Biscuit venture to create 100 jobs

Biscuit king Michael Carey is hopeful that his new venture can take a sizeable bite out of the lucrative biscuit markets in both Ireland and the UK, currently worth around €170m and €2bn respectively.

Biscuit venture to create 100 jobs

Mr Carey formally launched the East Coast Bakehouse yesterday. When fully up and running early next year, the Drogheda-based business will be the only large mainstream biscuit company manufacturing within Ireland; currently the vast majority of biscuits sold in Ireland are imported.

As part of a €15m investment — set to create 100 permanent jobs — the East Coast Bakehouse will transform a 50,000 sq ft food production facility into a state-of-the-art bakehouse and initially churn out 8,000 tonnes of biscuits per annum in its first two years of life. However, the facility’s capacity can allow for a doubling of that amount.

Mr Carey said: “Every week over €3m worth of biscuits are purchased and enjoyed by Irish consumers, almost all of which are currently imported. We aim to provide a new commercially competitive local Irish source of biscuits. There is also a great opportunity to provide high quality biscuits to UK retailers.”

The new company’s co-founders — including Mr Carey, his wife Alison Cowzer, and other former Jacob Fruitfield executives Gerry Murphy, James Yarr, and Daragh Monahan — have accounted for 70% of the funding, with 30% coming from external investors.

Bank debt has also been provided by Ulster Bank and Enterprise Ireland has backed the project via support grants and preference shares, which can either be repayed or converted into equity after five years.

Mr Carey — who still holds a 10% stake in Valeo Foods, the business which now owns his former biscuit and condiments operation, Jacob Fruitfield — said yesterday that while classic biscuit staples such as cookies, ginger nuts, and digestives will be made under the East Coast Bakehouse brand, the company will also look to innovate with its products.

It will also manufacture for the own-brand supermarket sector both here, in the UK, and on mainland Europe and is currently in talks with prospective retail partners to that end.

Mr Carey said that while East Coast Bakehouse is targeting a significant share of the Irish biscuit market (currently dominated by Jacobs, Burtons, Cadbury and United Biscuits/McVitie’s), the company will export 70%-80% of its output to Britain and mainland Europe.

As well as the facility opportunity, Drogheda’s growing reputation as a hub for food and drink sector businesses and its infrastructure links with Belfast and Dublin were integral to East Coast’s management setting up there.

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