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Dunbia continues to find the perfect recipe for success

By Margaret Canning

The success of meat processor Dunbia has made the headlines once more, with the company posting turnover of nearly £800m, although pre-tax profits are down.

The firm has come a long way from its roots as a butcher shop, and is now a totem of the Northern Ireland's red meat processing industry. It has 13 sites and employs more than 3,000 people.

Not far from its Dungannon HQ is another leading meat processor, Moy Park. And speculation some years ago linked the two, as there were rumours that Moy Park parent company Marfrig was also considering a play for Dunbia.

Marfrig was supposedly so enamoured with Northern Ireland that it wanted to acquire another jewel of the meat processing sector. Dunbia's hiring of Tony O'Neill, a former Moy Park man, as deputy chief executive, served only to increase the speculation.

Dunbia continues to pour cold water on the idea of being acquired, and is instead making plenty of acquisitions of its own. Its leaders are also highly successful. Group chief executive and co-founder Jim Dobson, who set up the business with his brother Jack, was named director of the year for a large company at last year's Institute of Directors Awards. Mr Dobson was lauded as a "very innovative and focused leader with a strong understanding of the market and competitors".

And Mr Dobson freely revealed Dunbia's recipe for success, describing it as "a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisition which has consolidated our operation and put us is a very strong position for the future".

"We are the largest processor of lamb in the UK, handling over 1.7 million lambs per year and a further 1.1 million cattle and pigs to supply local, national and international markets," he added.

He said Dunbia had successful, long-term partnerships with UK multiples, a commitment to its suppliers and a "strategic" expansion programme. "We plan to build on these principles to ensure future long-term growth."

The next generation of Dobsons is also proving its mettle. Stuart Dobson was a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year for his brainchild Elmgrove Foods, part of Dunbia Group and a specialist in "fifth quarter offal" products for beef, lamb and pork. That company also won a Queen's Enterprise Award. With so many plaudits, it seems likely the Dobsons will keep their success in the family for now.

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