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Kestrel Foods has grown in excess of 200 per cent over the last nine years

June 17, 2014 · 

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Kestrel Foods has grown in excess of 200 per cent over the last nine years

Pamela Newenham kestrel

Michael Hall is the managing director of Kestrel Foods. He is a graduate in business and finance from Cheltenham and Gloucester College and NISBI (Northern Ireland Small Business Institute), after which he founded Kestrel Contract Packers.

Kestrel Contract Packers provided off-line contract packing solutions to blue-chip companies and local distributors on the island of Ireland, which included the packing of dried food products.

The entrance of British multiples into the Irish marketplace reduced the requirement for local contract packing and Hall identified the opportunity to commit entirely to food manufacture with Kestrel Foods. It had been founded in 1996.

Lorraine Hall is the sales and marketing director of Kestrel Foods. She has a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh and is a fellow of Chartered Institute of Marketing. After graduating, she worked as a PR and sponsorship executive for wines and spirits company Dillon Bass, progressing to promotions manager for Brewery Bass Ireland before joining forces with husband Michael to establish Kestrel Foods.

In 2005, a dedicated food-processing plant located in Carn Food Park, was purchased to facilitate further growth. In the nine years since the purchase, Kestrel Foods has grown in excess of 200 per cent adding £2.4 million of turnover in fiscal 2014 alone.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
Both: Cash flow issues in our early days. The bank struggled with our youth, relative inexperience and immature balance sheet when we were still in our 20s.

They were on the phone every day and we couldn’t get on with running our business. We overcame it by changing to Bank of Ireland which had a stockline product that was perfect for our seasonal business requirements. They gave us the breathing space to grow our business and we’re still with them today. What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company? Both: The game changer came 16 years ago with the listing of our Forest Feast Premium Exotic Dried Mango in UK multiple Waitrose, which is still listed today along with a range of Forest Feast Premium and Mini fruit doypacks.

Waitrose punches above its weight in dried fruit snacking and has proven to be a “shop window account” for Forest Feast.

What were the best and the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
Both: Probably the best and the worst advice was that we should stop working in our business and start working on our business. A strategic growth and development plan which is constantly under review is a must but we are both hands-on business owners and enjoy being customer and supplier facing and interacting with the team.

What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
Lorraine: That’s easy – maternity leave was definitely my biggest sacrifice. Sixteen years ago we just could not afford for me to be off for a pro-longed period of time and I returned to work after six weeks with our daughter Esmée. When our son Thomas was born 12 years ago, I did plan to take more time off but the business, once again, had other ideas.
Michael: As I worked very hard to build the business through my 20s I missed out on playing rugby at club level as I was unable to participate due to the long hours and weekend work needed. I also miss my family when I travel to see suppliers abroad, sometimes for up to three weeks at a time.

Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 01:00

First published: Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 01:00

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