Buchanans, the Northern Ireland specialist in baking and cooking ingredients for both retail and foodservice, has developed a separate nut processing and packing plant as a central feature of a strategic focus on growing business in Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
Based at Carrickfergus in County Antrim, ‘Buchanans’, the corporate identity of family-owned WG Buchanan and Son Ltd, has recently completed the construction and fitting out of a new 15,000 sq. ft. production and warehousing complex for its developing nut business. Invest NI has assisted the investment.
The new stand-alone complex is located adjacent to the company’s existing production unit and represents an investment of over £1 million and will lead to around 15 new employment opportunities.
Buchanans, which has been supplying the broadest range of baking and cooking ingredients since 1871, already employs 30 people in its extensive processing and packaging operations for retail and foodservice clients across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Its successful portfolio includes cereal, pulses, seeds, dried fruits, rice and culinary nuts as well as cake decorations.
The company is renowned in Northern Ireland for its market leading ‘Soup Mix’, a wholesome blend of barley, lentils and split peas, the base ingredient for many healthy home cooked soups and broths.
Philip Johnston, director of Operations at Buchanans, says the investment was made to enable it to seize new business opportunities identified in Great Britain, a market currently contributing around 60 percent of its existing sales.
“We’ve pinpointed exciting opportunities especially in the public sector for our range of ingredients in what is a very significant investment for the business,” he says. “Conscious of the growing concern over nut allergies, especially peanuts, we decided to completely separate the processing of nuts from the other aspects of our business.
“Our packaging has had to include customer advice that our products were packed in a factory that also handles nuts. This had a restrictive effect on some of our clients’ ability to increase their sales with us, especially those supplying schools and hospitals, where allergen control is paramount.
Although our nut products were already packed using dedicated machinery and strict allergen controls within our existing site, to minimise any potential cross contamination, we took the decision to invest in a new completely separate processing plant and warehousing in order to provide even greater assurance to both customer and the end user.
“The plant features state-of-the-art processing and packing facilities. We’ve also carried forward the high hygiene standards and robust allergen control which have long been a feature of our existing operations into the new plant. It’s completely self-contained,” he adds.
The company is aiming to grow sales in Britain, particularly to foodservice organisations, by around 15 percent over the next two years through this important strategic investment. The expansion will also provide additional capacity to grow business in the Irish Republic, currently the company’s biggest market outside the UK.
“While our main focus is on growing business with existing and potential clients we’ve pinpointed in Britain, we are also pursuing opportunities in the Republic. We’ve currently got a solid base there for faster growth,” adds Mr Johnston.
Originally established in Belfast, Buchanans moved to a new production and warehousing facility in Carrickfergus in 2007 which enabled the expansion in sales to retailers, wholesalers and foodservice providers throughout the UK, Ireland and further afield.