Irish Times Local Enterprise of the Year: meet the shortlist

From cookies and whiskey to frozen vegetables: our picks of Ireland’s top small and medium businesses

While the Republic’s big corporates often dominate the headlines, the small and medium enterprises remain the backbone of the State’s economy. Here we profile our shortlisted candidates for The Irish Times Local Enterprise of the Year award.

East Coast Bakehouse

For a business that started out just before the Brexit vote with a business plan focused on the UK, East Coast Bakehouse’s results this year are quite impressive.

This year the company forecasts revenue growth of 300 per cent to between €10 million and €12 million. Established in 2016 by entrepreneurs Michael Carey and Alison Cowzer, the company secured investors on the basis of its plan to sell 80 per cent of its product to the UK market.

Following the Brexit referendum result, the company was forced to make a quick pivot and has gone on to substantially develop its presence in the Republic, making own-brand cookies and selling them across a wide-range of supermarkets.


Additionally, the company, which also engages in contract baking for other brands, is now exporting to 25 countries including the Middle East and mainland Europe as well as the United States.

East Coast is most certainly poised to pick up business as a result of the Brexit fallout, given that the Republic buys about €5 million a week in biscuits. As well as that, with the scale of its factory – it can produce 77,000 packets of biscuits in an eight-hour shift – it’s well placed to pick up contracts that move out of the UK if uncertainty there persists.


Dundalk-based medical technology company Diaceutics started as it meant to go on in 2018, raising €4.3 million through a mix of debt and equity financing to fund its expansion last April.

As part of its aim to hit revenues of about $40 million (€35.6 million) by 2020, in March 2019, the company went on to raise a further £17 million (€19.7 million) through a placing of over 22 million shares on the London stock exchange’s junior market.

On that very first day, shares jumped more than 25 per cent.

Founded by Peter Keeling in 2005, Diaceutics works with pharmaceutical companies on diagnostic testing and data analytics to bring more personalised medicine to patients.

Its current data set includes information from 2,500 laboratories, including 3.5 million longitudinal patient records, insurance claims data for 50 million patients and 58 million testing event data points from 35 countries.

While this year was a good one, Keeling is looking to ensure the future is even brighter. He noted the funds would be used to fund acquisition of data and IT capabilities to drive the business, develop its new software as a service platform and extend into new geographical markets.

Its AIM listing makes Diaceutics the fourth Northern Irish company listed in London.

Teeling Whiskey

Its hardly surprising given their stock, but the Teeling family appear to have struck gold again with their new Teeling Whiskey brand. With a distillery in Dublin's Liberties, the company has gone from strength to strength in the past year.

By June, it had grown its revenues from visitors to €9 million having welcomed more than 300,000 visitors, anticipating growth of around 10 to 15 per cent by June 2019.

And they’re backing up their claims to visitors. At the 2019 World Whiskies Awards, Teeling’s single malt claimed the World’s Best single malt, the first time an Irish brand has achieved the honour.

The plan now for brothers Stephen and Jack is to grow sales to €30 million annually by 2020 by aggressively targeting the US and Irish markets and airport retail sales. Impressive work for a company that built its own distillery in 2015 and has since laid over 2.5 million litres of whiskey.

Backed by drinks giant Bacardi, the company is capitalising on the increasing support for Irish whiskey and with its ramping up of investment, one suspects there's plenty of headroom for growth.

And their award, which will help fight against Scottish whiskey, does them absolutely no harm.

Strong Roots

Fast-growing Irish food company Strong Roots is quickly reaching dizzying heights. Having aggressively expanded into the UK, becoming stocked in every major retailer, the company which specialises in healthy frozen vegetable products is firmly focusing now on cracking the US.

Founded by Dubliner Sam Dennigan in 2015, Strong Roots plans to almost double the number of stores its goods are sold in globally with its launch in the US later this year.

With products such as kale and quinoa burgers, roasted beetroot wedges and sweet potato fries, the company has agreed deals with three major US chains to distribute its goods at more than 3,000 stores from May.

The company’s products are currently available in about 4,000 stores globally with eight million packs sold since Strong Roots was established. Half of this total was sold last year. It expects revenues of about €20 million this year, growing to €100 million by the end of 2022.

In both Britain and Ireland, Strong Roots is stocked by all of the leading grocery retailers outside of the German discounters. In Britain, its products are also stocked by Ocado, the world's largest dedicated online retailer, Harrods, Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh, which introduced fresh food deliveries to that market in 2016.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business