Building Your Business
Lacpatrick Host PLATO EBR Member Companies

29 March 2018

Fifteen PLATO EBR companies visited the Lacpatrick plant today (previously known as Town of Monaghan Co-op). The site visit hosted by Commercial Manager, Tommy O’ Donaghue and his team took in a presentation of the company. For a short overview of Lacpatrick see video HERE 

Tommy outlined the challenges of growing through integration and “the importance of integrating People, Systems and Processes” …when Lacpatrick first came together as a collection of multiple sites there were different IT systems in place which couldn’t talk to each other and there probably was a mix of cultures too – some long-serving dairy farmers as owners of the company, and staff employed since their school days combined with recruiting the latest graduate talent for new development positions and dealing with a global marketplace and ever dynamic customer demands e.g. fast pace change within retail sector.

For the small PLATO companies present Lacpatrick were able to provide comfort that “change was not easy” regardless of your size of company, there was a need to invest heavily in upgrading some sites which has starved others – these are tough decisions but decisions that had to be taken to ensure we were ready for the next wave of customer demands, e.g. investing in state-of-the-art drying equipment at Artigarvan to satisfy growth markets in W. Africa and Asia for dried milk product. Tommy suggested “People are key in any business – businesses need new blood/new ideas, need to upskill their people and need to educate staff at all levels and communicate with all the team.

Other discussion areas under Dairy industry covered were:

-  Milk supply and the peak to trough and how farming has become more technological and scientific therefore increasing sustainability in supply chain

-  Long-standing contractual arrangements affecting pricing for example butter prices in Suth of Ireland versus Northern Ireland for same/similar product

-   How world markets dictating price paid to farmers

-   Lacpatrick supplies €60Million of consumer foods industry

-   Some of the customer range as Aldi, Spar, Henderson’s Group, M&S (exclusive for NI and Ireland), Kerry Foods, Aldi and Lidl, Supervalu etc.

-  Essential to who your customers are is your level of approvals/certification – Bord Bia, green Origin BRC, etc. companies shouldn’t lose perspective that these accreditations cost money and sometimes dictate what customer base you will supply given the compliance costs.

-  Regarding Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) – our industry required us to be agile and look in on business rather than from the inside out.

-  Consumer lifestyle trends have such an impact on the sector. Note the changes in EU regulation Almond Milk can no longer be called milk if none in it! Also changes in healthy eating habits, keeping it real (no nasties in product), consumers want to engage in responsible living and but products with this ethos in mind.

-  Champion milk would have a seriously loyal consumer base who may not be the most receptive to packaging changes etc. but the tetra pack was difficult to open and industry (all co-ops) have shifted away from those styles of packaging, you need to stay relevant to consumers.

-  Shoppers only shop on periphery of stores now not centre of store e.g. end of aisle etc. – reference heat mapping exercises. Therefore think about where your product is being displayed with the retailers.

The Lacpatrick presentation also made us thin if we were really customer-centric, in reality most companies are company-centric, but Tommy suggested they are missing the trick because it is only be working with customers in close partnerships that you can truly grow your company. Irrespective if your company is production-based you are essentially a ‘customer service support’.  Some small companies may struggle with building your own brand versus private label goods – establishing a brand needs serious cash investment and private label provides you with high volume – the decision is based on what you can afford, don’t lose site of this. Tommy, also touched on the topic of innovation Horizon levels 1,2, and 3 and the need for investment in R&D.

In conclusion Tommy’s truisms were:-

  1. We’ve always done it this way – maybe change is more efficient
  2. Change has never happened so fast – it will never happen so slow again.

The Group toured the entire site - milk production and yoghurt, R&D and stores. PLATO EBR wishes to acknowledge the support of Lacpatrick to the PLATO EBR Programme and  in particular thanks to Tommy O’ Donaghue, Ian, Eiméar, Paul, Martin, Declan, Patrick and Aine.

For more information on Lacpatrick visit HERE. More information PLATO EBR, email: cecilia@platoebr.com


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