Belfast Telegraph

Business linked to Norbrook empire plans major expansion into Irish drinks market

Family's thirst for success as they brew new venture

By John Mulgrew

Members of the family behind Northern Ireland pharmaceutical giant Norbrook are planning a massive expansion of another arm of the firm - brewing.

Station Works, which is run by the sons of late Norbrook founder Lord Ballyedmond, is undertaking a major expansion of its brewery in Newry.

Station Works, which belongs to Cumberland Breweries Ltd, is Northern Ireland's largest capacity brewery.

It's now planning massive growth across Ireland - selling its beers across pubs and major supermarkets.

Lord Ballyedmond's two sons Edward and James are directors of the company.

Martin Murdock, who also sits on the board of Norbrook, is company secretary. The brewery's Conor Farrell said the Haughey family were "very supportive" with the business linked to their empire.

"They are very supportive, as they are in all their businesses - and are very hands-on, too," he said.

"They have created a great legacy and brands for Northern Ireland."

Now Station Works is targeting Tesco, Dunnes Stores and Winemark, as well as selling draft beer to bars across Northern Ireland as it significantly grows its output.

"We scaled in to the business - we are in 93 Tesco stores in the Republic, Dunnes in Northern Ireland and Winemark, as well as targeting bars."

The company is now producing three beers, including Finn lager and two ales.

It currently employs 12 people at its new base, located close to the train station in Newry.

And with a huge capacity - the ability to produce two million litres of beer each year - it has the ability to "grow quickly and expand in to Europe".

It's currently producing just under a million litres a year.

"You need to have that capacity to fill the market. We are trying to be the stepping stone for craft beers -getting consumers who would normally drink the mainstream brands to try something else," business development manager Conor Farrell said.

It also operates another brewery at the Haughey family's estate in Cumbria - for the English market - which opened around five years ago.

The brewing arm of the overall family empire is a departure from Norbrook's well-established international business.

It's one of the leading producers of veterinary medicine and also produces pharmaceuticals for humans.

According to Dr Colm Murphy, compiler of the Irish Sunday Times Rich List, it's "not unusual" for successful firms to diversify in to very different markets.

"Because it's in a different sector, it can be hard to get in to new markets - that's where they would build up the expertise," he said.

"But brewing is regulated process much like pharmaceuticals - so there would be expertise and commonality there.

"It is still very different, though, and is an incredibly difficult area to get in to."

Norbrook employs some 1,800 staff at its three manufacturing sites in Newry, as well as hundreds more at other sites across the globe.

The late Lord Ballyedmond - once Northern Ireland's richest man - died with his foreman Declan Small and pilots Carl Dickerson and Captain Lee Hoyle in a helicopter crash nearly one year ago.

In October last year, Lord Ballyedmond's family vowed the firm would remain independent and stick to its Newry roots.

Shortly afterwards it announced the appointment of ex-Sisk boss Liam Nagle as chief executive.

The worldwide group of Norbrook pharmaceutical companies reported pre-tax profits of £20.7m in its accounts for the year ending August 2013.

Belfast Telegraph

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