Lakeland increase in profits boosted by food division
Cross-border dairy co-op Lakeland, which has a major operation in Co Down, has reported a 5% increase in pre-tax profits to £8.6m.
The Cavan-based processor also reported a 15% increase in revenues to £491m for 2014 - resulting in a 10% increase in operating profit to £10m.
Lakeland is the second biggest dairy co-operative in Ireland and collects milk from farmers in Down, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone.
It also has a major food service manufacture and export operation in Newtownards.
Food ingredients enjoyed the biggest increase of the company's divisions, up 22% to £297m.
Its food service division had revenue growth of 12% to £149m. During the year the co-op finished its £8m global logistics centre at its food service processing centre in Newtownards.
The automated facility has over 14,000 pallet spaces and robotic systems to prepare consignments such as ice-cream, UHT milk and items for food service for export.
Group chief executive Michael Hanley (below) said: "These are very robust results, set against difficult market conditions in 2014, where Lakeland Dairies also paid a competitive milk price.
"We experienced consistently strong demand across our portfolio of dairy ingredients and dairy food service products.
"This was achieved through organic growth and new business development activity in key markets including Europe, the Middle East and Asia."
He said consumer sentiment had been improving gradually in key markets.
"This benefited our food service customers and fed into stronger sales across the hospitality, catering and convenience market segments.
"There is a growing requirement for high-quality milk powders and functional ingredients in nutritional, pharmaceutical and beverage markets, where we serve leading food manufacturers and infant formula customers worldwide.
Agribusiness revenues at the co-op were £45m for the year.
The co-op is also working on a new dryer in Bailieboro, Co Cavan.
Mr Hanley said a new 'milk stick' diary product for cafes, airlines and other outlets had met a "positive reaction".
The co-op processes over 800m litres of milk annually - likely to rise to over 1bn annually by 2020.