Linwoods marks its 50th with rebrand and £500k investment
Food manufacturer and distributor Linwoods in Armagh is celebrating half a century in business with a £500,000 investment.
The company, which has diversified into health and super foods alongside its original dairy operation, is spending the money on new technology, packaging and an extended bakery product range.
The company was founded in 1965 by John Woods, who still runs the business.
Marketing and sales manager Joanne Hayden said: "The Linwoods brand is very much a household name, and our breads and baked goods have been pivotal to that positioning.
"However, we are mindful that the bakery sector is highly competitive, and we recognise the importance of continuous improvement and investment.
"Investing over £500,000 in new bakery technology has enabled us not only to extend our bakery range, but also to refresh its image with a major rebrand."
The shop on Armagh's Monaghan Road where it all started is still open today.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year, Mr Woods reminisced about how the company got started.
"Myself and two of my brothers registered Linwoods as a trademark in 1965," he said.
"But the business was actually started by my father, also called John, back in the 1930s.
"He began by collecting eggs from nearby farms, and after the war, as well as running a farm himself, he opened a small grocery, animal feed and hardware store on the Monaghan Road, outside Armagh."
The company thrived in bakery and dairy, then diversified into health supplements such as flaxseed after Mr Woods suffered a heart attack.
He told the Belfast Telegraph that the health scare had transformed both him and the business.
"I changed from a 100-hour-working-week man who survived on fizzy drinks and chocolate to 40 hours and a healthy-eating regime," he said.
"I became fascinated by the benefits of certain foods, and I had always remembered as a child during the 1940s and 1950s that commercial animal feed wasn't widely available and people had to grow and mix their own, adding in the odd bag of milled flaxseed."
He then recalled that calves on the family farm had thrived on flaxseed. That prompted him to get in touch with a Canadian company which sold milled flaxseed as a health food and wanted to break into the European market.
"I got some samples, which I then gave to health food stores and independent retailers to try out," Mr Woods said.
"The feedback was good, and the milled version was found to be more convenient to use and easier to eat than the 'whole' version they were stocking.
"At that time, people were just starting to become aware of the goodness contained within seeds, nuts and berries, and health food stores were beginning to emerge across the province."
He sold first into independent retailers before branching out.
Linwoods now exports its seeds to Spain, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Finland, France, Sweden, Norway and Germany. The company has also cracked the American market and its products are available in the Middle East.