One of Northern Ireland’s largest milk processors has become Lidl’s biggest cheddar cheese supplier on a global basis.

The European retailer has awarded Dale Farm, the UK’s largest farmer-owned dairy co-operative, a lead contract to supply cheddar cheese to its stores across the UK, Europe and the United States.

The deal represents the single biggest contract awarded by the retailer to a Northern Ireland company. It will see Dale Farm’s locally-made block cheddars, as well as grated and sliced varieties, stocked in around 8,000 stores across 22 countries.

Major contract

The major contract award means Dale Farm will be Lidl’s main cheddar supplier on a global basis, and in turn, the retailer now also becomes Dale Farm’s biggest cheddar customer.

Liam Casey, commercial director of Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, explained that Dale Farm’s “world-class” cheddar, together with its export capabilities, secured the deal.

“Dale Farm’s excellent track record on product quality, innovation and provenance, as well as its distribution and export expertise, make it a strong and strategic choice for Lidl as we continue our drive to provide shoppers with the best choice, standard and value for money,” he said.

‘A trusted Lidl supplier’

Lidl’s Northern Ireland director, Conor Boyle, added: “Dale Farm has been a valued and trusted supplier for many years, and this deal strengthens and secures that relationship for the future.

“It is a coup for Dale Farm and for Lidl, allowing us to introduce and showcase this stunningly good Northern Ireland product to our customers around the world.”

Dale Farm produces its multi-award-winning cheese range, using milk supplied by its co-operative members, at its Dunmanbridge plant near Cookstown in Co. Tyrone.

The cheddar range will go on-shelf in Lidl Ireland under the supermarket’s ‘Rathdaragh’ own-brand, in the UK and Europe as ‘Valley Spire’ and ‘Milbona’, and in the US as ‘Preferred Selection’.

Stephen Cameron, Dale Farm Group commercial director, said: “Strengthening our long-term global partnership with Lidl is great news for the 1,300 farmers who own the Dale Farm co-operative.

“The scale of this contract is testament to the high standard of the milk our farmer-owners provide us with to consistently create world-class cheddar cheese.

“It also demonstrates the continuing strength and sustainability of our farmer-owned co-operative business model.”