Fivemiletown Creamery is to restructure its business by making speciality soft cheeses its main focus following the loss of a major contract with Kerry Foods and the resignation of its MD.

The Northern Irish cheesemaking co-op lost a contract to supply ingredients to Kerry Foods’ cheese business, which includes brands such as Cheestrings, earlier this year.

The Kerry contract had accounted for 60% of Fivemiletown’s revenue. The aim was for speciality cheeses - which include its Boilíe cheese balls - to account for 60% next year, a spokesman said.

It is understood that Fivemiletown had planned to make speciality soft cheeses its main focus for some time, but the Kerry loss hastened the move. A source familiar with the business said the farmer-owned co-op had also been struggling to keep milk returns up for its farmers.

Kerry Foods declined to comment, but it is believed it ended its contract with Fivemiletown after ramping up its in-house capabilities.

With the Kerry contract gone, Fivemiletown was not producing any cheese ingredients at the moment but would continue to produce hard cheeses such as Cheddar the spokesman said.

The Co-op has now put in place an interim management of sales manager Kevin McManus, ops manager Tim Cander and company accountant Carole Graham, who report to chairman Ian McClure.

McManus said the company had a clear strategy for its speciality soft cheese business, focusing on UK own label, foodservice and B2B. Christmas contracts were “showing 350% growth this year over last”, he added.

A new MD would be appointed in due course, following the departure of Mervyn McCaughey, who had resigned “for personal reasons”, the spokesman added.