Blessed are the cheesemakers: Kerrygold and Pilgrims Choice owner's profits jump 46 per cent

Alys Key
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The Kerrygold brand now offers cheese, yogurt and liqueur as well as butter (Source: Getty)

Kerrygold owner Ornua reported a 46 per cent jump in its operating profits to €26.6m for 2016, and set out plans to make its flagship brand worth €1bn.

Growth of 20 per cent in the US market helped global sales of Kerrygold to reach a record €900m. The company stated that it is now determined to make Kerrygold a €1bn recognised dairy brand. They hope to make it as well-known for its offering in yogurt, Irish cream liqueur and other products as it is for butter.

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Other brands include Pilgrims Choice cheese, which increased its sales volume by 3 per cent in the UK last year and retained its position as the number two cheddar brand.

Underlying profits were up 18 per cent to €43.1m. Revenue hit €1.75bn for the full year, prompting the company to set a target of €3bn revenue by 2021.

The Irish company, which specialises in exporting Irish dairy products, also pointed to the launch of Kerrygold Yogurts in Germany and the opening of a cheese plant in Saudi Arabia as signs of successful expansion.

Kevin Lane, CEO of Ornua, said: “We have built a diverse global business by investing in our brands, technology, in-market presence and our people.

“Ornua now exports to over 110 countries around the world. This strategy is ensuring our ability to continue to deliver for our members and for the Irish dairy industry, even in more uncertain market conditions.”

Yet the brand has continued to invest in its home country of Ireland, and last year opened Kerrygold Park, a €38m butter production and packaging plant, in County Cork.

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Further investment in UK operations is also on the cards, as Ornua prepares for potential instability after Brexit. It acquired British cheese ingredient producer F.J.Need early in 2017, in a bid to expand UK capabilities post-Brexit. The deal is subject to the approval of the competition regulator.

But the percentage of Ornua sales which to the UK was down on the previous year, slipping from 31 per cent to 25 per cent. Sales to the EU saw the biggest rise, jumping from 32 per cent to 42 per cent.

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