How the son of a Westmeath dairy farmer controls sales of €1.4bn a year at Lidl
The Germany grocer has became one of the biggest exporters of Irish food
With more than 10,000 Lidl stores across Europe, the dairy farmer's son who's heading up Lidl in Ireland says the Germany grocer provides "enormous" potential for Irish food and drink suppliers.
JP Scally is the son of a retired dairy farmer from Westmeath and is the managing director (and chairman) of Lidl Ireland - a retail operation that includes almost 200 outlets (38 in Northern Ireland) and in the Republic has sales of about €1.4bn a year.
Scally says that Lidl Ireland is one of the big exporters within the wider group of domestically-produced goods. "Last year, we exported more than €200m worth of Irish produce," he says.
"There are more than 10,000 Lidl stores in Europe, so the opportunity presented for an Irish food or drink producer in getting a wide listing within the group is enormous."
Meat is exported to Lidl shops in 12 countries by Slaney Foods (which has also inked a new deal to supply meat to Lidl in the US) and Liffey Meats; cream liqueur to 10 by Cavan-based manufacturer Terra; while Kildare-based Comerford's Bakery sells Lidl a whopping 52 million buns a year, and also now exports buns to Lidl UK.
Scally says the chain doesn't charge suppliers so-called 'hello money', or a premium for shelf space - both of which were ostensibly outlawed last year for retailers with annual turnover of more than €50m, unless the terms were already included in a pre-existing contract.
On the shelves, Scally says that Lidl's products are between 20pc and 40pc cheaper than those at rival chains, with many of the goods made by the exact same suppliers. The packaging's just different.
"We saw a gap in the market to do something," says Scally. "It wasn't so much about the products, but about how we can support small food suppliers because we've benefited a lot from the Irish food and drinks industry ourselves. It gives them the leg-up they might need and who knows where the future might take them."