A massive jobs boost at Northern Ireland's biggest employer sends out a message about the strength of the local economy around the world, it has been claimed.
Poultry processor Moy Park has announced a £170m investment which will create 628 jobs and a new innovation centre.
The jobs bonanza will be shared among the processor's headquarters in Craigavon and its bases in Ballymena and Dungannon over the next four years.
The employment creation move will contribute an extra £10.5m in annual salaries to the local company and supports last year's announcement to relocate its parent company's European financial services to the Co Armagh base.
The announcement was made last night to coincide with Brazilian business hours. Moy Park is owned by the Brazil- based Marfrig Group.
First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness had been invited by Moy Park to visit Brazil this week but declined the offer.
Moy Park is best-known in Ireland for selling fresh meats under its own name as well as under brands such as the Jamie Oliver trademark.
One hundred of the new posts are already in place with 70 of them being described as "high value posts" to be based at the firm's new innovation centre.
The centre will focus on creating new products driven by customer and consumer demand and has been supported by a £9.5m grant from Invest NI.
Recruitment has already begun for the remaining positions, which include roles in management, supervisory, processing and financial shared services.
Moy Park, a top 20 UK company, is valued at £1bn and last year enjoyed pre-tax profits of £33.8m.
It is one of Europe's leading food processors and its 11,500 workforce is spread across 16 facilities throughout the UK and the continent.
One of this year's World Cup sponsors, Moy Park became part of the Brazil-based Marfrig Group in 2008.
Today it processes 235m locally-produced chickens and 2m turkeys annually.
Chief executive Janet McCollum said the firm, established in 1943 as a small farming business, continues to harbour "big ambitions".
"This investment will allow us to further grow our operations and create new jobs in Northern Ireland," she said.
She said the investment also supports the move by the Brazilian parent group to transfer its entire European operation to the Co Armagh location, resulting in the official renaming of the company to Moy Park Europe.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster described the investment as "a huge boost of confidence" and a sign of Marfrig's ongoing commitment to Moy Park.
"The expansion will further enhance Moy Park's contribution to the local economy by enabling the business to achieve a substantial growth in sales, mostly to customers outside Northern Ireland, by 2018."
She added: "We have been able to demonstrate to international investors like Marfrig that we will work with them to ensure Northern Ireland is the right European location to successfully grow their business."
Marfrig Global Foods CEO Sergio Rial said: "We are committed to growing our operations in Northern Ireland and this investment, with support from Invest Northern Ireland, helps us to achieve that.
"We have had ongoing, positive engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive and have experienced a very pro-business attitude," he said.
Ulster Unionist economy spokesperson Danny Kinahan said: "The story of Moy Park is one of a local firm growing from small beginnings to become part of a thriving international business.
"Anyone not aware of how big Moy Park has become under its Brazilian owners Marfrig need only watch the World Cup – where the world's best footballers are performing in front of advertising hoardings featuring Moy Park. This is a great source of pride for Northern Ireland, and today's announcement is a tremendous boost for the local economy."
SDLP chair of the Assembly enterprise committee Patsy McGlone added: "I know many farmers, suppliers and workers who will welcome this investment as more work for them and the potential that it brings for expansion of their business too.
"An investment of more than 600 jobs is substantial and significant, and it is all part of growth of the agri-food sector."
Factfile: Key production sites
Four primary production sites are located at Dungannon and Ballymena in Northern Ireland and Anwick and Ashbourne in England. These sites produce a range of products including:
- Whole chickens
- Deboned thighs
- Fillets and mini-fillets
The Ballymena site also produces turkey products.
Ready to Cook product sites are located at Craigavon in Northern Ireland and Grantham and Wisbech in England. The range of products they produce include:
- Cooked whole birds
- Marinated chicken
- Snacking products
- Cooked sliced meats
Coated product sites at Craigavon and Grantham produce a range of fresh and frozen products, including:
- Nuggets and goujons
- Chicken Kievs
- Steaks and patties
From small local firm to a global player that sponsors the World Cup
By Margaret Canning
There's nothing more Northern Irish than an agri-food company – even if its name keeps popping up on advertising hoardings in World Cup matches in Brazil.
Moy Park may have a name that still retains a strong local resonance, but there is no greater example of the globalisation of the food industry than this massively successful company.
From its roots as an agri-food firm in the Co Tyrone village of Moygashel in 1943, Moy Park has grown into a corporate giant with impressive international credentials, employing around 11,500 people.
Its growth accelerated in the early 1960s, when it began to supply chicken to supermarkets in Britain, and built new facilities in Moira. A new chicken facility was opened in Dungannon in 1975, which became the first chicken processing plant in Ireland to have an EEC export licence.
In 1980 Moy Park acquired Kew House Farm in England – an early sign of the scope of its ambitions – and opened its new factory in Craigavon later that decade. The early 1990s saw a joint venture in France, and the growth of its business with the supermarkets.
In 1996 it became part of Chicago-based OSI Industries and it extended its business in France. More acquisitions in England followed.
Since becoming part of Brazilian company Marfrig in 2008, it's been closely watched on the global stage and, as a key sponsor of the World Cup, has made Northern Ireland viewers sit up and take note when they see the company's advertising during matches watched by hundreds of millions of fans.
In 2010 Moy Park acquired its Northern Ireland rival O'Kane Poultry in Ballymena, prompting its best-ever sales of £1.07bn.
Keeping up with changes to its corporate structure or funding arrangements is no longer just a matter of relying on the Northern Ireland media. Instead, developments are recorded by international media – news that part of Moy Park might be floated on the stock exchange emerged from an interview which Marfrig chief executive Sergio Rial gave to business news wire service Bloomberg.
It recently raised £200m on the European bond market – a development which was revealed in an announcement to the Brazilian stock exchange.
And yesterday's announcement of 648 new jobs was timed for 5.30pm local time so that it could be announced at 1.30pm in Brazil.
The company's successes as a chicken processor have reflected many changes in society in Northern Ireland and further afield.
Since EU expansion in 2004, it has provided employment to thousands of people from outside Northern Ireland who work in its factories in Dungannon, Ballymena and Craigavon. Its employee numbers are now around 11,000, many of whom work in its factories on the Continent and in England.
Moy Park has also increased the amount of 'oven ready' chicken products in its roster, reflecting busier households and a growing need for convenience – and it even has a tie-in with TV chef Jamie Oliver.
It has been the number one firm in the Belfast Telegraph's Top 100 Companies for the last four years. In its most recent results, it made pre-tax profits of £33.8m on turnover of £1.2bn.
It has prompted much admiration for becoming the first number one company in Northern Ireland to have a woman at the helm.
Janet McCollum's Moy Park career began in May 1993 with the post of European accountant, responsible for financial reporting and administration of the company's European sales.
She was appointed chief executive in January 2014 and there is no doubt she has had a significant role in guiding Moy Park through some momentous events, including its acquisition by Brazilian-based Marfrig in 2008 and the purchase of rival O'Kane Poultry.
In the last 13 years the Moy Park business has boosted its sales revenue from £200m to more than £1.2bn.
Maintaining that spectacular growth will be a challenge but one which, if her career so far is anything to go by, Janet McCollum is more than capable of.
Vast network of plants and suppliers
By Lesley Houston
Moy Park's poultry comes from 800 specially selected farms across Northern Ireland and Britain, which rear their stock under contract for the leading producer.
Hens and turkeys are collected live and slaughtered by Moy Park before they end up on our shop shelves.
Moy Park is the largest producer of organic and free range in the UK and Ireland with more than 110 small farms producing organic and free range chicken.
The Co Armagh firm was the first company in the UK to introduce free range in the mid-1980s and organic birds in the 1990s.
The company believes its products excel in taste and appeal because its birds enjoy full access to pastures during daytime hours.
Among its brands, it lists a range of ready-to-cook products devised by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as well as Castle Lea, a brand popular in Britain.
Moy Park has four primary production sites – Anwick in Lincolnshire, Dungannon, Ballymena and Ashbourne in Derbyshire.
They produce whole chickens, portions and fillets, while its Ballymena base produces its turkey products.
The poulty giant's convenience lines – including snack products and cooked sliced meats – are processed at bases in Craigavon and Grantham in Lincolnshire, where its line of nuggets and goujons, Kievs, steaks and patties are produced.