IN A rare moment of candour after Ritchies IGA opened its first supermarket on the Northern Rivers in Ballina, Coles executives expressed surprise about the success of the store.
Yesterday, Ritchies chief executive Fred Harrison revealed the secret of the company’s success. From its opening day the supermarket had food produced on the Northern Rivers on its shelves.
“When we came to Ballina we were shocked at how much local produce there was and its high quality,” he said. “We put a full-page ad in the paper asking for local producers to contact us.
“Now with an industry group it will be much easier for local producers to approach other supermarkets to get produce on the shelves.
“In the long term this is how you prosper as a reg- ion. If you do it well, you have a real chance of getting a foothold in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.”
Mr Harrison’s comments were made as he launched the Northern Rivers Food industry group in Ballina yesterday.
The group aims to bring together food producers, manufactures and distributors on the Northern Rivers with the aim of developing the fledgling sector and, importantly, generate more income and jobs in the region.
Convenor and co-founder Pam Brook, of Brookfarm at St Helena, said the group would work with Northern Rivers Food Links to develop a ‘buy local’ campaign and assist businesses to network.
“We have the opportunity of establishing the Northern Rivers as a brand. Northern Rivers Food aims to position this region as a producer and a destination for quality food. We want to communicate the whole story of Northern Rivers foods to the consumer and the buyers.
“We will be starting with a buy local campaign, working with Food Links and we will have a stall at the Good Food Show in Sydney.”
Steering committee member and local multi-award winning cheese-maker Justin Telfer said Northern Rivers Food would promote the region’s reputation for being clean and green.
“The current trend for consumers seems to be a desire to know more about their food and where it is comes from, and more and more about the story behind it,” he said.
“By developing the Northern River Food brand we can offer consumers the knowledge that they are purchasing quality products grown in this area.”