Our journey tells the story of how a small part time business has evolved from very modest beginnings into the leading fruit processing company in Ireland.
Founded by the current Managing Director, Patrick McCann, the business can trace its earliest origins back to 1987, when it began operating seasonally from a small shed at Washing Bay, on the shores of Lough Neagh.
The primary function of the business was processing Bramley Apples from the nearby Orchards in County Armagh for one customer – Goldenlea, a local canning factory, formerly based in Portadown.
In 1990, after identifying opportunities to expand into a wider marketplace, the business relocated to a new production unit within a designated Government Food Park at Carn, Craigavon.
Now formally established and named Pippin Foods, a range of new Bakery products were developed including Sliced and Diced Bramley apple, Pulps, Purees and Sauces.
FURTHER RELOCATION AND EXPANISION
In 1993, following a period of rapid growth and with the support of local Government and EEC funding, a bespoke 20,000sq ft factory was constructed on a site nearby. Over the next 10 years the business continued to expand, producing products for many of the leading UK bakery and condiment giants including Saralee, Nestle, Colmans, RHM, Chivers, UB, and Hazlewoods.
ORCHARD COUNTY FOODS
In 1999, Orchard County Foods an apple processing company based in Armagh was acquired from Fane Valley Co-op Ltd, and was transferred to the site at Craigavon. This move also resulted in a new business name, with the old Pippin foods now retitled Orchard County Foods.
In the early 2000’s, recognising a change in consumer eating habits following the governments launch of the 5-a-day campaign to encourage an increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, the company began to explore opportunities to diversify into new emerging markets for value-added, convenient and naturally nutritious fruit products.
Following a visit to the USA to learn about the latest research and developments in the field of fruit preservation using only natural minerals and vitamins, a decision was made to invest into this pioneering technology. Plant and equipment were sourced, and a new range of freshly-prepared healthy fruit snack products were successfully developed for the Retail and Foodservice markets in the UK and Ireland.
A game changing opportunity for the business was realised in 2003, when after attending a food exhibition in London, the company was introduced to Capespan, one of the biggest names in the world of fruit. Following this initial meeting and subsequent negotiations, a strategic partnership was formed with Capespan resulting in the launch of a new range of Capespan branded retail products. This relationship opened up multiple opportunities, including a major deal to supply the products into every Tesco store in the UK and Ireland. This was a very significant breakthrough for the business, and we proudly continue to supply this same retailer with our products to the present day.
Alongside the newly developed products the company continued to also process the original range of Bramley apple products, however, by 2007 with the introduction of E- auctions into the marketplace it was becoming increasingly apparent that these products were now being viewed as a commodity.
With increased competition and sustained downward pressure on prices particularly from imports, the business ceased production of the old Bramley products to concentrate exclusively on developing the new range of freshly-prepared healthy snacks.
In 2009, following the acquisition of the fruit division of Wilsons Country, new additional products were introduced into the existing range. Around this time also, the Company was incorporated, and changed its name to Simplyfruit (IRE) Limited, a title carefully chosen to reflect the much-changed description and nature of the business.
The Company continued to steadily develop, and in 2015 a major investment programme was implemented, which included the relocation to a newly refurbished 3200m2 high tech Production facility, located on a 9-acre site within the same food park.
Our new state-of-the-art factory compares favourably with the very best food production facilities in the region, and provides us with the additional space and capacity to expand the business to the next level.
Now employing around 150 people and producing over 25 million units of fresh prepared fruit products each year, we will continue to invest in the latest technology, new Product Development and People to ensure that our valued customers will long continue to trust us to deliver on their values.