Food Force Ireland (FFI) is stepping up its fight against Nisa’s plans to launch an office in Northern Ireland, following a failed takeover bid last month.

FFI, which helps to negotiate trading terms with local suppliers, claims that Nisa is now attempting to “dilute” its relationship with suppliers and members – a move which it vows to “vigorously oppose”. Last month’s offer was “unanimously rejected” by FFI members, who are all Nisa shareholders.

The company, which was established 25 years ago, claims to have built up “close relationships with local suppliers and its members”.

Nisa’s plans to take over its operation in Northern Ireland were therefore “ill-thought through,” and demonstrated a “fundamental misunderstanding of the society and its values,” FFI said.

FFI chairman Henry Emerson added: “Nisa’s attempt to drive Food Force Ireland out of business was based on its own urgent need to replace lost revenue, and had little to do with any consideration for members and suppliers.

“It has come as no surprise to us that Nisa has sought to acquire FFI given our recent and historically successful business model. Equally it is of no surprise that our members have overwhelmingly indicated their desire to remain with FFI, given the strong local relationships which we have forged over a long time, and the clear benefits of maintaining their profitable relationship with us.

“We would like to assure our members that FFI’s formula of keeping costs to a minimum, substantial annual discounts and opposition to central billing will remain, and grow ever stronger in the years to come. We will continue to vigorously oppose any attempt to dilute that profitable relationship with our suppliers.”

Nisa’s chief operating officer Amanda Jones said: “Nisa is committed to operating locally in Ireland, significantly supporting local suppliers and providing an offer supported by Nisa that meets the needs of all our members.

“Nisa’s proposal is designed with the best interests of all of its members in mind and will be focused on providing a wider range of local products, lower costs and greater benefits than are currently available, to the entire Northern Ireland and Republic based membership.”