New Innovator: ComfyBed

Mark Sheeran (right) with Damian McDonald of Horse Sport Ireland

Mark Sheeran (right) with Damian McDonald of Horse Sport Ireland

 

Laois-based timber company, CJ Sheeran, believes in getting every last ounce of added value from the wood it uses to manufacture pallets, packaging, gates and fencing.

In 2003 the company set up its recycling division with the aim of recycling all of its wood waste from timber off-cuts to pallets that were beyond repair. This has led to the development of two new products, a landscaping wood mulch and most recently to ComfyBed, a new bedding material aimed at the equine industry.

Sheerans employs 75 people and has manufacturing facilities in Mountrath, Co Laois and in Co Mayo. The company is a major supplier of specialist packaging to the pharmaceutical, food and drinks, agri-business, technology and engineering industries. The driving force behind the business is Mark Sheeran who strongly believes that a small company needs several strings to its bow in order to withstand the impact of weather and a volatile economy on a business.

“The packaging is year round but products such as the fencing and landscaping wood mulch are quite seasonal. By adding ComfyBed we have a product to take us through the winter when most horses are indoors,” he says. “We were already involved in shredding for the landscape mulch and the idea for ComfyBed stemmed from the fact my children had a horse at home with respiratory problems exacerbated by the dust in traditional forms of bedding. The challenge we set ourselves was to produce a comfortable, long lasting and dust-free bedding that stays dry on top and is odourless and quick and easy to muck out.”

The company invested in the order of €500,000 and spent several years developing and bringing ComfyBed to market. A large chunk of the investment went on specialist machinery to remove dust particles.

The company also received new product development assistance from Enterprise Ireland. When Sheeran was happy with the product it had a “soft” launch and he approached a number of potential high-profile customers such as the RDS. ComfyBed was subsequently used as the bedding for all the stabling at last year’s Dublin Horse Show.

Sheeran estimates the size of the horse bedding market in Ireland at around €8.4 million and the company has begun exporting to the UK. ComfyBed is sold in 25kg bales and retails at between €6.95 and €7.50 a bale. So far customers for the product include hardware and DIY stores, pony clubs, stable yards, individuals and small studs.

“While I am convinced by how good the product is, it takes time and a lot of effort to make horse owners aware of it and to get them to try it,” Sheeran says. “However, just recently we have become suppliers to Horse Sport Ireland and to Team Ireland Equestrian so hopefully that support will help.”