Diners in Tokyo and Dubai to taste Northern Ireland’s unique Ballylisk cheese

Shauna Magill

Invest Northern Ireland

Premium Supplier 3rd February 2020

Diners in Tokyo and Dubai to taste Northern Ireland’s unique Ballylisk cheese

Diners in high-end restaurants in Tokyo and Dubai will soon be enjoying luxury cheese from Ballylisk of Armagh as a result of the company’s participation in a recent food and drink showcase organised by Invest Northern Ireland.
Ballylisk, based on a family dairy farm at Tandragee, near Portadown in county Armagh, made contacts at the important ‘Meet the Buyer’ event in November and these led directly to the company’s first sales in Asia and the United Arab Emirates. Products are now on their way to customers in both global markets.
The latest export successes come as the award winning company gears up for the launch of two highly innovative cheeses – a soft blue and a brie.
Dean Wright, the founder and managing director of Ballylisk, says the new export clients are taking the company’s two unique cheeses – Triple Rose, a rich and distinctively flavoured triple cream, and a smoked variety. Both cheeses are produced from milk sourced from the farm’s pedigree, grass-fed dairy herd.
“We were delighted to meet buyers from Asia, the Middle East and other markets at the ‘Meet the Buyer’ event organised by Invest NI with support from Food NI,” continues Mr Wright. “It’s been our experience these events really do work for us especially in terms of new international contacts and sales. The new contacts loved the quality and tastes of our cheese and placed orders,” he adds.
The company, Ireland’s only producer of triple cream cheese, has seen exports grow substantially over the past year and currently sells more than 60 percent of its cheese to customers outside Northern Ireland. “Our business is growing strongly in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, markets in which we have some very high profile customers in both retail, especially Fortnum and Mason, and food distribution,” Mr Wright continues. “Indeed, we anticipate that by Easter we will be selling 90 percent of our products to markets beyond Northern Ireland.
“Fortnum and Mason, in particular, has become an immensely important customer over the past year and sold a great deal of our cheese over the Christmas period. As well as our developing success with Fortnum and Mason, we are experiencing exceptional business at London’s iconic Borough Market,” adds Mr Wright.
Mr Wright founded the small business in 2016 and developed the initial Triple Rose cheese with help from Invest NI and the Food Technology Centre at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise at Loughry, near Cookstown. He launched its very first product at Balmoral Show 2018 – Ireland’s largest agricultural and food show.
The Triple Rose cheese went on to win the ‘Best New Product’ award on the same day and remains the company’s flagship product. It also won two Gold Stars at the 2019 Great Taste Awards and was a finalist in the 2018 Great British Cheese Awards. It also proved a winner at the Blas na hEireann Awards, the Irish National Food Awards.
A fifth generation farmer, Mr Wright points out that the company has full control over the production process from farm to fork. “We also grow our own grain to feed the cattle and breed our own cows,” he explains. The farm has been in the Wright family since 1820 and currently employs four people.
An experienced farmer, Mr Wright is committed to traditional low intensity farming practices and excellence in animal welfare and husbandry. He explains: “The dairy industry is changing steadily in part as a result of consumer concerns, both here and globally, about preserving the environment and high intensive production. We are responding to these concerns by reviewing and restructuring all our practices.
Mr Wright continues: “Exporting is now crucially important to the growth of our business and is a huge area for growth. So, we have to respond to the changes underway within the global industry and in consumer attitudes to farming and especially dairy products,” he adds.