O’Keeffe’s Bakery in Ballincollig, Co Cork, which employs 75 people, announced details yesterday of its groundbreaking new frozen dough technique, and the recruitment of 32 staff.
Stephen O’Keeffe, the managing director of the family run company, also launched a suite of DIY pizza kits with bases made using the new technique.
However, he said this process has such huge potential he hopes to create an additional 20 jobs within two years.
The company is at the completion stage of contract negotiations with Nickelodeon Television for a major licensing agreement.
Mr O’Keeffe said the deal would allow them use images of the pizza-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on its packaging in Ireland, the UK, and the Channel Islands, as the company targets new markets.
“This endorsement would give us a huge platform to get our new products out there,” he said.
Food Minister Simon Coveney praised the ambition of the company which ploughed almost €1m into research and development to perfect the technique in recent years.
“This is a great family, business and food story for Ireland,” he said.
Mr O’Keeffe said that research, development, and innovation are the key to any business.
The company set out to solve an ongoing challenge for bakers — how to freeze dough without losing the viability or the baking performance of the yeast.
Usually, yeast becomes inactive or dormant in frozen dough quite quickly.
O’Keeffe’s have now perfected a method of prolonging the shelf life of yeast within the frozen dough.
They have spent months testing the product with input from food giants like Odlums, Bakel Ingredients and German bakery equipment specialists, MIWE.
Mr O’Keeffe said the new technique could lead to a whole range of new frozen dough-based consumer products.
The company’s two DIY pizza kits — a 7in pizza for children and a 10in pizza for adults — recently won an Irish Quality Food Award. It has also launched a DIY garlic bread kit.
The pizza kits include frozen dough, as well as additive-free mozzarella, pizza sauce, flour, and baking paper. The products are now listed in Dunnes Stores, Tesco, and Musgraves.
O’Keeffe’s has achieved listings with OCADO, the British online grocery retailer, and is at advanced talks with leading multiples in Britain.
O’Keeffe’s bakery was established 30 years ago by Stephen’s parents, Liam and Marie, after they bought a bread round.
They went on to buy a second bread round before deciding to bake their own bread. The company now operates from a state-of-the-art bakery in Ballincollig.
The company produces fresh handmade bread which is distributed throughout Cork City and county, and par-baked products distributed nationwide, throughout Britain, and recently to Dubai, under the Irish Country Cuisine brand.