Tyrone family's farm food firm secures £450,000 Tesco deal
Co Tyrone firm Cloughbane Farm Foods has signed a deal worth almost half a million pounds with Tesco for its new ready meal range.
The Robinson family's farm stretches back over 150 years, with four generations of the family working the land near Pomeroy. Until 2002, the business was simply a farm selling its beef, lamb and free range eggs to wholesalers.
The family-owned company began as a hobby over 10 years ago when Lorna Robinson began selling meat and vegetables at a local farmers' market, but she soon found that the monthly meet ups were not enough to keep up with demand.
Today, Cloughbane employs 47 people and supplies ready meals to some of the UK's largest supermarket chains including Nisa, Asda, Sainsbury's, Musgrave Group and Henderson's Group.
The latest deal worth £450,000 with Tesco NI will see a 60% increase in Cloughbane's business with the supermarket.
Husband and wife duo Lorna and Sam, along with their two sons, Richard and Robert, have been supplying Tesco NI since 2012 and last year sold over 200,000 units to the supermarket giant.
Mrs Robinson said the company's overall sales had grown by around 53% on five years ago.
She said: "Our sales are growing with all our customers. Last year we were up 17% on the year before and this year looks set to be another year of growth for us. We were discussing not if we would need to take on more staff but about how many we would need."
Cloughbane still makes all its products on the farm and ships 20% of its ready meals to Great Britain. A further 15% of the meals are sent across the border.
Last month, the brand was awarded Great Taste Awards for three of its products. Its sticky toffee pudding, steak and onion pie and chicken and broccoli bake were each awarded one star.
The new premium range ready meals are based upon market research carried out in the family's farm shop and will include 11 new ready meals. The products will initially hit shelves in the 14 largest Tesco stores before they are rolled out across Northern Ireland.
Director Lorna Robinson said she only uses locally grown and reared meat and vegetables in the products. "Even though the business has gown, we've kept the focus on quality and taste," she added. "Our market research in the farm shop has shown that people still want that home-made taste but in smaller portions.
"We know it can often be difficult for families to find the time to cook traditional and healthy meals, yet the desire for homemade meals still remains.
"We wanted to cater for those busy, working families with our convenient new ready meal range. We use quality, fresh ingredients so the range is bursting with flavour and nutrition.
"Our relationship with Tesco Northern Ireland provides us with a great platform to showcase our produce. It has given us the opportunity to expand our product lines and given us the confidence to invest a further £600,000 in our business, through expanding our premises and investing in new equipment, and allowing us to employ an additional five staff members so we can cater for more families across Northern Ireland."
Sandra Weir, fresh food buyer at Tesco NI, said: "This new range from Cloughbane Farm Foods is in response to growing food trends and demand for traditional, home-made meals, that are quick and convenient to prepare. Cloughbane took advantage of this gap in the market and the feedback on the new products has been excellent."