The Grow with Aldi information seminar took place on the 21st of January 2020, in The Spencer Hotel, Dublin 1. Our Food & AgriBusiness interns from UCD Food & Agribusiness Management, Darragh Kennedy and Hannah Burke were in attendance. The event was led by LEO Dublin City, being a very successful night with a lot of valuable information available for the food producers present. The aim of the event was to provide potential applicants of the “Grow with Aldi” programme with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the programme, rundown of events and how to apply etc.
Key Takeaways from the day:
· Just because it’s a no now doesn’t mean it always will be. Apply again.
· Aldi’s goal is for all customers to get that “Thrill at the till”.
· Know what’s unique about your product. Sell a story, make a connection.
· The prominent food trends are vegan foods, sustainability etc. However, the products that are doing the best in Aldi at the minute are the ones customers understand and know how to use.
· Don’t over promise and under deliver - know your limits.
· Just because your product succeeds in one part of the country does not mean it will everywhere. It must be adaptable.
· If you have confidence in your product keep pushing it. Don’t give up.
There were three key speakers on the night. The first speaker was Laura Harper (Buying Director of Aldi Ireland) who gave us an overview of the programme. Michelle Allen (Grow with Aldi team) then followed who discussed meeting Aldi’s Technical Requirements. Finally, we got to listen to Deborah Crowley (Funky Monkey) who was a participant in the Grow with Aldi 2019 programme.
Laura opened by giving us a quick summary of Aldi. It was outlined that Aldi currently have 140 stores nationwide with plans to open more in the coming year. They have two distribution centres located in Ireland. One in Naas, Co. Kildare and the other in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. We were then told how Laura had always admired The Food Academy looking in from the outside. She thought it would be brilliant if Aldi could do something similar but do it “The Aldi way”. Laura recalled being out for dinner one night when she tasted the now famous Johnny Lynch’s Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella. She knew instantly that this was a product that could excel in Aldi. However, subject to contacting Johnny and persuading him to meet she was surprised to discover that he had in fact found a potential meeting and contract with Aldi extremely daunting. Laura recognized instantly that this perception had to change and the “Grow with Aldi” programmed was constructed, aimed at helping all the small producers around Ireland.
The talk then moved onto outlining the whole process of the programme. Applicants are whittled down to a mere 100. These 100 people are invited to attend an immersion day. Here they will be presented with a variety of tools from branding to marketing and PR. Out of the 100 selected this is then cut to 50 who are selected to be added to Aldi’s “Special Buys” range. Five core products are the selected receiving a 12-month contract where they are added to Aldi’s “Core Range”. Throughout the process food producers will receive great media coverage.
Moving onto the second speaker Michelle Allen. She was given the task of outlining the logistical aspects of entering the programme. From labelling and packaging to delivery we got an in-depth knowledge of what Aldi expects. Key dates were also outlined for application (closing February 7th), on-sale dates and delivery. Aldi provide the SRP (Shelf Ready Packaging) for the start-up food business and process the payment within 14 days. Michelle noted how Aldi like things to run as smoothly as possible and all suppliers must adhere to any key dates provided.
Finally, moving onto what we found to be the most enjoyable and entertaining speaker of the night. Ms Deborah Crowley owner and founder of Funky Monkey Foods also a “Grow with Aldi” programme graduate. From the outset Deborah spoke openly about the trials and tribulations she faced while trying to enter the competitive food industry. Her story was relatable and down to earth. We really got a sense of Deborah’s entrepreneurial streak and how she had the passion to make a success of her business. Hailing from Ballymun Co. Dublin, Deborah spoke about how she left school at fifteen and had her children very young. Needing money to put them through education Deborah turned to what she knew best, cooking. It all began with selling food on Facebook and developed from there.
Spiralling into a business Deborah moved her enterprise to a local Food Hub. She spoke about the countless hours, tears and sweat it took to get her business off the ground and profitable. Deborah also attended the Food Academy. She told us how she felt overwhelmed at times and how the Food Academy was a massive obstacle. However, she conquered it and is now reaping the rewards. Through her new 12-month contract with Aldi she has been able to build and install a new state of the art kitchen to meet the growing demand for her product.
To summarise, we found it to be a very informative evening and Aldi gave quite a detailed overview of the programme highlighting the benefits and some of the watch outs for potential future participants.
Check out more details here - www.aldi.ie/grow