Sales of locally produced food in Asda’s Northern Ireland stores grew by 8% in 2017, proving that customers are actively supporting the region’s agri-food industry.

The response to food from Northern Ireland was also positive across Asda’s UK-wide store network, where sales were up 4.1% year-on-year.

The strong supermarket sales figures reflect customer feedback which associates locally produced food with quality, freshness and trust.

The results come on the back of Asda’s renewed commitment to the local food sector in the two years following on from Northern Ireland's 'Year of Food and Drink'.

This message was also reinforced last month at the supermarket’s National Supplier Conference where regional food was a focal point.

The growth is also an outcome of Asda’s 'Supplier Development Academy' - a bespoke training programme which has helped local companies boost their trading potential by up to 30%.

The winners

Locally produced ready meals have grown by 24%, with companies such as Mash Direct, Morrow Foods and Cloughbane each introducing new product lines such as Irish stew and sweet potato fries.

Northern Ireland’s fast emerging craft-brewing and distilling industry has also influenced local sales with brands such as Jaw Box Gin, Tempted Cider and Belfast Ale up by 15%.

Demand for sausages from Karro Foods (Cookstown) and burgers from Doherty & Gray (Ballymena) have also contributed to the regional growth, with sales up 6% compared to the previous year.

Local bread brands remain a firm favourite with Asda customers, with more than one million packets of Sunblest pancakes sold throughout 2017.

Michael McCallion, buying manager for Asda NI said: “2017 was another great year for our NI supply base – both at a local and national level.

"We will continue to focus on the opportunities which will help our agri-food sector build their businesses with Asda by delivering the products and ranges which our customers want and trust.”

Over £300 million of produce is annually sourced by the supermarket from more than 100 suppliers across the island of Ireland.