Sainsbury is increasing its range of local products in Northern Ireland by more than 20% following a 'meet the buyer' event with regional suppliers.

The 61 products from 15 companies will take the retailer's total range of Northern Irish products to 292 lines when they hit shelves in August, following the April event.

A dedicated team was set up last year to strengthen Sainsbury's relationship with local food and drink suppliers.

Sainsbury regional commercial manager James Laws said work in the past year had resulted in a strengthening of supplier relationships. "The team has put extra effort into promotional activity as well as working directly with suppliers to help them come up with innovative ideas and new products."

Maynard Mawhinney, director of food for Invest Northern Ireland, which organised the event with Sainsbury, said the initiative gave local companies an opportunity to learn more about their target customer base and the needs of major supermarkets.

He said: "By organising these events we are helping local businesses gain direct access to leading multiples."

Last year, Sainsbury sourced more than £200m worth of goods from Northern Irish suppliers.