The site has been developed to increase its production capability, to facilitate product innovation and support its growth plans across Ireland and Great Britain.
As part of the investment it will look to go beyond doubling production of the more than 20 cooked, mashed and prepared vegetable products it processes. The company aims to increase capacity from 120t to 250t weekly.
The Newtownards site has been completely modernised to incorporate blast chillers, steam boilers and floored drainage systems. Willowbrook has also revealed that new technology has been introduced to significantly boost efficiency and quality at production level.
The investment has also been used to move production of Willowbrook’s cooked products to Newtownards from its existing Killinchy base.
Meanwhile, Killinchy will remain the site of the company’s main offices, its Food Innovation Centre and production plant for salad and bagged continental lettuce products. Willowbrook said it would look to explore plans to redevelop its Killinchy site in the near future.
Willowbrook Foods md John McCann said the new production facility “marks a new chapter” and would allow the company to focus on product innovation and maximising growth opportunities.
“Our prepared mashed vegetable products – potato, carrots, turnips, swede and parsnips, butternut squash and sweet potato – will be key during the year ahead, particularly within the foodservice and catering sectors,” he said.
“Willowbrook’s core priority is developing quality convenience projects which reflect trends in modern consumer eating habits. We have spent a lot of time fine-tuning a high-quality product which has been proving extremely popular with customers over the last 12 months and this continued growth has helped facilitate our recent reinvestment.”
All cooked foods production staff have moved from Willowbrook’s Killinchy base to the Newtownards site and a number of new employees are being recruited to bolster the production team.
Willowbrook, which won fresh produce manufacturing company of the year in 2017 at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards, recently secured €2.5m additional business in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) for 2018. It is implementing a growth strategy for the UK and ROI, including the appointment of dedicated sales staff for Scotland, England and Ireland.