Investment means Ballyrashane is poised for further global growth
Ulster’s oldest dairy, Ballyrashane, has unveiled a new state of the art £8m ‘high care’ butter plant it believes will drive fresh global export growth.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and DARD Permanent Secretary, Noel Lavery were amongst VIPs and invited guests who attended today’s official opening ceremony on the outskirts of Coleraine.
The company has developed a new premium textured butter product aimed at key markets including France and Germany as part of the expansion, which the company believes will position it for further global growth.
According to Ballyrashane Chief Executive, Nigel Kemps, the new 35,000 sq ft production, chilled and deep freeze facilities – which are amongst the most advanced in Europe – will double manufacturing capacity of butter and enable the business to increase sales of its innovative premium butter products initially in target European markets.
“As well as enhancing our butter product offering and ensuring we can capitalise on the demand for our high-end textured butter products in locations such as Belgium, Germany and France the new equipment and technology will improve overall efficiency and thereby make us more competitive all-round,” Mr Kemps said today.
“We will be continuing to work closely with our sales and marketing partners Greenfields and De Brandt to fully exploit the opportunities the new facilities provide us.”
The Chief Executive added: “While this and other strategic initiatives will create around ten new jobs within Ballyrashane the emphasis is on sustaining current employment levels as efficiencies are improved so it really is good news for all our people, the local community, the 107 local farmers who supply us milk and our extensive customer base.”
Invest Northern Ireland has offered Ballyrashane almost £1.3m of assistance towards the project, which includes research and development support part funded by the European Regional Development Fund with an additional £0.5m being provided by Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through its Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme.
Speaking at the ceremony to mark the plant’s official opening, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said:
“This official opening marks the latest in a number of exciting developments at Ballyrashane which has continuously invested in its operations to maintain local employment and become even more efficient in a competitive market place. Its new world-class manufacturing facility is amongst the most advanced plants in Europe and will help to ensure that the company can continue to grow sales of its products to local and European customers.
“This investment will not only benefit Ballyrashane through strengthening its product portfolio and its business from customers outside Northern Ireland, it will further enhance its already substantial contribution to the Coleraine area and the wider Northern Ireland economy.”
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I am pleased that Ballyrashane has availed of support from my Department, through the PMG Scheme, to build this state-of-the-art butter manufacturing facility. This development will work towards helping the company build on its success and increase further the exports of its quality, innovative produce across Europe.”
Ballyrashane, a farmer-owned co-operative employs around 150 staff at its Headquarters on the north coast supplying milk to major retailers including Henderson Group (Spar & Vivo labels) and Marks & Spencer as well as specialist regato cheese for the Greek market.
The innovative business is also benefitting from the decision in 2012 to invest in a state-of-the-art anaerobic digester which converts dairy waste into energy for use within the factory.
“Being able to generate our own electricity was a key strategic decision made by the shareholders. This not only enables us to deal with waste very efficiently but also provides us with financial protection against increases in energy costs.”
Mr Kemps paid tribute to Ballyrashane staff and those involved with the construction of the new butter facility which was built and installed in a live operating environment.
“To have delivered such an ambitious project during a time when our production levels were already high is testimony to all concerned.”