Ornua Kerrygold production line

The Kerrygold brand also had a strong year, seeing 12% volume growth

Kerrygold owner Ornua has reported a “record” year of financial performance, with turnover in 2021 jumping by 6.9% to €2.5bn.

The Irish dairy Co-op was buoyed by a 12% increase in global sales volumes by the flagship Kerrygold brand for the 12 months to 26 December, with more than 11 million packets of butter and cheese sold around the world every week.

The company claimed this had been achieved because “consumers continued to gravitate towards the brands they trust”. Ornua said it hoped to continue this growth with a planned €40m expansion of its Kerrygold Park factory complex in Mitchelstown to meet demand.

The Dublin-based business’ “excellent trading performance” helped deliver an operating profit before exceptional items (and pre-Ornua’s value payment to farmers) of €153.7m, up 1.3% on the previous year. Group EBITDA was up 0.7% to €177.4m.

Ornua’s delivery of a “strong, stable, and sustainable performance year-on-year, [and] as we marked our 60th year in business” had been achieved “despite persistent challenges” and was attributed to the recovery of consumption patterns following the pandemic. The supplier added it had maximised value by growing its branded product range, expanding its innovation capabilities and leveraging customer partnerships.

As a result, the business – which is the parent of Pilgrims Choice owner Ornua Foods UK – was able to pay out a €78m bonus to members, up 13.5% year on year. This came on top of the €1.2bn of premium Irish dairy products purchased by the company from these farmers.

Ornua Ingredients also performed strongly, the supplier said, with product expansion in Europe and the Middle East as well as in the US, which was enabled by its acquisition of Whitehall Specialities Inc.

On the acquisition, Ornua CEO John Jordan said: “The addition of these four facilities across Wisconsin and Pennsylvania unlocks substantial growth in both the US and in other markets, as we enhance our innovation and manufacturing capabilities as well as adding 450 new skilled professionals to our workforce.”

But while the group had enjoyed a good year, it also warned there were challenges ahead for the dairy sector, with inflation a key concern alongside geopolitical instability, global trade barriers, supply chain challenges and market volatility. Additionally, meeting climate goals continued to require “effort and close collaboration”, it pointed out.

“We have been devastated by the tragic events that have unfolded in Ukraine these past months and recognise the plight of the Ukrainian people at this very difficult time,” said Jordan. “As a long-standing organisation with a global footprint, we acknowledge the impact of world events on our customers and the communities we serve and will continue to support all our stakeholders in navigating the knock-on effects of this terrible situation.

“While challenges persist in 2022, we are commercially and strategically well-placed to manage their impact on our business and continue to return value to our member co-ops and the Irish farming families they represent,” he added.