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Local family bakery taking biscuit with fans in Fiji and US

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 30/09/2015

Fiji
Fiji
Sales director Tim Graham

Sugar-coated, crumbly and perfect for dunking in tea. Shortbread is probably Northern Ireland's favourite biscuit. Our local tastebuds appreciate its no-nonsense, traditional flavour.

But now the humble confection is proving popular in more exotic climes. A Co Down bakery is shipping shortbread and oat cookies to the South Pacific island of Fiji.

Sales director Tim Graham said: "We recently got a message on Facebook from a customer in Fiji, praising us for our cookies, so they must be going down well!"

Graham's in Dromore has been supplying customers in Northern Ireland, Britain and the Republic with its cakes, buns and bread for many years. Recently, the six-decade-old family firm decided it was time to test the overseas biscuit market.

Tim said: "We were encouraged by an Invest NI trade specialist to approach Irish Providence Food in Chicago, a company with an extensive network of contacts. The managing director Gordon Knipe, who's originally from Northern Ireland, was impressed by the quality of our shortbread and our oat cookies.

"He placed an initial contract and followed quickly with repeat business.

"The cookies are now on sale in a number of retail outlets including Marianos, which has a network of supermarkets in Illinois state.

"It's a tremendous boost for the bakery to be doing good business in the US and even as far away as Fiji."

Graham's also supplies the Waitrose and Spinney's supermarket chains in the United Arab Emirates.

"Seventy per cent of our product leaves Northern Ireland every week," said Tim. "We supply Budgen's in England and the Co-op in Scotland, as well as these new overseas contracts that have developed in the past 12 months. It's been a busy year and we've taken on an additional 10 employees."

The bakery is a third generation family business, set up in 1956 by Tim's grandmother May Graham. Her son Dennis ran the company until Tim and his sister Esther took over. They're working on plans to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2016.

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