Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Kerrygold to be defended 'with every fibre' as court case over trademark in the US continues

Kerrygold had worldwide sales of €900m last year, with 20pc growth in the US. Stock Image
Kerrygold had worldwide sales of €900m last year, with 20pc growth in the US. Stock Image
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THE producer behind the multi-million euro Kerrygold butter brand has warned they will defend it “with every fibre” after sales were halted in a US State.

Ornua's CEO Kevin Lane described the popular butter brand as one of its biggest assets recording worldwide sales of €900m last year, with 20pc growth in the US.

"We will defend with every fibre of our body anybody who tries to come in and do a knock off or tries to do a cheaper version or tries to damage the integrity of that brand. We'll take it to whatever court in the land we have to," said Mr Lane.

Ornua is currently involved in a legal action against a local company who had commenced selling butter under the Irishgold brand, which Ornua claim has infringed their trademark. Ornua recently were granted an injunction in the case.

Mr Lane said the court case was ongoing. "We have received one injunction so we won the first piece but it is still continuing," he said.

Separately, fans of the butter are suing the State of Wisconsin in the US over an old law that saw it banned. It fell foul of a decades-old law that butter must have either a Wisconsin or federal grade mark.

Ornua confirmed that while the ban remained in place that Ornua was engaging with authorities in Wisconsin and that they would be working hard with authorities to find a solution to this issue.

Ornua, the country's largest exporter of Irish dairy products, confirmed a 9pc rise in turnover to €1.75bn in 2016 as it released it's full year results for 2016, while operating profits were up 46pc at €26.6m.

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Purchases of Irish dairy products rose 7pc, which outstripped the 4pc rise in Irish milk supply post-quota. The year also saw the opening of Ornua's €20m investment in a cheese plant in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, producing products such as feta.

Mr Lane called the impending Brexit the "biggest challenge" for the sector. He emphasised the EU departure had highlighted an over-dependence on cheddar production targeted at the UK market.

"The single biggest cheddar market in the world is now under some type of threat," said Mr Lane. "We are going to look at what other cheese types that Ireland Inc could produce and Ornua could market. So while we'll stay focused on being a cheddar player there are new opportunities," he said, adding this may be on the food service side of the business.

"We've about €600m sales in Great Britain," he said, adding they need to "dial up" their investments in China, Saudi Arabia, Africa and Spain to ensure they are not as dependent on the UK market.

Mr Lane said attracting talent remained an issue along with many firms in the sector. It follows criticism last year after top level pay was revealed in the exporter for the first time.

Ornua reported total pay, bonuses and pensions amounted to €4.3m last year for their top nine executives, with 15 directors receiving €557,000.

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