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Felled by budget woes, infighting and bad luck


Fivemiletown Creamery

Fivemiletown Creamery

Fivemiletown Creamery

The triumphs of Fivemiletown Creamery have been a regular feature of these pages over the last few years.

Genuinely appealing and appetising products were married with a pleasing narrative of tradition and endeavour in an attractive town.

It seemed like Fivemiletown and its products – Ballyblue, Boilie, Ballybrie and the others – had it made.

In July, its goats cheese pearls won the award for speciality outstanding food innovation at the New York Fancy Food Show.

Yet the reality inside the creamery was far removed from the rustic idyll conveyed in its packaging.

Disagreements over the amount being spent on marketing created tension among senior management, particularly as a team of marketing experts for the Great British market was proving expensive to keep.

Long-standing chief executive Mervyn McCaughey also resigned around 18 months ago – and the departure of such a well-regarded leader who had become synonymous with the brand could have been a sign of even more difficult times around the corner.

The accolades were still coming, but in reality, the co-operative was struggling to recover from the loss of its linchpin cheese curds contract with Kerry Group, which it had lost earlier in 2012.

It seems an unusual narrative for business failure in Northern Ireland, where we have become more accustomed to firms going into administration, resulting in job losses and gnashing of teeth.

Perhaps there is a kind of dignity to how things have turned out in Fivemiletown, though the employees who are now fighting to save the business that will remain after the sale to Glanbia Ingredients might disagree.

But it is highly unfortunate that the Northern Ireland food industry – usually cited as one of the best things we have going for us – is going to lose out on such a marketable brand.

Other dairy successes remain, such as Dale Farm – whose Dromona range of spreads and cheeses – is soon to go on sale around Spain – but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the troubles which are facing Fivemiletown.

We've used the phrase from Monty Python many times before – but let's hope the cheesemakers can still be blessed.

Belfast Telegraph