Tuesday 20 March 2018

Family horse food and agri business firm of 103 years says it will survive economic storm

Siobhan Creaton

Connolly's Red Mills in Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny, has been in business for 103 years and is in good shape to weather the economic storm.

Gareth Connolly is the fifth generation in his family's horse and pet foods and agri business and says the family firm is in a good position to take the long view and will be ready to respond to better times in the years ahead.

"My father and grandfather would always have said 'prepare for the recovery because it will always come,'" he says.

"The horse industry has struggled in the last few years," Connolly adds, saying the prize money for big races is down and a lot of property developers who got involved in the sport of kings are no longer able to afford their thoroughbred investments.

Over the decades Connolly's has adapted to changes in its business and in the economy. In the 1960s, Connolly says his grandfather moved them into making horse feed after he worked with local trainer, Paddy Mullins, to create food for one of the horses he was training but who had a feeding problem.

"We made a cooked product for Vulpine and soon he started to win big races. That was the first horse feed we made," Connolly says.

In more recent years Connolly's has had to adapt those products for the export market to ensure they arrive in North and South America and Japan intact. It has also just won its first order in China. Overall, it exports 10pc of its products and is still fundamentally reliant on the Irish economy.

Last year Connolly's had a turnover of €82m. It employs 90 people and another 90 indirectly, who are mostly local, according to Connolly.

Connolly's also has sales teams in the UK and in other overseas markets. Theirs is a "solid" business, he says, and luckily the property boom passed it by.

"We were looking at guys flying around in helicopters and saying 'wow, is there something we are not doing well?'". But Connolly's luckily just stuck to what it knew.

Irish Independent

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