Ice cream trade in Ireland: ‘It has given people an appetite to do trade south of the border’

By Teodora Lyubomirova contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Draynes Farm
Image: Draynes Farm

Related tags: Ice cream, Ireland, Northern ireland, Republic of ireland, Dairy, Brexit

A Northern Ireland dairy farm has expanded its ice cream distribution into ROI thanks to grant funding that has made the endeavor easier and more cost-effective.

Draynes Farm goes back almost a century, and its heritage is evident as the farm continues to be a family-owned business – though one with aspirations for growth way beyond its Lisburn, County Antrim home in Northern Ireland. “When we began 90 years ago in 1932, we sold milk from churns on the back of horse and cart to local houses,”​ opened Owen Drayne, manager at Draynes Farm. “Now, we deliver to hotels, hospital, bakeries, bars, cafes, restaurants and everything in between.”

Today, the 200-acre farm sells various dairy products, from fresh milk and double cream to cheddar and goat cheese, butter and yogurt. Seven years ago, it started to produce ice cream, and the range has grown steadily since to include 16 flavors, the latest being Cookies and Cream and Biscoff.

This expansion has prompted Draynes to look for stockists beyond Northern Ireland and into the Republic of Ireland but there were concerns with both Brexit legislation and transporting frozen goods over longer distances.

 “Brexit has had less impact on us than businesses in Britain because of the Northern Ireland protocol,”​ said Owen Drayne. “Our suppliers in the Republic of Ireland can send produce to us without any checks or customs paperwork. It has given people more of an appetite to do trade south of the border as there is less trade barriers.”

In comparison, each purchase coming from Britain requires a supplementary declaration form to be filled, a task that can be time-consuming depending on the volume of product being shipped. This is why expanding into ROI made more sense for the farm.

Whilst researching various export paths, a team member came across information about InterTradeIreland, the business development body backed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, which aims to promote cross-border trade opportunities for small businesses through advice and funding programs.

Following a qualifying process – described as ‘relatively easy’ by Owen Drayne – the farm was awarded a £8,000 grant. The Northern Ireland business partnered with Sales Plus, which is tasked with finding prospective customers, with the grant funding half of the ROI sales company’s fees. As a result, Draynes Farm has secured its first distributor, in Monaghan near the border crossing.

“We were already travelling as far as south Armagh, and with a distributor on board in Monaghan, it’s only a further 10 minutes down the road,”​ said Drayne. “We’ve met two other potential clients and are hoping to get their first delivery in the coming weeks.”

The funding has been ‘extremely helpful’ to enabling Draynes Farm’s expansion into ROI, Owen added. “We still would have wanted to find a way into ROI without the grant, but the grant has made it easier,”​ he told us. Going forward, the plan is to link up with distributors all over Ireland. “We would like to be in every town and city in the country,”​ Drayne concluded.

Companies that export ‘twice as likely to experience growth’

InterTradeIreland data has revealed that companies that export cross-border are outperforming those that do not, with 41% enjoying rapid to moderate expansion. This is almost double compared to non-cross border traders (21%). According to ITI’s director of strategy Martin Robinson, this has been a recurring trend across its last three quarterly surveys carried out among hundreds of businesses on the island.

According to the data, the vast majority (83%) of companies across the island of Ireland were ‘in stable or growth mode’, but rising energy costs are set to be the main challenge fro all in the coming months.

Draynes Farm is also gearing up for a harsh winter ahead, though Drayne remains upbeat in his assessment. “Our plans for winter are to manage extreme increases in energy, packaging and fuel whilst continuing to provide a great service and produce fantastic products,”​ Owen Drayne said. “We plan on producing ice cream in the winter in preparation for next spring so that when the warmer weather comes in, we will have plenty of stock to be able to service our clients at home and in ROI.”

The farm generates around 25% of its energy through solar and has set out to increase this in the future. 

Related topics: Manufacturers, Ice Cream

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