Glanbia gets to the bottom of its booming whey sales
Glanbia is crediting an unusual demographic with its success in the first half of 2010 -- unemployed gym rats who are sculpting their pecs and pumping their guns through the recession.
While the company is most associated with brands such as Avonmore in Ireland, its cheese and nutritional products division in the US is the group's star performer.
Glanbia Nutritionals is the market leader in the production of whey protein, which is a key ingredient in nutritional products consumed by athletes and gym users. According to group MD John Moloney, sales of the products are growing rapidly despite the recession.
"Even if people are unemployed they seem to be maintaining (working out) as an under-pinner of self-esteem, and people are looking after themselves despite the economic difficulties," Moloney said.
It's not just an idle theory. While some US gym chains have seen a 10 per cent drop in membership numbers, usage at peak times is up by as much as 20 per cent as people with more spare time on their hands choose to tone their bums rather than sit on them.
Glanbia Nutritionals produces 64,000 tonnes of whey-based nutritional products each year, supplying competitors as well as selling its own brands. Optimum Nutrition, which the group bought for $315m in 2007, sponsors both the Leinster and Ulster rugby teams.
According to the Nutrition Business Journal, the global nutrition industry is forecast to reach $300bn this year.
However, if the public's commitment to fitness wanes, Glanbia has carefully hedged its bets; the company also supplies Burger King, McDonald's and Dominoes with its cheese.