East Coast Bakehouse to boost exports to account for 80% of sales

Biscuit maker – winner of exporter of the year – on track to break even this year

East Coast Bakehouse executive chairman Michael Carey. Photograph: Eric Luke

East Coast Bakehouse executive chairman Michael Carey. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Irish biscuit maker East Coast Bakehouse forecasts that exports will account for 80 per cent of its business in the coming three years as the company this year approaches break-even.

The Co Louth-based business currently exports about 57 per cent of its output, with the UK the company’s biggest market.

“Despite the threat and uncertainty of Brexit we’ve continued to make good progress in the UK. That’s our biggest market and will continue to be,” East Coast Bakehouse executive chairman Michael Carey said.

The company’s ongoing export focus resulted in it being presented with the overall exporter of the year award for 2019 by the Irish Exporters Association. Mr Carey said this was recognition of the progress the company has made.

East Coast Bakehouse is on track to post revenues of €5.5 million this year, an 80 per cent increase on 2018, Mr Carey said. It has been investing in new product lines and has so far introduced high-protein biscuits and low-sugar biscuits into its range.

“We’ve launched a range of fully enrobed [coated] chocolate biscuits, and that’s getting a fantastic response,” Mr Carey said, adding that the biscuit market, which in the UK alone is worth about €2.5 billion, was seeing significant growth in demand for “indulgent biscuits”.

“At the current run rate we’re at break-even. We’ve set up a large-scale start-up, and the benefit of that is we’re very competitive, with the largest biscuit production line in Europe. The downside at starting up at scale is that the bar to operate at break-even volumes is quite high.”

Revised plan

Aside from its own brand, East Coast sells to retailers under their private label and is involved in contract manufacturing for other brand owners. Its Co Louth facility produces 10,000 packets of biscuits per hour.

East Coast Bakehouse had originally planned to sell 80 per cent of its product into Britain but was forced to revise its original business plan following the Brexit referendum result in 2016.

It has since tapped 26 export markets including the US, the Middle East and African nations such as Kenya and Nigeria. “We’re prioritising a small number of key markets where we think there’s really good potential,” Mr Carey said.

The company has received substantial private investment to date, covering site acquisition, equipment, product and brand development, and accumulated losses during its start-up phase.

Investors include Stephen Twaddell, a former Kellogg’s executive; Patrick Joy of Suretank; founder of Lily O’Brien Chocolates Mary Ann O’Brien, Richard Cullen, who set up the Jelly Bean Factory; and Neil O’Leary of Ion Equity.