Belfast Telegraph

Tasty £2.6m boost means long shelf life for firm

By Lindsay Fergus

A recession-hit Co Down technology firm has secured more than £2.6m in sales, and is on target to achieve 100% sales growth within the next financial year.

Warrenpoint-based Piotec, which specialises in leak-detection technology for the food industry, has won the new orders in the space of just four months.

The inspection machinery detects leaks in packs via vacuum force technology, allowing food producers to immediately remove faulty goods from the production line.

Although the R&D business fell victim to the credit crunch and ceased trading in 2008, the technology concept was purchased this year by the same investors behind Dunmurry-based Lightstep Technologies.

The entrepreneurs are the brains behind Lightstep, the award-winning world's first intelligent evacuation technology.

Piotec's head of global sales, Martin Cassidy, told Business Telegraph: "New finance provided by private investors and some of the shareholders within Lightstep Technology funded the re-launch of the company, and supported Piotec in its progression from R&D to manufacturing."

An experienced new management team headed up by executive chairman Kieran Patterson, executive director Nicholas Watts, and managing director Patrick Ryan has been instrumental in steering the new business towards success.

Mr Cassidy explained: "We quickly established contacts within all sectors of the food industry and approached local, UK, and European manufacturers to create an awareness of the Piotec technology, which was demonstrated via an off-line machine that could be taken on site to trial and validate the technology. Initial evaluation trials then progressed to extended trials using an in-line demo machine based at our demo facility in Warrenpoint.

"From a dead order book back in March 2010, we now have sales orders and potential business sales totalling over £2.6m.

"Our client portfolio includes major manufacturers from all sectors of the food industry within Northern Ireland, UK, and Europe."

Piotec sold its first off-line machine to Portadown bakery WD Irwins, and has also signed agreements with a leading Northern Ireland poultry processor to supply a bespoke in-line machine.

As well as additional sales to food producers within the UK cheese, poultry, confectionery, and ready meals sectors, Piotec is currently in the final stages of negotiations with a number of key European producers within the canned fish, cheese, and meat sectors of the industry.

Piotec has also attracted global interest from the US, India, and Brazil, where a leading meat producer wishes to export vacuum-packed product to Europe. Other industry sectors generating enquiries include animal foods, specialist foods (military rations), medical devices, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Mr Cassidy said: "Piotec is proud and privileged to be supplying local Northern Ireland based manufacturers with its equipment and aims to promote the region as a centre of excellence for food security.

"Driven by the need of supermarket chains to promote longer shelf-life on products and reduce the amount of preservatives used in food production, manufacturers from all sectors of the food industry are investing in leak-detection technology to ensure food products remain fresh for longer periods."

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