Significant investment in the skills of its employees helped award winning Fivemiletown Creamery, Northern Ireland’s only manufacturer of specialist cheeses, achieve record sales, exports and productivity over the past number of years, Dr Bill McGinnis, Northern Ireland Adviser on Employment and Skills, said today.
Speaking during a visit to Fivemiletown Creamery, a leader in crafting hand-made soft cheeses for the international market, he said the company’s “exceptional performance particularly in markets outside Northern Ireland” also brought substantial benefits to local milk suppliers in Fermanagh and Tyrone because it enabled the creamery to maintain the best prices for milk.
Fivemiletown Creamery recently gained seven gold stars in the prestigious UK Great Taste Awards and two golds in the Nantwich International Cheese Awards for its products including a unique marinated cheese.
Bill McGinnis added: “Fivemiletown Creamery has ensured a structured training programme for every employee that is geared to continuous improvements in productivity and performance and the company is now investing to enhance management skills and capability.
“Research shows this investment in skills and leadership and management will support this ambitious company’s strategic focus on expanding the sales of its portfolio of speciality cheeses to customers in markets outside Northern Ireland.”
Congratulating the company on their commitment to people development, he encouraged other SMEs to invest in upskilling their workforce as “this is critical if Northern Ireland is to recover quickly from the recession”.
“Today, Fivemiletown cheeses are on sale throughout Great Britain, in the Republic of Ireland, Scandinavia, The Netherlands, France, Hong Kong and the US. Regular customers include many of the world’s biggest food retailers including Wal-Mart in the US, Galeries Lafayette in France, which buys Brie from Fivemiletown, as well as Sainsbury, Asda and Tesco in the United Kingdom.
He was briefed by Fivemiletown Creamery managing director Mervyn McCaughey during his visit to the Tyrone business.
Mr McCaughey said: “We are essentially a craft business that depends heavily on the pride, passion, skills and dedication of all our people. Our focus, therefore, is on working closely with each employee to provide the training support they wish.
“They recognise that we are competing in international markets and that their skills and commitment enable us to grow profitably through adding value to a basic commodity, milk, that offers customers distinctive and high quality cheeses.”
In 2008, Fivemiletown Creamery employee Patrick Gillian, then an engineering apprentice with the company, was awarded the Northern Ireland’s Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by the City and Guilds organisation to showcase excellence in apprenticeship training.
Founded in 1898 as a farmers’ co-operative, Fivemiletown Creamery currently employs 75 people and draws its milk from 60 local dairy farmers. It exports more than 80 per cent of its output to markets outside Northern Ireland.