Production has resumed at the Offaly plant of yoghurt company Glenisk following a devastating fire last year in which "basically everything" was lost.
The fire on September 27th spread quickly through the plant at Killeigh, outside Tullamore. Fifty staff working on-site at the time were evacuated safely from the building.
Glenisk is the largest yoghurt maker in the State and says it accounts for 90 per cent of all the organic milk produced in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The knock-on effects of the fire for the 50 or so farmers who supply the company has been sizeable, but the company confirmed on Tuesday that it is now back in production. Glenisk employs about 85 people at the plant.
On the day of the fire, Glenisk was producing 57 different products. It resumed production of two yogurt products on Tuesday: Glenisk Organic Bio Wholemilk Natural Yogurt (500g) and Glenisk Organic Greek Style Natural Yogurt (500g).
The products will be on supermarket shelves nationwide from Wednesday.
Two further products will be introduced next week and Glenisk said it will continue to roll out its products over the coming weeks. Children’s yogurt will return in March.
Plan B plant
A Glenisk spokeswoman said it is operating from its “Plan B manufacturing facility”, built in just four months on a corner of its original manufacturing site.
“This operation will allow us to produce almost all the products originally made, over the coming months,” she said.
“The speed with which we’ve been able to get the new facility up and running is down to the hard work of the staff and the support of local contractors and materials suppliers who have gone above and beyond – working through Christmas and offering solutions at every turn. We are indebted to them all, here in Offaly, and further afield.
“Now that Plan B is up and producing, we turn our attention to the design of Plan A, a new carbon neutral manufacturing facility which will set Glenisk up for the future. We expect it will take at least a year for that new facility to be completed.”
Glenisk has retained its workforce since the fire. No staff were laid off, and all staff have been paid throughout the period. Many staff were redeployed temporarily into new roles to help get the Plan B facility up and running.
“Many of our staff are with us more than 15 years,” she said. “This fantastic, dedicated and skilled workforce are central to our recovery as we try to rebuild from scratch.
“Our Plan B manufacturing site is less automated and more labour intensive than our original factory. Simply put, it requires more staff to produce less yogurt.”
She said Glenisk continued to collect and pay for milk from its organic cows’ milk and goats’ milk farmers throughout the closure period. “These are specialist agricultural sectors and the small family farms who produce this milk depend on Glenisk,” she said.
“We continue to encourage new farmers to convert to organic and see demand for organics growing.”