an editorial supplement to The Grocer Entertaining Mr Sloan's magic If one company best exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of Ireland then it must be the SHS Group. Formed 26 years ago as a small distribution business based in Northern Ireland, SHS has grown into a company that today turns over £180m a year. It owns Beverage Brands, Caledonian Bottlers and Farmlea Foods ­ as well as a full service, sales and marketing division covering the entire British Isles. But it doesn't end there. SHS is now hoping to work its brand of magic on smaller producers in the republic, following the launch of its all Ireland operation. The company has had a presence in the south since 1995, when it set up a distribution business based in Clondalkin, Dublin. Last year, business grew sufficiently to allow SHS to create a single sales and marketing team to cover the entire island, with distribution centres in Dublin and Belfast. Clearly the primary focus of the all-Ireland operation ­ whose services include a massive van sales fleet for chilled products ­ is developing the business of brand owners on the island. And the creation of the new team means SHS offers an unrivalled support network for its principals, says group chairman Joe Sloan. "We can cover the whole of the British Isles and are doing that for Askeys, Highland Spring and Merrydown." But Sloan believes there is another spin off: SHS is well placed to develop new opportunities for producers in the south. "We are talking to smaller Irish companies to see if our British distribution network can interest them in coming to the UK," he says. SHS has a good track record in this respect, having worked closely with Northern Ireland companies such as Tayto, Punjana and Freeza Meats to develop their businesses on the mainland. Sloan is particularly proud of how SHS has been able to work closely with Freeza Meats to develop the latter's business into one enjoying annual growth of 40%. And he hopes to encourage producers in the south to follow its example. "There is a huge opportunity that companies in the south can grasp," he says. "What may be a single line that the Unilevers of this world would not bother with would keep a plant in Ireland going for five days a week." {{}}