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Two-way transatlantic traffic proves beneficial for Irish businesses

Companies Glanbia and FoodMarble thrive in US market where 900 Irish firms operate

Glanbia recently completed the build of MWC, a $470 million state-of-the-art cheese and whey plant in St Johns, Michigan.

Glanbia recently completed the build of MWC, a $470 million state-of-the-art cheese and whey plant in St Johns, Michigan.


Ireland is the ninth-largest investor in the US economy with more than 900 Irish firms present there, employing more than 110,000 people. These include big names such as CRH and Kerry Group, but also many smaller Irish companies that make a significant contribution to the American economy, says KPMG international tax partner Anna Scally.

“The economic relationship between Ireland and the US is very much a two-way street. Ireland has proven to be a very good place for American companies and Irish companies are doing very well in the US,” she says.

Two companies performing well in the United States are Glanbia and FoodMarble. Glanbia recently completed the build of MWC, a $470 million state-of-the-art cheese and whey plant in St Johns, Michigan.

Glanbia Nutritionals is the number one US producer of American-style cheddar cheese and the number one global supplier of whey protein isolate. It will be responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the plant and for selling the cheese and whey products to other businesses for use in their food, beverage and supplement products.

The facility began commissioning and received its first milk from local farmers on October 21st, 2020. Commissioning operations at MWC will take place over the next eight months and will see the initial one million pounds of milk per day increase to its designed capacity of eight million. When fully operational, the 375,000sq ft facility built on a 120-acre lot will employ 260 local people and will process more than 2.9 billion pounds of milk from local farmers into more than 300 million pounds of superior-quality block cheese and 20 million pounds of value-added whey protein powder.

MWC produces cheese and whey proteins for B2B customers and is a joint venture between Glanbia Nutritionals, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Select Milk Producers. MWC is one of the most technically advanced dairy processing facilities in the US, designed and built over a two-year period to meet exacting food manufacturing standards.

In determining the site for the new facility, St Johns was selected due to the growing supply of high-quality milk, the excellent transportation infrastructure, proximity to customers and the positive business environment and strong local workforce reputation in the region. They produce a wide range of ingredients and cheese for use by manufacturers in their finished consumer products.

Chief executive of Glanbia Nutritionals, Brian Phelan, said of the Michigan plant: “We are very pleased to reach this important milestone on our journey to deliver a new ultra-modern dairy facility in Michigan for our customers. As we enter this key commissioning phase and begin production at the plant, I would like to thank the entire Glanbia Nutritionals team and in particular the on-site team, whose expertise and focus have kept the project on track and on budget particularly during the challenges of the last seven months. In addition, I would like to thank the state and city authorities for their continued support and of course our great partners, DFA and Select Milk Producers.”


FoodMarble is a high-growth digital health company based in Dublin. It developed the world’s first personal digestive tracker, Aire, a miniature breath test device that pairs with an app, enabling users to measure their unique response to food. It works by measuring levels of certain gases on the breath. Built off a clinical approach, FoodMarble’s Aire is the first consumer device of its kind, making the approach affordable and accessible to millions of people.

The US is its largest market and one where Lisa Ruttledge, co-founder and chief operating officer of FoodMarble, sees significant potential. “Currently we have some logistics operations in the US and we are working closely with a number of leading clinical research institutions. We plan to expand operations in the US over the next year. We are currently evaluating the resources we need to capitalise on the US potential and are planning an expansion of our operations there in the next year,” she says.

“The US is our largest market for the consumer device, driving over 40 per cent of our sales. And we’ve gained significant interest from US hospitals in running trials with the device to improve their offering. Earlier this year, we launched on Amazon. com, which has strengthened our US sales further.”

Amid the global downturn for many, caused by the Covid crisis, Ruttledge remains optimistic about prospects for the US market. “We are in the unusual situation that the activities with clinical partners actually increased for us once Covid hit. Hospitals in the US are recognising the critical role that technology can play in providing care to patients remotely,” she says.

In addition to growing the partnerships they already have in the US, FoodMarble will be expanding its team on the ground over the coming year to facilitate the growing demand from hospitals and retail partnerships. Ruttledge expects this exponential growth to continue as we emerge from the impact of the pandemic in the coming years.

With a new president-elect, Ruttledge nods to Biden’s healthcare plans and his long term commitment to expanding affordable healthcare for Americans. “We’ll be watching closely how this evolves under the new administration,” she says.