Dobson scoops industry award

Co-founder of Dunbia crowned EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year

Jack and Grace Dobson from Dunbia at the awards ceremony in City West. Photograph:  Maxwell Photography

Jack and Grace Dobson from Dunbia at the awards ceremony in City West. Photograph: Maxwell Photography


Jack Dobson of meat processing firm Dunbia was last night named EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year.

He is credited with masterminding the company’s stellar rise to become one of the largest meat processors in Britain and Ireland.

The business started life as a small, family-run butcher shop in the Co Tyrone village Moygashel in 1976.

Dobson founded Dungannon Meats, as it was then known, with his brother Jim and father Ted.

The specialist beef, lamb and pork butcher, however, soon expanded to include a nearby slaughterhouse, before developing through a series of expansions to become a major meat exporter.

Rebranded as Dunbia in 2006, it now has sales of €1.15 billion, employs more than 4,000 staff, and includes supermarket giants Sainbury’s and Asda among its growing list of customers.

Dobson has also been instrumental in establishing export markets for animal hides and skins in Europe and Asia, now one of Ireland’s fast-growing trades.

Accepting his award last night, Dobson said he was “flabbergasted” by the win and that he had never received such an accolade in the 50 years since he left school.

And the key to his success? “Just hard work. We never really planned any of this. We just follow opportunities.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, however, he said, reflecting on the fact the company lost two-thirds of its business when a big UK buyer pulled the plug on a contract in 2006.

Anne Heraty, chairperson of the this year’s judging panel, said: “It was Jack Dobson’s vision that turned a small, family butcher shop, established in 1976, into now the largest meat processing company across the UK and Ireland.

“With a supplier base of almost 25,000 farmers, Jack is committed to working alongside them to develop a value chain which is sustainable and profitable for all – truly a deserving winner of the Industry EY Entrepreneur of the Year category,” she said.

The other finalists in the industry category were Paul Young, Nora Twomey and Tomm Moore of Cartoon Saloon; Terry Knox of CD Group; Kenneth Greene of Greene Farm Foods; Eoin Goulding of Integrity Solutions; Michael Hoyne of Merlyn Industries; Seán Brett of Steeltech Sheds; and Michael O’Dwyer of TyreCheck.