Taoiseach hails Tayto's role in Irish food exports

Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 00:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny appeared in excellent form yesterday as he admired a native barn owl at Tayto Park in Co Meath.

Pausing to talk to the owl’s keeper Lee Donohoe, Mr Kenny was told its traditional diet was mice and rats and the bird could hear vermin in the long grass in a neighbouring field.

The Taoiseach looked thoughtful. “Ask him to listen to . . . ” he said, leaving the sentence unfinished. “Ah – there are things we would like to know ,” he said smiling, leaving reporters wondering what he could mean.

Mr Kenny was in Tayto Park near Ashbourne to announce the creation of 78 new jobs at the park and the associated snack business Largo Foods.

Irish food icon

Just hours before the Cabinet was due to discuss the Government’s strategy for job creation, Mr Kenny said the business which exports globally was “an Irish food icon” and was “central to our export-oriented recovery”.

Largo Foods was founded by businessman Ray Coyle in 1983 and now incorporates the Perri crisps, Sam Spudz and Hunky Dorys brands. The business acquired the Tayto brand almost seven years ago.

In all Largo Foods and Tayto Park – a 55-acre zoo and children’s adventure ground – employs 798 people. The company has production facilities in Gweedore, Co Donegal, beside Tayto Park in Meath and in Barnsley, Yorkshire.

Largo Foods has an annual turnover of €100 million, which Mr Kenny pointed out includes six container loads of product each month to Australia.

Mr Kenny said he was pleased to note Tayto Park was not for “couch potatoes” and included many activities, such as playgrounds with zip wires for children as well as rare and endangered animals. “There is a family day out here,” he said, “which at the very least deserves our commendation for what has been achieved.”

Mr Kenny said Irish foodstuffs had been valued at more than €9 billion a year and he hoped the issues surrounding horse meat in burgers would be resolved quickly.

“Because we are a food producing country, we pride ourselves on our grass-based beef, which has gained a great reputation around the world and we want to maintain that,” he said.