From cradle to grave: a bright future for dairy
Abbott's Irish branch leading the way in products people likely to buy in the coming decades
One out of five bottle-fed babies globally are fed on milk formula produced in Ireland. It's an astounding statistic, given that our nation accounts for less than 1pc of global output.
Of even greater interest to Irish farmers is the fact that the production of ultra-specialised products that cater to the specific nutritional needs of the human body, from birth through to old age, is set to out-perform almost every other dairy category in terms of growth over the coming decade.
One of the main pioneers of this highly profitable niche sector here is the US-based Abbott. Although it has 14 separate sites with more than 4,000 employees in Ireland, this hugely successful company keeps a remarkably low profile.
Abbott's involvement with the Irish dairy sector began in 1975, when the company opened a processing plant outside Cootehill on the Cavan-Monaghan border. In that first year, the plant processed 45,000 litres of milk a day. Today, it churns through 500,000 litres a day, converting milk from 1,000 Town of Monaghan suppliers north and south of the Border into infant formula for export all over the world.
"The biggest expansion was in 2004 when we invested €80m to effectively double our capacity to the current level," said Abbott's European director of manufacturing, Eamonn Lennon.
But on the back of annual growth of 20pc in sales regions such as Asia-Pacific, Abbott is in the process of ramping up capacity yet again.
"We're finished commissioning the latest expansion and are just in the process of finalising licensing that will allow us to increase output by another 10pc," said Mr Lennon.
With rapid expansion taking place on dairy farms in the region, the company is content that any amount of milk is available locally if they chose to keep expanding.