“Focus and quality are key business ingredients when exporting to the UK market.” This is according to Sarah Furno of Cashel Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers who was speaking at a Bord Bia national food service seminar today.
Founded in 1984, the family run cheese business, famous for Cashel Blue Cheese, has been exporting to the UK since 1995. It has a turnover of €2.7m and 35 per cent of this is from the UK market alone.
Speaking to AgriLand, Furno stressed the importance of foodservice relationships but noted it was for many businesses “a slow burner”.
“The work that you put in will take time and loyalty is key. We have a specialised product where we only produce blue cheese. In addition, innovation is key to maintaining and refreshing brand conversation. We started in 1984 and we have been exporting to the UK since 1995. The main advice I can give is focus, quality, don’t spread your business too thin, have an open mind, choose your business partners carefully and have patience.”
In terms of the main challenges Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers has faced on the UK export market, Furno explained that competition was tough.
“Ireland is not associated with blue cheese and this was a challenge. Our brand and the scale of our production is tiny compared to other companies in the EU. People do not associate blue cheese with Ireland. As a result with our marketing we focused on quality and supply, and this has been very successful.”
It terms of its unique selling point, Furno said quality was to the fore.
“We have had huge support from Bord Bia over the years. We employ 20 people in the farm and cheese making business. Our turnover is €2.7m, 40 per cent of sales are from Ireland, 35 per cent from the UK, 15 per cent from the US and the balance from the rest of world. We are 100 per cent family-owned and we are all farmers. We have 145 cows and 400 sheep. We agriculture directly on a farm, by farmers, embracing the farm to fork concept, which is a re-assurance of our supply chain and that is key.”
Pictured: Larry Murrin, CEO, Dawn Farm Foods, Joan O’Shaughnessy, Vice Chairperson & Special Advisor, Aramark and Maureen Gahan, Foodservice Specialist, Bord Bia at Bord Bia’s Ireland foodservice seminar in Dublin today