Cheers to a global success story

ABOUT 2,300 glasses of Baileys are consumed every minute of the day across the world.

That is the end part of a remarkable story that reflects a global manufacturing and marketing triumph by two Irish food groups working in partnership.

It also underlines the ability of Irish dairy farmers to breed top quality cows to produce the milk for the cream that goes into the makings of the liqueur.

More than 275 million litres of fresh milk from some 40,000 cows grazing on 1,500 accredited farms is required by Diageo Baileys each year.

Glanbia Ingredients Ireland, which has a processing plant at Virginia, Co Cavan, supplies the fresh cream to Baileys, now a famous global brand associated with Ireland.

That status is not lost on the Glanbia suppliers who produce the cream for the liqueur which was launched in 1974 and is now sold in 180 countries.

The partnership between Diageo, which also owns the Guinness, Smithwicks and Bushmills brands, and international food group Glanbia, was noted by Minister of State Tom Hayes when he recently spoke at the Baileys factory in Dublin.

He also praised the commitment of both countries to the Diageo Baileys Irish Champion Dairy Cow competition, which will celebrate its 30th birthday at Virginia Show in Co Cavan on Wednesday.

David Smith, Diageo Country director, said the competition is an excellent example of supply chain partnership with cream supplier Glanbia Ingredients Ireland.

And through Glanbia, that partnership continues with thousands of dairy breeders and primary milk producers involved in providing year-round cream for Baileys.

Through the Baileys brand, Ireland’s reputation for high- quality food and drink produce is promoted all over the world, he said.

Those links put into sharp focus the annual search by Diageo Baileys for the Irish Champion Dairy Cow, which attracts entries from the top breeders countrywide.

Martin Tynan, general manager, Glanbia Ingredients Ireland, said the competition consistently attracts the finest Holstein Friesian cows.

Some 26 breeders have won the competition since the Crawford brothers from Co Fermanagh took the inaugural title in 1983.

Cyril Dowling, Baldonnell, Co Dublin, has won it a record six times, but Munster breeders have dominated since 2009.

The Kirby brothers, John and Tim, who farm at Duagh, Co Kerry, have won the competition on three occasions. They achieved back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010, adding to another triumph three years earlier.

Father and son combinations, Eugene and Sean Murphy, Waterfall, Co Cork, (2011) and Pat and Derek Frawley, Croagh, Co Limerick, (2012) also succeeded in keeping the title in the south.

Nearly 700 cows have taken part in the class over the past 30 years with every pedigree dairy breeder and exhibitor in the country striving to win.

According to the competition director, Brendan Smyth, success in the event is equivalent among the exhibitors to having a horse win the Derby.

When the competition first started in 1983, Baileys’ global sales were around 20 million bottles per year.

Today it is one of the top 10 selling global premium spirit brands in the world with sales of over 80 million bottles.

Diageo is, of course, an important contributor to the economy, employing in the region of 1,500 people directly.

The company also uses a wide range of suppliers and contractors, contributing significantly to thousands of jobs indirectly. Apart from the 50 million gallons of milk that goes into the manufacture of Baileys Original Irish Cream every year, Diageo is also the single biggest user of malted barley.

The Baileys championships’ has always been held at Virginia Show, where the organising committee is made up of almost 200 members, mostly farmers and their families.

The show consists of over 450 classes and attracts 3,500 exhibits annually, but once again the main focus next Wednesday will be on the judging of the Baileys class.

Canadian- born Holstein Friesian judge Lynden Bustard, now living in Devon, will have the difficult task of tapping out the winner and the other award recipients.

He breeds Holsteins and Jerseys, has shown extensively worldwide and now judges in Canada, Britain, and Ireland.

“It will be a tough but exciting task to select the winner of what has become the most prestigious dairy breeder’s prize in Ireland,” he said.

A prize fund of €10,000 will be on offer in the Baileys championships, sponsored by Diageo in association with Glanbia Ingredients Ireland.

There will be a top prize of €2,500, a reserve prize of €1,000 and other awards. As the event grows in stature, new challenges and opportunities are looming for the dairy industry.

These will require a greater need than ever before for strong export brands and companies such as Diageo and Glanbia to lead the way in new international markets for agri-food and drink.

Glanbia chairman Liam Herlihy put it well at last year’s competition when he described it as an excellent showcase for Irish dairy produce.

“These top Irish cows are producing milk for Baileys that ends up all over the world,” he said.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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