Belfast sweet maker to sugar-coat Brexit pill by looking south

Aunt Sandra’s, established in 1953, has never sold outside Northern Ireland before

Jim Moore of Aunt Sandra’s and Keith Thompson of Ulster Bank

Jim Moore of Aunt Sandra’s and Keith Thompson of Ulster Bank

 

A family-owned confectionary firm that has been making hand-made sweets in east Belfast for 65 years, has launched its own plan to sweeten any potential Brexit deal by investing in a new factory and preparing to sell its products into the Republic for the first time.

Aunt Sandra’s, which has been in business since 1953, uses traditional methods handed down through generations to produce hand-made chocolates and sweets.

The firm has, until now, never sold its products outside of Northern Ireland.

But the business, owned by brothers David and Jim Moore together with Jim’s son Michael, has recently invested more than £300,000 with the backing of Ulster Bank in a new expansion project.

The sweet maker and chocolatier has developed a new production facility and opened retail premises in five formerly derelict business units on the Castlereagh Road in east Belfast.

Very traditional

According to Michael Moore, general manager of the business and whose great-aunt Sandra was the founder, the new facilities will enable them to substantially increase production and get ready to export to the Republic for the first time.

“We’re very niche and we are very traditional, which are some of the things which make us different, and maybe one of the reasons why Aunt Sandra’s is still here today after all these years. What we want to do is grow the business by staying loyal to what makes us different.

“We already make a wide range of confectionary products not just for consumers but also for our trade customers. But, before now, we just didn’t have the capacity to think about selling into the Republic. Now, we have invested in our new premises and with four additional boilers we can increase our production,” Mr Moore said.

One of the factors driving the investment programme by the Moore family has been a significant increase in demand for its honeycomb.

“We’ve always sold honeycomb wholesale to the ice-cream industry in Northern Ireland and we supply many of the top ice-cream brands here, but recently honeycomb has really taken off because of the popularity of combing honeycomb with gin,” he said. “There’s a whole new demand for it from a completely different sector, which is a great opportunity for us.”