Glanbia Cheese, the Irish company which is Europe's leading manufacturer of pizza cheese, is to invest £12 million (€17.2m) in a new manufacturing technology at its production plant in Magheralin, Northern Ireland.
The new mozzarella cheese manufacturing technology, developed and patented by US company Leprino Foods, which, with Glanbia, jointly owns Glanbia Cheese, will allow the company to build a competitive advantage in the European cheese market.
The technology, which involves producing mozzarella cheese in ribbon format rather than in traditional block format, is well established in Leprino's plants in the US. Glanbia Cheese has exclusive rights to introduce this unique, patented technology to the European market.
Ian Pearson, Minister with responsibility for Enterprise, Trade & Investment in Northern Ireland and whose department partially backed the new investment through the Invest NI scheme, said that the company would clearly benefit from the new technology.
"The introduction of these world-class manufacturing processes will help Glanbia Cheese to build on its strong market position, achieve sales growth and safeguard its long-term viability for both employees and Northern Ireland milk suppliers.
"I know that Invest NI is working with the Northern Ireland dairy sector to support it in seeking ways to add value to basic products and to target export markets. The Agency's Principles for Business Support offer companies customised business solutions to help them achieve sustainable growth, and its support for this investment reflects this."
Glanbia Cheese was offered just under £2.5 million from Invest NI.
Glanbia Cheese's target market for the mozzarella product is the European pizza restaurant chains and manufacturers of pizzas for the retail trade. This market is estimated to grow at 4 per cent per year over the next five years.
Paul Vernon, chief executive of Glanbia Cheese, explained that the new technology will bring several benefits. "The new process will result in improved product functionality, enhanced process options and greater plant efficiencies, which together will deliver better overall economics. As a consequence we will improve our competitiveness and will use this to continue to develop our market position.
"As part of the investment we are also introducing a new management information system which will bring the plant into line with the rest of the Glanbia group. We believe that implementing a recognised world class management information system will allow the company to maximise the benefits of the enhanced production capability."