Classic Mineral Water invests £3.7m in staff and technology
A Co Armagh drinks company has said it's aiming for sales of £7m as it invests more than £3.7m and triples its current workforce.
The 39 jobs at Classic Mineral Water will pay an average of £20,000 a year and include opportunities in administration, sales, maintenance and production.
The firm, based in Lurgan, said it plans to use the investment to "increase capacity and efficiency" to increase sales from £2.5m to £10m over the next four years. It also plans to create an international company presence and significantly grow sales in Great Britain and Ireland.
Providing a further breakdown, Liam Duffy, chief executive and owner of Classic Mineral Water, said 60% of the firm's sales are currently to the Republic, with the remaining 40% of sales in Northern Ireland. It has no sales in Great Britain at present.
Mr Duffy added contracts already secured for next year will take sales to around £7m, with £4m in the Republic, between £1m and £1.5m in Great Britain and the rest made here.
Economic development agency Invest NI has offered £550,000 of support towards the capital investment, with the new jobs leading to additional salaries totalling £785,200 per year in the Northern Ireland economy.
Specialising in flavoured water, tonics, plain water, lemonades and water coolers, the company, established in 1948, is the oldest water bottling company in Ireland.
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As the first company in Northern Ireland to achieve mineral water status, it has built up "expert knowledge, skills and experience that has allowed for this new growth to become possible".
Only two other companies on the island of Ireland have achieved mineral water status.
Mr Duffy said that they plan to expand on their 70 years of experience through "innovation and development, delivering growth in export markets by increasing capacity and efficiency, alongside reducing production costs".
"Invest NI's support means we can make the investment quicker and respond to market demand for new products," he added.
"We are also able to expand our team in Lurgan, developing a strong skillset to help our company succeed as a major competitor in export markets."
John Hood, director of food and drink at Invest NI, explained that the investment will allow the company to "build on fresh opportunities within the sector and capitalise on the growth of the bottled soft drink business across Ireland and Europe".
"Along with creating 39 jobs, Classic Mineral Water is introducing new innovative technology to reduce costs and streamline production processes," he said.
"As well as providing financial support we have worked closely with the company, providing strategic advice and guidance.
"This access to leadership programmes, consultancy support and strategic advice, ensures the company has the skills and knowledge to maximise this investment. I wish the company success as it grows sales and profitability."
Mr Duffy, who bought Classic Mineral Water last year, also said that the company is in "as good a position as it can be" for Brexit.
Plain water sales make up 85% of the firm's sales in the Republic and, as there are zero tariffs on plain water, he's confident Brexit won't affect the business.
Flavoured water and mixers, which the company also sell, will incur a tariff of 9%.
"We're lucky to be able to source our raw materials here in Northern Ireland so we will not be relying on importing these from across the border," Mr Duffy said.
"Of course, Brexit will create challenges in terms of logistics and what checks are done at the border, but no-one knows what will happen yet."
The company works with retail customers including Tesco, Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Mace, Centra, Spar and Eurospar.
Invest NI's support is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.