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Lorraine Hall, Northern Ireland food firm boss, dies suddenly aged 49

Business world united in shock at sudden passing of entrepreneur

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Lorraine Hall, who has died aged 49

Lorraine Hall, who has died aged 49

Lorraine Hall, who has died aged 49

A businesswoman who helped set up one of Northern Ireland's most successful food firms has been described as a valued ambassador to the industry, following her death at 49.

Lorraine Hall, who lived in Dromore, Co Down, established dried nuts and fruit company Kestrel Foods in Portadown with her husband Michael in 1996.

It's understood Mrs Hall's death was sudden although she had previously suffered from cancer.

The couple have two teenage children, Esmee (19) and 15-year-old Thomas.

Mrs Hall's funeral will take place in St Malachy's Parish Church in Hillsborough on Friday.

Kestrel Foods is best known for the Forest Feast brand of snacks and is a successful exporter to more than 30 countries.

A message on the company's website described her as "the creative force behind our award-winning Forest Feast & Acti-Snack brands".

"A loving wife to Michael and devoted mum to Esmée and Thomas, Lorraine was someone who left a positive impact on everyone she met. Lorraine will be sadly missed by the entire Forest Feast family but her vision and values will always remain at the forefront of our business."

Mrs Hall attended Victoria College in Belfast before gaining a Masters degree in social anthropology from the University of Edinburgh.

In her spare time, she was a keen supporter of Swim Ulster and its sister organisation Aquasprint.

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Lorraine and husband Michael

Lorraine and husband Michael

Lorraine and husband Michael

Swim Ulster paid tribute to her dedication to the sport on its Facebook page.

A spokesman said: "Lorraine attended the Aquasprint finals each year and was also well known for officiating poolside at many of our competitions.

"All at Swim Ulster wish to express their deepest sympathy to husband Michael, daughter Esmee, son Thomas, and to Lorraine's close family. Lorraine was a valued member of Swim Ulster and her club, and will be very much missed."

As it built up its exporting interests, the company benefited from the support of economic development agency Invest NI.

Its chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Lorraine Hall this morning. Lorraine was a valued ambassador for the Northern Ireland food and drink industry and was central to the growth and development of Kestrel Foods. We offer our deepest sympathy to Michael and the entire family circle."

The firm employs around 70 people and reported sales of £14m in its last accounts.

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Lorraine Hall with one of her firm’s products

Lorraine Hall with one of her firm’s products

Lorraine Hall with one of her firm’s products

Mr and Mrs Hall had been recognised for their success in building up the business and were nominated for the all-Ireland EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2014.

Rob Heron, EY partner, said: "It was with great sadness that we learned of Lorraine Hall's passing. Lorraine, with her husband Michael, was a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programme in 2014. She was a valued member of our alumni."

Belfast Telegraph