Nearly £7m invested in future of dairy processing

Dairy processing company, LE Pritchitt is investing £6.6million to develop new markets and boost sales outside Northern Ireland.

Economy Minister Nigel Dodds announced the Invest Northern Ireland backed expansion during a visit to the Lakeland Dairies subsidiary in Newtownards, today.

The Minister said: “This is a substantial project for manufacturing in Northern Ireland and in particular for dairy processing.

“The agri-food industry has faced challenging market conditions and this investment reaffirms the confidence in the long term success of this important sector.

“The investment will help secure employment for the 168 staff in Newtownards and could go on to create up to 20 new jobs.”

Over the next three years, the company projects significant increases in both turnover and pre-tax profits from enhanced competitiveness in its target markets.

LE Pritchitt’s growth will be driven by marketing Ultra Heat Treated (UHT) products to the foodservice and retail sectors in Great Britain and further afield to Europe, the Far and Middle Eastern regions and Asia in response to customer demand. Enhanced packaging capabilities allow the business to expand its existing product range.

The Minister continued: “Invest NI’s support for this important strategic investment by LE Pritchitt, reflects government’s commitment to encouraging and assisting manufacturing companies to develop markets outside Northern Ireland. It is also in tune with the ‘Fit for Market’ strategy, developed for food companies by a sectoral taskforce drawn from Invest NI, the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development and private sector representatives.”

The Minister praised LE Pritchitt’s “immensely impressive” track record of external sales development with more than half of its sales to Great Britain and a third to the wider European and world markets. Their sales successes have been recognised in the Queen’s Award for Exports (1991 and 1999) and Food From Britain’s Northern Ireland Exporter of The Year in 2004.

Michael Hanley, Chief Executive Lakeland Dairies, outlining the new investment, said: “Diversification into the retail sector underpins our business strategy, enabling us to better utilise and balance the milk supplied to our existing operations at Newtownards, where the focus has traditionally been on supplying companies in the foodservice sector with powder products, UHT minipots and extended life cream, ice creams and other UHT products.

“We are supporting this new strategy through investment which will enhance our capability in areas such as packaging, production efficiency and UHT processing. Up to four new packaging lines will be installed to meet retail and foodservice market requirements.

“Our overall competitiveness in a very dynamic marketplace is also being enhanced through the development of a highly efficient factory, which is of mutual benefit to our customers and our farmer milk suppliers.”