Saturday 16 December 2017

Snack firm boss not afraid to court controversy

BEFORE Tayto Park there was a farm in Meath where Largo Foods' boss Raymond Coyle decided to introduce a herd of North American Buffalo.

This was done in 1996 to promote another of his crisp brands, Hunky Dorys, and boost sales of its "Buffalo" flavour crisps.

It was the first in a series of stunts that raised the profile of his products and bolstered the fortunes of his firm.

Now Tayto Park's visitors can sample buffalo steak and burgers, with Mr Coyle saying they are "very popular dishes in our restaurant".

The 61-year-old began as a potato grower in the 1970s and supplied Tayto with his produce before setting up Largo Foods 31 years ago.

The snack company grew during the 1990s and gobbled up the Tayto crisps brand with a €60m takeover in 2006. It also expanded overseas to Eastern Europe and China.

It also owns the King and Perri brands and has factories in Co Meath and Gweedore, Co Donegal. The company built a plant in Libya in 2008. However, the 2011 outbreak of the civil war that saw the fall of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, meant that the operation was hastily withdrawn.

Mr Coyle later told the Irish Independent that he had put more than €2m into the project, adding: "It was a mistake in hindsight."

The company's fortunes weren't harmed, however, with recent reports suggesting it has an annual turnover of €100m.

Largo Foods was at the centre of controversy over successive advertising campaigns for Hunky Dorys featuring busty rugby-playing women – and in later ads, their GAA counterparts.

The ads featured taglines like "Are you staring at my crisps?" and garnered complaints from figures within the IRFU and the GAA as well as the National Women's Council.

Mr Coyle rejected claims that the ads were sexist saying: "Everything is so serious and gloomy now and we want to inject a little bit of fun into things."

Last January, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was on hand at Tayto Park to announce the creation of 78 jobs by Largo Foods to add to its almost 800 employees.

Irish Independent

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