New chip factory to curb annual flood of 120,000t of frozen imports
One of the most shocking statistics about Irish food is the fact that we import 120,000t of potatoes annually.
The vast majority of that comes in the form of frozen products, such as chips, from global giants such as McCains, who source their raw material in Britain and Canada. Philip Meade reckons this imported product is worth about €120m a year to the suppliers, and he wants a piece of it.
The shell of a €13m frozen chip factory is already in place at his Lobinstown site and product has begun to flow into Tesco and Dunnes Stores.
With Bord Bia research claiming Irish consumers are 70pc more likely to buy a product if it's produced in Ireland, you might ask why nobody else has tried producing chips in a country so synonymous with the humble spud.
"Maybe we're mad sinking so much money into something when so many others were reluctant to do so," sighs Meade over a coffee in Meade Potato Co's brand new boardroom office.
He says this in the knowledge that the last two chip-making plants in Ireland folded in the last decade. But Meade has reason to believe that the fundamentals have shifted significantly.
"The price of potatoes has equalised a lot across Europe since then. The prices in Ireland have come back a bit, while the prices on the Continent have actually increased. So the raw ingredients for an Irish chip aren't really out of line with what they can do it for elsewhere anymore," Meade claims.
His traders also discovered many of the surplus Irish potatoes they were shipping to Russia and elsewhere over recent years went into chip factories.