PRODUCTION is fully up and running at Carbery’s €78m new cheese plant designed to Brexit proof the business.
The group started work on their diversification plans back in 2016 to reduce reliance on the UK market and the investment was ring fenced in 2018, with a €35m loan from the European Investment Bank. Significantly, it was the first loan granted by the EIB to an Irish Agri Foods Group.
Specialist equipment was sourced from New Zealand, Italy, UK, Denmark and Minnesota for the new cheese varieties (mozzarella and grilling cheese), which are sold under the brand Carbery Dairy. They are mainly for the food service market in Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, as well as mainland Europe.
An additional 15 people have been employed as part of the expansion bringing the work force at the Ballineen plant to around 300. The new production facility will process 19m litres of milk a week during peak supply, from over 1,200 farmer suppliers.
The Group’s output is also set to increase from 55,000 tonnes of cheese per annum to 64,000.
CEO of Carbery Group Jason Hawkins said : ‘Our cheese diversification strategy has been in the works now for a number of years, so it’s great to see all our planning and efforts come to fruition. It’s a significant investment for us, in financial terms, but also in terms of our strategy, our people and market research. This diversification will create new markets and value for our West Cork milk suppliers.’
John Holland, chief operating officer of the group, who has overseen the expansion project said: ‘Our extensive market research has shown us that demand in Asia for dairy products and particularly cheese continues to grow. We believe that our heritage and expertise in dairy, combined with our dedicated people, talented team of researchers, food scientists and cheese technologists enables us to develop products that will excite our existing and new customers.’
He sad he hoped common sense will prevail with a soft Brexit: ‘The UK has always been a great market for us and will hopefully continue to be in a soft deal scenario. There’s lots of business there in added value product and it will continue to be an important part of our strategy.’
Carbery Group is wholly owned by the four West Cork Co-ops – Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird – and chairman TJ Sullivan added: ‘This is a significant investment for the board of Carbery and our farmer suppliers, and it has required vision for the future and confidence in ourselves and the quality of our milk supply.’