Belfast Telegraph

Kitchen Master is cleaning up with £1m sales in Middle East

By Margaret Canning

A cleaning products company in Co Down has said it is a small firm "with global ambition" as it announced £1m in sales in the United Arab Emirates.

Kitchen Master, which employs 20 people in Carryduff, said its efforts to market itself online had helped it find a distributor in the UAE for its products, which are made in Northern Ireland.

It has received advice and support from Invest NI in its quest.

The company makes and resells commercial chemical cleaning and hygiene products - and has now developed a niche selling its wares in Dubai, where demand has increased thanks to a burgeoning tourism industry.

Their products include cleaning fluids and powders for washrooms, bars, kitchens and laundries.

Sales director Jacqui Walsh said the company then took the "bold step" of setting up its own logistics centre in the region, to replace the services of a distributor.

"This has made the big difference," she said.

The company has been in business for nearly 40 years, and Ms Walsh said it was well fit to compete with household names.

"We have our own tried and tested formulations that rival anything the big brands can offer," she said.

"When you combine this with an active research and development programme producing new products, there is a very competitive offering to the marketplace.

"Obviously Kitchen Master doesn't have the massive burden of global advertising costs to handicap our operation".

Now that the firm has reached the milestone of £1m in sales, it now hopes to double turnover in the next 18 months, Ms Walsh said.

"The United Arab Emirates, with the rapid growth of its luxury hotels, eating establishments and thriving tourism industry, offered valuable business opportunities for us and so we established an office in Dubai to capitalise on that potential," she said.

"With five staff now employed in Dubai, this strategy has paid dividends for us and we're delighted with our record sales performance in the region."

But getting people on the ground had been a challenge, she said.

"We tried relocating personnel to the region in the early days but found that the best solution was to recruit local people there.

"It can be more difficult to manage - given the difference in culture and the time difference, which is three to four hours ahead depending on the time of year.

"They also have a different working week - Sunday to Thursday - but daily contact is maintained through phone and Skype.

"A physical presence from each of the company directors in the region every month has also been essential to our success."

Damian McAuley, Invest NI's director of advanced engineering and construction, said the firm had consistently focused on growing its market share, and had invested heavily with the support of Invest NI to develop new products. He said: "The Middle East has been a particularly lucrative market resulting from the concerted efforts of its management team to establish relationships with key buyers there.

"Kitchen Master is an example of a long-standing indigenous business which has embraced Invest NI as a strategic business partner when implementing its growth strategy." The company also sells to distributors in Europe and New Zealand, as well as the UK and the Republic.

Belfast Telegraph