Salad pro­ducer says in­no­va­tion is at the heart of con­tin­u­ing ex­pan­sion

Belfast Telegraph - - BUSINESS - BY STAFF RE­PORTER

A SALAD and pre­pared veg­etable pro­ducer in Co Down has said it has achieved growth of around 18% on average ev­ery year over the past decade.

Wil­low­brook Foods, Ire­land’s big­gest pro­ducer of bagged sal­ads, said the open­ing of a new in­no­va­tion cen­tre 10 years ago helped pro­pel its growth.

The com­pany also opened a sec­ond pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in New­tow­nards ear­lier this year.

It sup­plies prod­ucts across the UK and Ire­land and is also de­vel- op­ing lines for Dubai and Hong Kong.

The firm has also bounced back af­ter its Span­ish let­tuce sup­ply was hit by ex­treme weather in Jan­u­ary 2017.

Man­ag­ing direc­tor John McCann said the in­no­va­tion cen­tre at its Killinchy head­quar­ters had al­lowed it to de­velop new prod­ucts such as a non-dairy, lowsalt mashed po­tato for cater­ing in the health­care sec­tor.

Mr McCann ex­plained: “The Wil­low­brook In­no­va­tion Cen­tre has been in­stru­men­tal in tak­ing our busi­ness to new lev­els over the past decade, help­ing us sus­tain on average 18% an­nual growth dur­ing that time.

“We set about build­ing a fa­cil­ity with mod­ern kitchens, sta­teof-the-art tast­ing and pack­ing ar­eas, and, most im­por­tantly, a first-class team of staff spe­cial­is­ing in all el­e­ments of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.

“A ma­jor in­vest­ment for us at the time, the cen­tre has al­lowed us to per­fect our of­fer­ing to cus­tomers to re­flect emerg­ing food trends with the best in­gre­di­ents, flavour, tex­ture and shelf life.”

He con­tin­ued: “We have been able to en­ter into new mar­kets such as health­care and travel ca- ter­ing through our abil­ity to de­velop be­spoke prod­uct lines and pack for­mats through the in­no­va­tion cen­tre.”

And he added that the firm had been able to stay one step ahead of con­sumer trends.

“To use one prod­uct ex­am­ple, we have de­vel­oped and per­fected a full range of mashed veg­etable lines, in­clud­ing po­tato, carrot, swede, parsnip and sweet po­tato. This range con­tains no ad­di­tives.

“Equally, we have been able to de­velop more niche health-fo­cused lines in­clud­ing non-dairy, low-salt, mashed po­tato,” said Mr McCann.

In­vest­ment: John McCann

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