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Article appeared in issue 4, 2020

Life is sweet

Local ingredients, understanding market insights, and a strong focus on exports are proving a recipe for success for this Irish biscuit maker

East Coast Bakehouse was founded by Alison Cowzer and Michael Carey in 2015 and is the largest biscuit manufacturer in Ireland. Based in Drogheda in Co. Louth, their state-of-the-art facility produces its own line of branded products, as well as making private label ranges for a number of multinational retailers, and providing contract manufacturing for other brands. They also have a strong presence in the foodservice sector across the country.

There are 10 products in the branded range which are on shelf in the major Irish retailers, and its private label and contract manufacturing portfolio includes protein enriched, vegan, reduced sugar, high fibre, and immune support biscuits.

Using quality ingredients is high on the company's list of priorities and it uses Irish butter and oats in its award-winning recipes. It's a strategy that seems to be working as the business has taken home a Blas na hÉireann food award every year since it launched, for both its own range and its private label products. Supporting Irish producers feeds into its sustainability goals of decreasing its carbon footprint, and East Coast Bakehouse has obtained UTZ Cocoa, and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifications, and the company has been awarded the highest food industry standard, BRC AA+, guaranteeing world-class manufacturing. All this is underpinned by the producer's membership of Origin Green, the national sustainability programme for the Irish food and drink industry, which demonstrates its commitment to sustainability as a business.

It has drawn on assistance from Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) around insights and exports, availing of market data and networks for prospect countries. Through Bord Bia, East Coast Bakehouse has gained knowledge of consumer preferences and emerging trends in different markets and has identified key growth areas in snacking under the categories of: Functional, Better for You, and Indulgent.

Success in export markets is crucial to the company's growth strategy and it currently exports to over 20 countries worldwide. In 2019, East Coast Bakehouse was given the overall Exporter of the Year award by the Irish Exporter’s Association. Sean Murphy, managing director for East Coast Bakehouse comments: “Exporting has proved challenging at times. Although building customer networks is important, you also need to understand the different route to market models, cost structures and regulatory requirements of different countries.” In addition, he emphasises that while both Covid-19 restrictions and Brexit have brought their own complexity and uncertainties, they also create opportunities for more agile businesses.

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