Dairy firm's export skills make it cream of the crop in Ulster
Ulster dairy products company Pritchitts has been recognised nationally for its exporting prowess.
The Newtownards-based firm was crowned Northern Ireland exporter of the year in the Food From Britain Export Awards 2007.
At the awards gala, staged in The Landmark Hotel in London, the Co Down company was applauded for an impressive uplift in international sales of its products.
Robert Turner, the company's European general manager, said the accolade reflected Pritchitts' progress since its acquisition by Co Cavan-based dairy group Lakeland Dairies in July 2003.
The company, which produces long-life cream, butter and milk, now exports to 75 countries and it has boosted international sales by 18% in the past year alone.
Mr Turner said when Lakeland took over the business - it originated in London in 1925 and has its sales and marketing operation at Bromley in Kent - it was shifting 30,000 cases of product each year, but this figure now stood at over 70,000.
Pritchitts, which had been owned by the Lawes family since the early 1970s, has also added to its workforce since being acquired by Lakeland. These days it employs 200, with around 160 based in Newtownards.
Mr Turner said Pritchitts is now producing 1,000 million pots of long life cream and milk per annum.
In the past 12 months it has made great strides in Russia in particular; it now ships up to 300 tonnes of product into Moscow.
The Far East, Middle East and Nordic countries have been strong, too. Its customers are mainly in the food service industry, but it has also seen increased business in the confectionery market.
"This is a very important award for the people in our Newtownards factory and also for the distributors who sell on our products in so many countries," said Mr Turner.
John Adams, chief executive of Food From Britain, the international market development consultancy for British food and drink producers, said Pritchitts had excelled in developing a successful proposition with catering as its focus.
"Considerable time has been devoted to ensuring its products live up to chefs' high expectations and this investment has paid off. The company is a truly deserving winner of this award and is an example of the benefits that successful international activity can have on overall business performance."
Now in their 11th year, the Food From Britain Export Awards recognise achievements and celebrate export success from across the UK's food and drink industry.
The Northern Ireland 'Fit For Market' exporter of the year accolade was sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland and the Department for Agriculture and Regional Development.
The food and drink exporter of the year in the UK was Scotland-based Walkers Shortbread.