Nutribio aims to beat Brexit with €2.5m food facility in Cork

Nutribio, the Cork-based animal nutrition business, will open a €2.5 million facility in Little Island later this year to manufacture high-value food supplements for export markets.

Donal O’Sullivan, chief executive at Co-Operative Animal Health (Cahl), Nutribio’s parent company, said the 20,000-square-foot facility was part of its Brexit-proofing strategy.

He said the move would enable Nutribio to target new export markets and attract British clients looking for a manufacturing partner in the EU.

“Brexit will be a much bigger challenge for us than Covid-19. The pandemic caused some supply chain issues for us, but we would see it as a temporary problem, whereas Brexit is long term,” O’Sullivan said.

The impact of Brexit on the agri-food sector in Ireland could be “transformational”, he added, particularly in the event of a no-deal outcome.

“We could be looking at additional tariffs on food exported to the UK and that could hit producers here. If farmers in Ireland are hit hard, that would have a knock-on effect on our business,” he said.

The new facility, which will open later this year, would allow Nutribio to pick up high-value contracts overseas, O’Sullivan said.

“We want to build up our export business more and talk to companies in the UK to see if we can do work for them, because we’ll be in the EU. Those are the two ways we’re trying to fight our way out of Brexit,” he said.

Nutribio makes nutritional products primarily for cattle farmers in the beef and dairy sector, but also for pig and sheep farmers worldwide.

The company sells its own products, including Immuboost and Ruminlix, through distributors such as Origin in the North and Wynnstay Group in Britain.

It is also a contract manufacturer, developing, manufacturing and packaging animal nutrition products on an outsourced basis for clients in Ireland and overseas, such as Techmix and Tonosity.

“We make concentrate products. Our history has been to sell into the Irish market. About 50 per cent of cows here eat something out of our factory,” O’Sullivan said.

“That’s still our core business, but in more recent years we’ve started to get involved in international business and export.”

O’Sullivan said Nutribio exported to about 40 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Hungary.

“More recently we’ve gone into Pakistan where there is less competition,” he said. “We’re targeting places where our competitors are less active and engaged.

“We’re selling in countries in east Africa through the Irish government’s Africa Agri-Food Development Programme (AADP). That’s about helping small farmers to look after their animals better and maximise their potential. It’s been quite a success for us and quite a valuable piece of business.”

Nutribio is the animal nutrition arm of Cahl, which is owned jointly by Dairygold and Glanbia. The company was formed in 1998 following the merger of Master Farm Nutrition, a Cahl subsidiary, and Preference Products, the Cork-based subsidiary of British animal feed business Rumenco.

Nutribio employs just over 40 people and is a client company of Enterprise Ireland, the state agency.

“I think people underestimate the value of the education Enterprise Ireland offers,” O’Sullivan said.

“We’ve taken part in their Leadership 4 Growth and Innovation 4 Growth programmes and they helped us to create a culture, a common understanding and language.

“It means that when we are talking to potential clients who are heavily invested in innovation, they can see that we know what we’re talking about. It’s opened up opportunities for us.”