Belfast Telegraph

William takes the biscuit

Ambitious deal takes shamrock-shaped snack to the US

By Lesley Houston

A Bangor businessman is aiming high in his dream of making his 'embryonic' product into a true Irish icon among the likes of Guinness, Baileys and Bushmills.

With unbridled zeal and drive, Willie Bullock has just signed a deal to put his Grace's Irish Biscuits onto the shelves of a major United States chain.

The award-winning company has won a contract to supply its handcrafted shamrock-shaped oatmeal and shortbread biscuits to leading discount retailer Cost Plus World Market in San Francisco for sale through its nationwide chain of 260 stores.

The coup marks the firm's largest export deal to date, and follows recent export success in Germany, Japan and Holland.

Listing Guinness, Baileys and Bushmills Irish Whiskey as the top three iconic Irish products in the drink industry, Mr Bullock, Grace's founder and MD, aims to emulate their global success with his baked goods.

"I've always thought that Northern Ireland has never embraced Irishness as much as it should. I decided I would look at what was in the marketplace," he said.

Identifying the benchmark standard as Walkers, which exports its Scottish shortbread across the globe, Mr Bullock has been inspired by its success in "exporting the tartan".

"I thought if we are going to take Northern Ireland into the next century, with tourism such a large part of that, and with the PM endorsing that yesterday, we are really behind the door in doing that so far.

"Northern Ireland has produced some stars in its time, like Bushmills and what we are trying to do is to do the same for our product and get it established in GB and beyond."

Commenting on the US order, he said: "This gives us a significant presence with Cost Plus World Markets in its stores from California to Virginia and is our biggest business to date in a market that we've targeted for faster growth.

"The world is now our oyster."

The company has received marketing and other assistance from Invest NI to develop its exports.

Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI Director of Food said: "The success of Grace's shows what can be achieved from a determination to do business there."