By Gordon Deegan

Organic yogurt producer Glenisk incurred “very heavy losses” for 2021 due to the fire that destroyed the firm’s production plant last September.

That is according to commercial director with Glenisk Emma Walls, who said that the business was last year on course to top the record sales for 2020 before the fire on September 27.

Walls was commenting on new accounts which show that the Cleary family-controlled Glenisk enjoyed its best ever year in business during the pandemic-hit 2020.

The Co. Offaly firm’s pre-tax profits increased by 45% to €1.92 million after revenues surged by 15% from €24.1 million to €27.8 million in the 12 months to the end of December 2020.

Walls stated: “2020 was a record year for Glenisk. We experienced exceptional growth in sales of organic yogurts, with sharp increases evident from early March as the first Covid-19 lockdown began.”

She added: “The closure of restaurants and food service had an immediate effect on grocery sales.”

Walls stated that “from an uplift in March 2020, we maintained strong sales throughout the year”.

Ireland revenues totalled €26.73 million while Europe revenues amounted to €1.07 million.

During the four month-plus period of non-production (due to the fire), Walls noted: “There have been no lay-offs at Glenisk and staff have been paid throughout the period. Farmers have also been paid.”

Glenisk has now returned three of its products to the market.

The company’s commercial director said: “Demand for these lines has been very strong, as hoped. They represent our top three selling lines from before the fire. The response from our customers and retail partners has been exceptional. We’re buoyed by the support.”

Walls confirmed that Glenisk “will continue to phase in additional products in the weeks and months ahead”.

“We expect to have a further eight products in production by early March”.

Glenisk was the number one brand in yogurt here prior to the fire with a market share of 19%. Walls stated: “We anticipate it will take Glenisk at least a year to recover its position as we phase products back in and increase our volumes.”

She added: “Our goal is to restore pre-fire market share and grow from there. The length of time that takes is very much dependent on the speed with which we get back into manufacturing all core lines and new products to enhance our portfolio, but we don’t anticipate we’ll get back there during 2022.”

Production re-commenced at Glenisk’s interim factory earlier this month and Walls stated that the business is currently at design stage for a new carbon neutral yogurt factory with additional capacity “to help Glenisk realise its ambitions for growth domestically and in export markets”.

Walls added that, if “all goes to plan”, the new plant “could be up and running in the next 12 to 15 months but we accept it may take longer”.

The business today employs 90 people and staff costs in 2020 totalled €5.17 million. Eight directors served during the year and directors’ pay totalled €1.63 million.

At the end of December 2020, shareholder funds totalled €11.29 million, including accumulated profits of €6.2 million. The business’ cash funds totalled €5.6 million.