Michelle O'Neill, Northern Ireland agriculture minister

Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland agriculture minister (right), launched the Switch to Local campaign

Tesco is stepping up its commitment to support locally produced food with a new ‘buy local’ push in Northern Ireland that it claims could generate £8m for the Northern Irish economy.

Launched this week, the two-month Switch to Local campaign encourages Tesco shoppers to switch one item of food a week to locally produced products. The push is running across categories - from fresh produce to ambient goods - and consumers will be encouraged to look for the Taste Northern Ireland logo on packs to identify products with Northern Irish provenance.

Tesco worked closely with the Northern Irish food and drink industry and was heavily invested in seeing it grow, said Caoimhe Mannion, marketing manager at Tesco Northern Ireland. “By seeking out local produce, shoppers will know the money they are spending supports a local firm, stays in the local economy, secures jobs and provides long-term stability for the agrifood industry here.”

Food NI, the promotional body for food and drink in Northern Ireland, said it expected Tesco’s campaign could add as much as £8m to the Northern Irish economy. “Having endorsement from Tesco for local producers is invaluable and a great boost to civic pride,” said chief executive Michele Shirlow.

Food NI hoped Tesco’s campaign would have a halo effect by encouraging Northern Irish consumers to consider switching wherever they shopped, she added.

Shoppers can pledge support by visiting the switchtolocal.info website, which will keep a tally on how many consumers have swapped to local products.

At present, more than 90 suppliers sell products labelled with the Taste Northern Ireland logo, including Punjana in Belfast, which supplies Tesco Finest tea bags, and Dale Farm, which supplies milk to Tesco in Northern Ireland. Earlier this year, Tesco Northern Ireland switched to sourcing 100% of its pre-packed beef, pork and chicken from three Northern Irish processors, which it claimed would support 3,000 local farmers.