New Deal: John McCann, Managing Director of Willowbrook Foods, Killinchy, shows Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI's Food Director, the new products for Budgens in Britain.
Willowbrook Foods has scored a major export success with the first food range produced at its new Food Innovation Centre in Killinchy.
The new export deal was announced by John McCann, Managing Director of Willowbrook Foods, and welcomed by Maynard Mawhinney, Invest Northern Ireland Food Director, when he visited the company’s new Food Innovation Centre, an integral part of an ongoing £5 million expansion of the Killinchy operation.
The company, a specialist in fresh pre-packed vegetables, salads and potatoes, has been awarded the business to supply a range of eight new stir-fry products to Budgens, part of the Musgrave Group, in 180 stores throughout Great Britain. The contract strengthens the company’s relationship with this customer.
Willowbrook currently supplies a full range of prepared salads, vegetables and stir fry products to Musgrave Retail Partners under both SuperValu and Centra as well as the Willowbrook Farm brand to stores throughout Ireland. The company has a state-of-the-art processing plant at its centre in Killinchy for pre-packed and cooked products such as Willowbrook’s successful ‘Simply Cook’ range.
Mr Mawhinney said: “The new business with Budgens demonstrates a key feature of the Food Innovation Centre at Willowbrook Foods – a sharp focus on developing innovative products in association with existing and potential customers in both retail and foodservice sectors.
“This focus is also seen in management changes which strengthen the vitally important connection between sales and marketing and product innovation functions. The market-led approach underpinning new product development at Willowbrook, ensures that this progressive company, which already has a successful track record in providing innovative foods, is able to respond quickly and effectively to business opportunities as they develop in the fast moving United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland food markets.
“Overall, this investment in a dedicated and fully-equipped Food Innovation Centre will strengthen the company’s ability to compete for business in these dynamic and price-sensitive markets,” added Mr Mawhinney.
Mr McCann said: “Developing this significant new business from Budgens with our latest product range is a tremendous boost for the business. It is also a further justification of our decision to invest in new products for both retail and foodservice sectors particularly in Great Britain, which is already an important market for us.
“We will be supplying a range of stir fry products that have been developed in partnership with the buying team at Budgens which will be available under their own brand. This new range introduces additional product lines that we have developed for one of Britain’s leading retail networks and positions us to grow our business with the company particularly in the supply of own label products.
“New products are the lifeblood of the food industry. Retailers are continually searching for new food and drink products which will attract consumers in pursuit of different taste experiences into their stores. While developing new products has been at the heart of our business since its formation we saw an opportunity to strengthen and highlight this commitment to add value through continuous innovation as part of our new 55,000 sq ft factory complex at Killinchy, now nearing completion.
“As well as having strong food technology skills, the Food Innovation team has considerable marketing experience and knowledge. Our sales director is also heading up new product development and is bringing his vast experience of dealing with retailers and foodservice organisations in our target markets to this operation,” added Mr McCann.