The late Denis Lynn has been described as “an innovator and a visionary” as he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank.
Mr Lynn, who died last month, founded Finnebrogue Artisan in Downpatrick, which has grown into one of the UK’s biggest suppliers of sausages to major supermarkets.
A socially-distanced presentation of the awards, the most prestigious competition of its kind in Northern Ireland, took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in south Belfast.
The awards mark their 20th anniversary this year.
Carrickfergus automotive components supplier Ryobi, which is part of a Japanese company, was named Outstanding Business of the Year. The honour is given to the most impressive winner among all 14 awards categories.
Jago Pearson, chief strategy officer at Finnebrogue Artisan, accepted the Lifetime Achievement award on behalf of Mr Lynn’s family.
Denis Lynn began his food career selling pizzas and pies from the back of a van. Having founded Lynn’s Country Foods in 1985, he secured his first major breakthrough in 1988 when he discovered a new method for mass-producing chips.
It wasn’t long before he became the biggest chip supplier to the Irish market.
The proceeds from the sale of the food distribution arm of his business in 1991 gave Denis the resources to buy the Finnebrogue estate in Downpatrick.
He then established Finnebrogue Artisan which became the largest farmer and processor of deer meat in the UK, with contracts to supply top restaurants and supermarkets.
By 2006, Denis had expanded Finnebrogue into upmarket pork sausages, winning own-label contracts with customers such as Marks & Spencer and Asda.
Over the past decade, the business has led innovation in the bacon category with the launch of nitrate-free rashers and expanded into plant-based and meat-free products.
This expansion, led by Denis, transformed Finnebrogue in 10 years from a small business with revenues of £3m into a major meat category player racking up £142m in sales by February 2020 and employing more than 1,000 staff.
It recently opened its fourth new factory in five years – a £25m dedicated plant-based facility in Co Down.
Professor Mark Durkin, Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School and chairman of the judging panel, said Mr Lynn had been the unanimous choice of judges.
“The Lifetime Achievement Award is a special award which recognises the outstanding contribution of an individual in business over a significant period in recent years.
"It is a non-entry category which is decided by the judging panel. Since the panel was selected in March the task of each individual member was to identify over the ensuing months a worthy recipient of this prestigious award – an individual who would be regarded as a role model with proven performance and application of the highest standards.
"Denis was unanimously proposed and that this is the first time that this award has been made posthumously, points to a collective view amongst the judges that rather than having Denis’s incredible achievements commemorated they should instead be recognised and celebrated as a living example of excellence and a case study in entrepreneurial business practice.
“We are very privileged to present this award to the Lynn family and Finnebrogue and hope that it is a worthy addition to his incredible legacy.”
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