A GROWING consumer demand for health-enhancing foods has helped a distribution company in the Muskerry gaeltacht to create 65 jobs and grow turnover last year to €15m.
Independent Irish Health Foods Ltd is located in a state-of-the-art premises at the Údarás na Gaeltachta industrial park in Ballyvourney, Co Cork.
The company was originally set up across two warehouses five years ago at Scart Cross, Farranfore, Co Kerry, with the help of start-up funding from Killarney Credit Union.
It distributes health foods and lifestyle products to independent health stores which are growing in number and are now part of the retail fabric in Ireland.
The products listed by IIHF include pre-packed foods, branded foods and drinks, chilled and frozen foods, supplements, body care, household products, gifts, and lifestyle accessories.
It carries brands from a large number of Irish food producers, as well as stock from countries worldwide. All are organic, fairly traded, gluten free, artisan, or eco-friendly.
The company also distributes Rude Health, the official magazine of the Irish Association of Health Stores, to all independent health shops countrywide.
Available free of charge to the public, the last issue included consumer information on a wide range of topics including advice on the best way to get a good night’s sleep and how to use natural remedies to cope with hay fever.
IIHF initially employed a courier delivery service but, with rapid growth, it became necessary to purchase a new fleet of vehicles in the autumn of 2008.
Staff numbers increased to 56 and in Dec 2009, the business — founded by Henry Bartlett, of Killarney, and Richard Wilkins, from Milltown — moved across the county bounds to premises in Ballyvourney.
With offices and a floor area of 24,000sq ft, the new facility, which the company purchased in 2010, has made a huge difference to efficiency in both service and logistics.
In addition to selling products to independent health stores across Ireland, it also supplies products to many other businesses.
IIHF carries a huge stock holding of 11,000 products. It is the preferred supplier to many of the country’s independent health stores, as well being as a valued partner of the makers of worldwide brands who count on them for distribution in Ireland.
IIHF said the company — which celebrates five years in business this month and whose employees come from both sides of the Cork-Kerry border — is going from strength to strength and, in these challenging times, that is refreshing.
Describing the ongoing growth of the business, Mr Wilkins said any company will be successful if it has a high calibre of staff working with a high-quality product, and IIHF is no different.
“We have worked steadily to try to understand the needs of our customers and to meet those needs in a calm and organised way,” said Mr Wilkins.
“We pride ourselves on our level of service from first filling orders in an efficient manner, to making on-time deliveries in our recently updated, temperature controlled trucks.”
Mr Wilkins said IIHF’s ambitions are to create further efficiencies in the business, while improving the service it currently offers.
“We aim to encourage more people to get involved in our trade, from artisan food producers to people interested in having their own health food store,” said Mr Wilkins.
“This is an area of trade that is gaining more and more interest from the mainstream public, as well as health professionals.”
IIHF is currently preparing for the Your Health Show, to be held at the RDS on Sept 14 and 15.
As well as being one of the sponsors, the company will be an exhibitor, with 30 of its brand suppliers also displaying their products under its umbrella.
The show aims to promote the concept of healthy eating in the consciousness of more of the Irish population.
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