Ornua, formerly the Irish Dairy Board, said it expects sales of its flagship Kerrygold brand to hit €1 billion next year, making it Ireland’s first billion-euro dairy brand.
Speaking after the company reported a record €2.1 billion turnover for 2017, chief executive Kevin Lane said the plan was to see Kerrygold sales hit €1 billion by 2021, but strong sales in key markets such as Germany and the United States meant this target would be achieved ahead of time.
While the group did not break out the value of Kerrygold sales in latest annual results, Mr Lane said it had already hit record levels in Germany and the US with double-digit volume growth.
While the Kerrygold name is traditionally associated with butter, the product range includes cheese and yoghurts.
Announcing its results, Ornua said turnover for 2017 jumped 18 per cent to €2.1 billion amid a strong recovery in global dairy prices, while operating profit rose 32 per cent to €35.2 million.
During the year, the company acquired UK-based cheese ingredients company FJ Need Foods for an undisclosed sum bolstering its footprint in the UK ahead of Brexit.
It also launched 34 new product innovations , including a Kerrygold shredded cheese range in Germany.
In preparation for the post-Brexit trading environment, Mr Lane said it was reviewing a range of strategic measures to help minimise any potential negative impact. The group currently has five UK businesses.
In November, Ornua also refinanced its bank facilities for another five years, increasing them to €610 million, leaving it well placed to support dairy industry expansion.
It also declared a €15 million bonus for members, up from €9.5 million in 2016.
“2017 was a year of significant growth for Ornua with an excellent financial performance as we successfully delivered year one of our new five-year growth plan,” Mr Lane said.
“Product innovation continued at pace and allowed us to unlock new routes to market to ultimately drive value for our members, Ireland’s dairy processors and Irish farmers.
“A major emphasis on building scale and capability within our core business last year, coupled with the integration of recent acquisitions, leaves us well placed to drive further growth across our group.”
The group said 2017 marked the first year of its new five-year growth plan, Ornua 2021, which aims to position the business as a leading global dairy organisation.