here, its removal in online images and in the magazine has raised eyebrows.
While the British flag is nowhere to be seen, Lidl has retained a French flag on images of guinea fowl it's selling here, and a Scottish flag on photos of pheasant.
Chris Mallon, director of Britain's National Beef Association, told the Irish Independent that he was disappointed by the removal of the Union Jack from the Lidl product images, as it plays an important part in marketing the beef.
"We're proud of the British product. Our beef is very good and there's no reason for it not to be promoted," he said.
Lidl didn't reply to enquiries seeking comment as to why the flag had been removed.
The retailer has been targeting Christmas shoppers with delicacies including lobster, caviar, quail and Dublin Bay prawns that it sells under its 'Deluxe' range. The products are aimed at tempting more consumers through its doors.
In the UK, Lidl has doubled its range of Deluxe products this year, aiming to sell to a middle class that has not traditionally formed the core of its customer base. The chain has even been running TV ads for the first time ever in Britain in anticipation of racking up big sales across the Deluxe product range.
Last Christmas in the UK, Lidl's Beef Wellington product was one of its most popular, along with scallops in a Chablis sauce. In 2012, sales of its Deluxe range – which is available year-round – jumped 200pc in Britain compared to 2011.
Lidl and rival German discounter Aldi have snapped up sizeable shares of Ireland's multi-billion-euro grocery market as consumers try to make their dwindling take-home pay go further.
Latest figures from research group Kantar Worldpanel show that the pair have a combined 14.6pc share of the grocery market in Ireland. Lidl has 7.2pc, while Aldi has 7.4pc.