Belfast Telegraph

Dunbia business plan was devised on back of envelope

By John Mulgrew

It may have started off as a small, family-run butcher shop just outside Dungannon, but Dunbia soon grew into one of the UK and Ireland's largest meat firms.

Around 40 years before Dunbia became close to a billion pound company, Jim and Jack Dobson's business was going through just a small number of cattle each week.

The company was set up in 1976 after the brothers bought over a small frozen meat shop.

But it's now grown to employ close to 4,000 staff - 1,200 working in Northern Ireland - across a dozen sites, selling and exporting beef, lamb and pork across the globe.

Now, Dunbia sees 7,000 cattle, 50,000 lambs and 15,000 going through its sites. Around half the company's business involves selling meat, primarily beef and lamb, to the major supermarkets across the UK, including Sainsbury's, one of the firm's first big customers.

And the Dobson brothers seemed destined to work in the meat industry, following their cattle dealer father into the trade.

Jim and Jack Dobson's business plan for what would become a meat business turning over close to a billion pounds a year was jotted down on the back of an envelope.

Both have also picked up several awards for their business nous. Jim was named director of the year for a large company at last year's Institute of Directors Awards - praised as a "very innovative and focused leader with a strong understanding of the market and competitors". Meanwhile, earlier this year, brother Jack won the industry category of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Award.

As Dunbia has continued to grow right across the UK, there has been increasing speculation the business could be put up for sale.

That was dismissed by Jim Dobson during an interview with the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year. But earlier this month this newspaper revealed it could be sold, and the business is looking for new buyers.

It's understood a teaser document has now been prepared, due to be sent out to businesses who may have an interest in snapping up the Dungannon-headquartered firm.

But Dunbia is very much a family affair, with Jim's sons Matthew (32) and Steven (37) working for the company from a young age.

And it's weathered numerous storms and hurdles over the years, including BSE and foot-and-mouth disease.

Over the last three decades, Dunbia - which was rebranded from Dungannon Meats in 2006 - has taken over a number of other similar meat processors.

That includes Excel Meats and Newgrange Meats in the Republic, and Oriel Jones & Son in Wales - both in 2001 - and just last year it took on Lynch Quality Meats in Scotland.

Belfast Telegraph