Northern Ireland’s leading bakery Irwin’s has secured a six-figure deal to supply a range of premium Irish biscuits created specifically for the Chinese market.

The deal with China Merchants Food, the food division of the state-owned China Merchants Group, which is the bakery’s first in China, will see 500,000 packs a year of Irwin’s new biscuits stocked in stores across China.

The range, which is based on traditional Irish recipes and flavour combinations, includes All Butter, Oat Original, Oat Strawberry, Oat Honey & Raisin, Shortbread Original and Shortbread Chocolate Chip.

Brendan Lappin, Irwin’s Bakery business development manager, said: “This is a very significant contract for Irwin’s, which gives us an excellent platform for further growth in this important marketplace. The assistance Invest NI has given Irwin’s to expand our international sales to China has been tremendously valuable.

“From research stage to receiving the signed contract, the process took around two years, which included recipe development and the creation of bespoke packaging for the Chinese consumer. There is a high level of demand for premium imported products in China. It is testament to our strong working relationship with Invest NI and the products’ quality credentials that our first order was shipped at the start of November.”

He added: “This deal gives Irwin’s an opportunity to build on the strength of our existing export contracts to secure further business in global markets.”

Welcoming the news, Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: “As we look forward to Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016, this valuable deal will not only benefit Irwin’s, but help raise Northern Ireland’s reputation for producing food of pure, natural quality in this market and thereby create a platform for more companies to follow in its success.”