Edgeworthstown and Longford ‘forever indebted’ to C&D Foods

Just before Christmas Philip Reynolds (54), former CEO of C&D Foods in Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford signed a three-year sponsorship deal – on behalf of the company – with the area’s local GAA club, Mostrim GAA.

It was to be his last contribution to a community in which the well-established local pet food company – that he had run since the age of 26 – had been for nearly half a century.

The company was founded by his late father – former taoiseach Albert Reynolds in 1969. It has been a family run outfit until 2008, when Larry Goodman’s ABP Food Group Ltd (ABP) purchased 50% of the entity.

ABP went on to buy a further 35% shareholding in 2011, and as the company expanded into the European market, so too did the workforce.

It now employs over 1,000 people internationally with close to 400 of those jobs based at the manufacturing site in Edgeworthstown.

Meanwhile, Reynolds held on to a 15% stake in the business, and remained steadfastly at the helm up until very recently when he subsequently sold those shares on to ABP – thus giving it sole control of the Co. Longford-based company.

The people of Edgeworthstown know Philip Reynolds, they knew his father Albert too, and, as they say, “all belonging to him”.

Former British prime minister Sir John Major and Philip Reynolds share a laugh during the ‘Inaugural Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture’ in Longford last December. Image source: Shelly Corcoran

It will therefore come as very little surprise to hear the high esteem in which the Reynolds family, and C&D Foods, are held within the communities of Co. Longford – and in many other surrounding townlands across the midlands region.

And it is the “community-spirited Longford stalwart”, Philip Reynolds, that local people are going to miss the most, it seems.

Gerry Lynn, chairman of Edgeworthstown Traders’ Association told AgriLand that the “importance” of C&D to the midlands town “could never be understated”.

C&D Foods has been the main employer here for 50 years and provided so many opportunities for people in Co. Longford. Youngsters in college were also able to secure employment there during the summer months.

He added: “The company just signed a three-year deal with the local football club here in Edgeworthstown and that is something that we are all very proud of.

“Philip Reynolds knew everyone in this area and everyone knew him. He was a great man to sit down and have a chat with.”

Meanwhile, Lynn is acutely aware that the company – like many others in the region – is vulnerable to Brexit, and the challenges posed to the entire business community should a hard border emerge.

I just hope that C&D keeps going the way it’s going. It has become an international company that has its roots firmly set in Co. Longford – and has a number of sites across Europe.

Lynn continued: “With Brexit coming now nobody knows what’s going to happen, but one thing I am sure of is that I don’t know where Edgeworthstown would be if it wasn’t for C&D.

“Something happening to that company doesn’t bare thinking about,” he said.

Community

Sean Hannon is the chairman of Mostrim GAA

Sean Hannon is a farmer and GAA stalwart in Edgeworthstown. He is also chairman of Mostrim GAA and there isn’t much in the way of agriculture, politics and sport that slips under the radar where the watchful eye of Hannon is concerned.

The sponsorship deal, he pointed out, means the club can focus now on its underage players.

He added that by pumping the energy and commitment into the youngsters now, the club will be fielding “the best of talent” in just a few years time.

“The club caters for a variety of people and we have one of the finest pitches in Co. Longford; this sponsorship deal means that we can now put some money into the underage side of things – that is the future of our club,” Hannon said.

He went on to say that the club has produced a lot of success at minor level over the last 10 or so years – and it is these players now that “are the back bone” of the club today.

Hannon continued: “We want to make sure now that we have a steady stream of players coming on from the underage. The sponsorship is really welcome in that regard because it is going to help us out.”

Another interesting point that the local GAA chairman made was in relation to C&D’s influence when it came to holding onto players that other small clubs around Ireland lost to Australia, Dubai and the UK when the recession hit.

C&D Foods in Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford

“C&D was very beneficial to Edgeworthstown, particularly when the downturn came. A lot of our players might have had to emigrate, they got jobs in C&D and many of them are still employed there to this day.

“That served as a huge boost to keeping our club going,” he added.

Loyalty and support

Frank Greene, the chairperson of Edgeworthstown Development Association Limited has nothing but the height of praise for Philip Reynolds and the local company that he ran for over a quarter of a century.

Greene admitted too that while it was sad to see Reynolds go, the whole community wished him well in his future endeavours.

His departure is a huge loss for Edgeworthstown; not only did he employ mothers, fathers, daughters and sons at the plant, but he created a secondary industry in the form of packaging and haulage.

He continued: “He kept the company going in the face of devastation after the fire 13 years ago; C&D Foods is the backbone of Edgeworthstown.”

Greene went on to say that during the boom, a large number of new houses were developed in the area, and as a result of that, “a wonderful new community” descended on the town.

That new community, he added, hails from eastern Europe and many of them are now working in C&D Foods.

Edgeworthstown Development Association’s HQ is in the heart of the community

“Because of the Reynolds’ there was employment here for those people and that is the legacy that C&D is; Edgeworthstown has significant employment – a lot of which stems directly from the company – including skip collection, construction and waste management,” said Greene.

Meanwhile, Larry Goodman’s involvement in the locality is welcome, but as Greene alluded to “he is an industrialist and a very successful one at that”.

“But does Goodman have local knowledge? No.

“The thing about Philip Reynolds was, that if he said he was going to do something, he did it. He was very loyal and genuine and the Reynolds’ have shown a real loyalty to Longford.

“They have left behind a wonderful legacy,” he said.

C&D Foods

Founded 50 years ago, C&D Foods went from strength to strength until a fire devastated the plant in 2006.

The Reynolds’ built the company back up, and in doing so, turned it into one of the biggest pet food manufacturers in Europe.

C&D Foods with ABP Food Group Ltd is now the second-largest private label pet food company in Europe with sales in excess of €500 million per annum.

Its manufacturing sites include those in Ireland, the UK, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, and Denmark. The company also has sales offices in Germany and Italy.

In Ireland C&D Foods has a manufacturing site in Edgeworthstown with an administrative head office located in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.