Irish Dairy Board strengthens its UK footprint

May 22, 2009

The Irish Dairy Board (IDB) is set to strengthen its footprint in the UK cheese supply market with the completion of a €40 million expansion of its Kerrygold Company (UK) cheese packing operation in Leek, Staffordshire. This complex, now the largest of its kind in the UK and Ireland, was officially opened today (Friday, 22nd May, 2009) by Mr Brendan Smith T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Kerrygold Company is the leading supplier of pre-packed cheese in the UK. It supplies over 3.5 million packs of cheese per week to its customers. Its range covers over 400 different products. The new facility has 20 production lines incorporating cheese cutting, slicing, grating and packing into a multitude of packaging formats. The company supplies over 30% of the UK retail market and has a customer base that includes food retail chains, food service businesses and independent cheese producers.

The UK is an important market for Irish dairy products and of particular interest to Irish cheese producers. Milk production in the UK has decreased significantly in recent years offering new opportunities for Irish producers to fill the dairy product gap. The past decade has seen cheese production in Ireland increase from 92,000 tonnes in 1998 to 163,000 tonnes in 2008, with recent growth assisted by the Irish government’s Dairy Investment Fund enabling dairy processors to move away from traditional butter making. 78% of Irish cheese is cheddar in type, the preferred cheese in the UK, with the balance made up of Dubliner, Emmental, and Italian types such as Mozzarella and Regato. Most of the additional cheese volumes have been marketed by the Irish Dairy Board through subsidiary companies and direct to market supply chains. The new facility in Leek, with an 80,000 tonne per year packing capability, will significantly enhance the IDB’s marketing effort in the UK with greater scale, efficiency and service levels.

The IDB’s flagship product, Kerrygold butter, continues to maintain its strong position as a major butter brand in this market of 60 million people. The Kerrygold Company recently re-launched its ‘Even Softer’ Kerrygold 100% butter in the UK market in response to consumer demand for a butter spreadable straight from the fridge. This extends the range of Kerrygold products available in all the major UK multiples.

IDB Chairman, Michael Cronin, acknowledged the excellence of the management team in bringing the project to fruition, within budget and time frame. "This new facility represents a major investment in support of the Irish dairy industry and it will help boost the sale of Irish cheese products into the growing UK cheese market."