The home of Irish dairy: Ornua

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Ornua is Ireland’s largest exporter of Irish dairy products, with annualised sales of over €2 billion. Here, Ravneet Aulakh, foodservice manager – Middle East at Ornua, walks us through the supplier’s formula to success.  

Ravneet Aulakh

Can you introduce Ornua to our readers?

Ornua is a dairy co-operative which markets and sells dairy products on behalf of its members, Ireland’s dairy processors and, in turn, Irish dairy farmers. The group exports to 110 countries worldwide. Headquartered in Dublin, it has annualised sales of over €2 billion and a global team of 2,200 employees.

Ornua operates from 10 business units worldwide, including 14 production facilities, and has sales and marketing teams working in-market across all four corners of the globe. The group is structured across two divisions: Ornua Foods and Ornua Ingredients.

Ornua Foods is responsible for the marketing and sales of Ornua’ s consumer brands including Kerrygold, Kerrygold Dubliner, Pilgrims Choice, Forto and BEO milk powders.  Markets are served by production facilities and in-market sales and marketing teams in Africa, Asia, Germany, Ireland, the UK, the rest of Europe, Middle East and the US.

Ornua Ingredients is responsible for the procurement of Irish and non-Irish products and the sale of dairy ingredients to food manufacturing and foodservice customers across the world. The division also responsible for managing volatility through de-risking and trading strategies.

CMK30062016 Kerrygold Plant Mitchelstown Co. Cork. Picture Clare Keogh

What are the key challenges the industry is currently facing?

The global milk market is largely influenced by global trade issues, economic uncertainty, weather extremes and more. As a result, market volatility presents a challenge for Ornua and its customers.

Ornua has over 55 years’ experience in operating a strong and agile network of routes to market premium Irish dairy products. To effectively manage market volatility, the group has continued to invest in trading expertise, fixed-term contracts and other risk-mitigating mechanisms, and has invested in premium brands and value-added dairy ingredients.

What do you think of the vegan scene?

Ornua constantly monitors the diverse changes in consumer motivations in markets. While alternative milk is readily available, you can’t underestimate consumers’ preference for dairy. Dairy products are an excellent source of essential nutrients and play a vital role in a healthy and balanced diet.

Long-term demand for dairy is good, which is largely due to increased global populations and the Westernisation of diets. Today’s consumers demand natural, sustainably produced dairy products and Ornua is well-positioned to meet this demand due to Ireland’s unique grass-fed family farming system.

What types of technology are you most interested in investing in?

Consumers’ tastes are changing, and as a result innovation is a key component of Ornua’s strategy for growth. To support the global reach of many of Ornua’ s retail partners and manufacturing and foodservice customers, the group has innovation teams based in centres in Ireland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the UK and the US who are continually working on developing new products and technologies.

In 2016, Ornua opened Kerrygold Park, a state-of-the-art butter production and packing facility, which greatly improved its innovation capability and ability to deliver dairy products to consumers around the world. More recently, in 2018, Ornua Ingredients developed TSC Technology, innovative equipment which produces consistent pizza cheese with a rich, creamy flavour.

What are your bestsellers and why?

The Kerrygold brand is hugely popular in the retail sector. Within foodservice, Palatina Mozzarella is popular due to its mild, creamy flavour. Its texture and cooking quality are excellent, coverage and stretch are easily controlled, and a generous melt gives exceptional consistency.

Palatina White Cheese Feta, produced in Ornua KSA, is a big favourite too. This soft, white, brined cheese is smooth and creamy, has a mild to sharp, tangy, salty flavour, and delivers all Palatina’s high standards of taste and performance.

How can business ties with Ireland be an asset to enhancing this sector in the UAE and region?

Strong historical ties with Ireland, Ornua’ s own foreign direct investment and the quality of Irish dairy sees Ornua well-placed to further enhance its strong regional position. Ireland has always had a special place in the minds of the UAE and the wider GCC region when it comes to provision of talent to the dairy sector, academia and medical resources.

Over the last ten years, more GCC nationals have chosen Ireland for third-level education and post-graduate studies in technology, research and health-related sciences.

Ornua’ s investment in a facility in Saudi Arabia uses pioneering technology developed by Ornua and Teagasc (the agricultural advisory board in Ireland) to produce a range of bespoke fresh white cheeses for the MENA region. The technology allows milk ingredients to be re-combined for fresh white cheese production, placing key consumer needs at the forefront of our growth strategy.

Ornua also sees the West African country of Nigeria with a population of 190 million as a key growth market for the group in the future and has invested in a milk powder re-packing facility in Lagos that will facilitate this growth.

Any upcoming expansion plans; where do you see Ornua in the next five years?

Ornua is always looking for opportunities within the region that complement our existing investment and infrastructure. In the GCC, we will see a continued focus on re-combined dairy technology, with Ornua well-positioned to meet these demands over the next three to five years.

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