Sector: food & drink, retail
Alan and Valerie Kingston are the driving force behind Glenilen Farm, an artisan, dairy-based food manufacturing business based in West Cork.
When Valerie began to make and sell homemade cheesecakes at the local Farmers’ Market, using milk from the couple’s dairy farm in Drimoleague back in 1997, little did she know that within 15 years, what began as a kitchen-table business would develop in to the hugely successful food development and manufacturing concern that it is today.
Having quickly realised the increase in return that could be achieved by processing their milk into cheese, cream, and dairy-based desserts which could be sold directly to the customer, the couple invested in the construction of a dedicated production unit on their West-Cork farm in 2002.
Sales of Glenilen Farm cheesecakes, cheese, and mousse desserts quickly grew and in 2006, Glenilen Farm was registered as a limited company.
By 2008, the now six-year old production facility was replaced with a purpose-built, 10,000sq ft unit.
Innovation and a focus on quality has been core to the success of this family business.
The company now employs a team of 30 staff, that include a Sales and Marketing Manager for the Republic of Ireland, a Sales and Marketing Manager for the UK market, and a Quality and Production Manager whose primary aim is to ensure the quality and taste of Glenilen Farm products is the same - or better – than those which were first created in the farmhouse kitchen.
All milk used by in the manufacturing process is sourced from Glenilen and neighbouring farms and all products are entirely free of additives and preservatives.
Numerous business and food awards have been won by the couple, including: a British Cheese Gold award; a Bord Bia ‘Real Thing’ Award; and an Irish Food Writers Guild Award, amongst many others.
Valerie also won The FBD and Irish Farmers Journal Women’s Agri-Business Innovation Award in 2011.
Since Glenilen’s entry to the UK market, exports have played a significant role in the company’s success, accounting for 11% of total sales in 2011, compared with just 1% of sales in 2010.
Turnover for the business was €3.2 million for year-end February 2012.Products:
?A range of artisan, dairy-based chilled products that are completely free of additives and preservatives.
These include layered fruit yoghurts, cheesecakes, low-fat cream cheese, mousses, panna cotta, clotted cream, double cream, crème fraiche, farmhouse butter and Lemonade Customers:
The company currently supplies Glenilen products to major wholesale and retail chains in the Republic of Ireland, including Musgraves, Tesco, Dunnes Stores, and Superquinn.
It also supplies a host of speciality and independent retailers that include Avoca Handweavers, Mortons of Ranelagh, Fallon & Byrne, Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, The Ritz Carlton in Enniskerry, and also Pallas Foods.
Having successfully broken in to the UK market, Glenilen provides products to an array of premium food retail outlets that include Selfridges, Harvey Nicholls, Wholefoods, Waitrose, Booths and Ocado.Are there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution?
Val’ learned to make soft cheese while working in West Africa and with her passion for food this ignited the spark that was to become Glenilen Farm.
The business wasn’t part of a great master plan but rather a hobby that roller-coasted and we decided to go along for the ride, never realising quite how far it was going to take us!What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Supplying short shelf-life products to a large retail system and the complex logistics involved.
Also, ensuring that we never compromise on the taste and quality of our products, and maintaining our artisan image within a ‘mainstream’ market.