Bakers look to bring in the bread with £350k Rankin range revamp
Breads made in a £10m tie-in between Paul Rankin and Irwin's Bakery have been given a big-budget makeover to boost sales in Great Britain.
Family business Irwin's in Portadown has been making Rankin Selection breads in collaboration with the Northern Ireland celebrity chef since 2001.
The firm said the range was Irwin's biggest product for selling outside the province, and it was expected to generate retail sales of £10m in 2015/16.
And now the company has spent £350,000 on new packaging for the selection, which includes soda breads, wheaten, potato 'slims' and fruited farls.
Marketing manager Colette Wilson said the range, which is also sold in Northern Ireland, had been a major success.
"Initially, it was focused on Great Britain, but it moved into Northern Ireland and the south of Ireland because the products were so well-loved," she added.
Ms Wilson also told how the range had been able to tap into a new-found popularity of all things Irish in the early 2000s, including folk-pop band The Corrs.
She said: "The Rankin Selection was the first Irish celebrity chef range to be introduced into Great Britain.
"Initially, it was introduced into Waitrose, but it very quickly spread into the others, mainly because Ireland was becoming very cool.
"A band like The Corrs took the tweeness out and made Irishness very contemporary."
Ms Milson said Irwin's was now Ireland's leading exporter of a top bread range within Great Britain, and that the line was sold in all the big supermarket multiples - Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, The Co-op and Morrisons.
The celebrity stardust of Paul Rankin also helped the company to success, the firm claimed,
"He works very closely with us in marketing, sales and product development, including the recent introduction of cinnamon and raisin soda farls," Ms Wilson said.
John Hopkins, Irwin's sales director, added that the new packaging featured indicators such as a toaster for breads which were best toasted.
"We are confident the rebrand will promote further growth by reminding consumers of the quality of Rankin Selection products, as well as attracting new consumers to trial the range," he said.
The newly packaged Rankin Selection product range is available in major retailers across GB including Tesco and Asda.
Irwin's was started by the grandparents of current directors Niall and Brian - and the arrival of Niall's son to the business means it is now a fourth-generation family firm.