ENTERPRISE Minister Arlene Foster has welcomed the completion of a £1.3million research and development (R&D) project by Ballyrashane Co-Operative.
As a result of the investment, the Coleraine creamery has been able to develop a new butter for European markets that is softer and easier to spread.
Visiting the company, Arlene Foster said: “Ballyrashane Co-Operative has identified an opportunity in key European markets for a premium-butter, made with locally supplied milk.
“The investment, a first in an R&D project by the creamery, represents a significant strategic development for a company which has a successful track record in processing milk into products for domestic and export markets.”
Ballyrashane currently employs 150 people in processing milk, butter, buttermilk and cheese. The investment has been supported by Invest NI, with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The Minister added: “Investing in new products is vitally important for local companies keen to grow their business in today’s fast moving and fiercely competitive international markets.
“Developing new products means Ballyrashane can boost its export sales, which currently stand at 30%. The company will also be able to bolster its position in established GB markets. This growth will further strengthen the co-operative’s commitment to the farming community in county Londonderry.”
Nigel Kemps, Ballyrashane General Manager, commenting on the new product development, said: “The R&D project, which was planned from 2009, has enabled us to achieve the development of a new spreadable butter without the vegetable oils used by some other manufacturers. We’ve achieved this through extensive product development work on processing techniques and the introduction of new storage technology for cream
“Our decision to invest in the new butter, with Invest NI’s assistance and advice from food technologists on the Loughry campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, was influenced by market demand, especially in Germany. An innovative and natural product could command a premium price there, enabling us to offer suppliers the prospect of a higher return for their milk and cream.
“It will also enable us to expand further sales outside Northern Ireland and particularly to other parts of Europe. Currently, we export around 70% of our products, mostly butter and cheese. Europe accounts for 27% and offers significant potential for faster growth. Growth overseas will also lead to worthwhile benefits to the farmers who supply milk and to the wider rural community in the Coleraine area.”
He added: “The project is also in line with last year’s Promar International report on the local dairy industry which recommended a sharper focus on new products for markets in Great Britain and other parts of Europe.”
UUP Assembly candidates Lesley Macaulay and David Harding welcomed the news.
Mr Harding said: “This new process will add value to their already substantial exports and help bring prosperity to the entire rural community.
Lesley Macaulay added: “This proves yet again that investment in North Coast businesses produces real benefits in terms of jobs and income.
“We will insist that Invest NI actively pursues funding opportunities in East Londonderry, we only seek our fair share of the support that currently seems to be concentrated in the Greater Belfast area.”