The unique taste of Irish grass-fed, dry aged beef from Lisnaskea-based Kettyle Irish Foods is now being enjoyed by diners in upmarket restaurants in Amsterdam and London.
The enterprising Fermanagh company, launched last October by Maurice Kettyle in a £400,000 investment with advice and financial assistance under Invest Northern Ireland's Export Start programme from the agency’s Western Local Office in Omagh and the EU Processing and Marketing Grant scheme, has added some of Amsterdam's finest restaurants to a customer portfolio that already includes prestigious hotels in London.
Kettyle's Extra Special branded beef is also a popular choice with diners in premium restaurants, such as Cayenne, Deane's and Shanks, in Northern Ireland. Some 25 restaurants across Northern Ireland now list beef from the small Fermanagh company - it currently employs six people - on their menus.
Mr Kettyle says: "Winning business in the Netherlands just a few months after we started production is a particularly significant development for the company. I've been in the meat processing and marketing business for 15 years and saw an opportunity to develop my own company based on adding substantial value to prime Irish beef through a natural ageing process that locks in taste, succulence and tenderness.
"From the start, our business strategy was based on achieving growth through exports to key European markets such as the Netherlands and Belgium. I researched the markets and tested my product idea last year in the Netherlands, at SIAL in Paris, the world's biggest food show, and at the recent Maastricht Food Fair in Belgium.
"We've benefited immensely from the expert guidance and support from Invest NI's Western Local Office in Omagh, which organised assistance from the agency’s Trade team in Belfast to explore export opportunities. This included help to attend the SIAL food exhibition in Paris and to take part in the In-Market Support programme in the Netherlands.
"Invest NI's trade adviser in Amsterdam was excellent. He helped us to pinpoint about a dozen potential distributors in the Netherlands and arranged a series of meetings for us with them. We subsequently signed up three of the most important food wholesalers there and took part in a number of in-house presentations and tastings to their clients from leading hotels and restaurants. Feedback from these targeted events was extremely encouraging and led directly to our first batch of orders.
“Invest NI’s In Market Service, in addition, helped us to get our packaging right for the Netherlands and translated our point of sale materials into Dutch," he adds.
Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade director, welcoming the success of Kettyle Irish Foods, says: “This is an entrepreneurial company with innovative products which is starting to secure business in the international marketplace.
“Breaking into a highly competitive European export market as quickly as this company has is a measure of the quality and innovation of its products. Kettyle Irish Foods is also an excellent example of the benefits from Invest NI’s integrated client team approach and responsive support. Helping smaller companies to move into export markets with innovative products successfully is also the key focus of the ‘Fit for Market’ strategy for the promotion of the local food industry.
“Our In Market Support service provides a structured approach for companies in both manufacturing and tradeable services wishing to penetrate a new market. Expert advice and support is provided in the market by an experienced business person who assists individual companies to develop capability across a range of marketing and business development activities,” he adds.
The company, which purchases quality assured Aberdeen Angus and Hereford beef from farms in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, has also received technical assistance from the Food Development Centre at Loughry College in perfecting the processing technique.