Gearing up for busiest time of year with new look for festive favourite

Joanne Molloy.
Joanne Molloy.
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Businesswoman Joanne Molloy loves Christmas. It’s the busiest time of the year for TS Foods in Castlewellan, Co Down, the family business in which she is managing director.

And it’s easy to see why, because TS Foods is one of the Ireland’s most successful producers of traditional and flavoured stuffings for the Christmas dinner table and other times of the year. “While Christmas is a vitally important market for our range of stuffings, we do very good business throughout the year for these and other products,” says Joanne.

“Our planning for Christmas starts much earlier in the year for our retail customers in Northern Ireland and in developing markets such as the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain,” she adds.

Thousands of families will be sitting down this festive season to enjoy turkey with products from company’s seven-strong range of stuffings. These include fresh breadcrumb and cranberry apricot and orange, among the most popular here. The company has made it easier than ever before and much more convenient to enjoy the best stuffing with the traditional turkey.

TS Foods, which was established by Tony and Ann Steele, Joanne’s parents, in 1978, is aiming to expand sales this Christmas through a major rebrand with new and eye-catching packaging for the stuffing products.

Joanne explains the thinking underpinning the brand refresh: “We took our time to ensure we got every detail just right; from the individual product colours, to the descriptive on-pack illustrations, every piece of the packing has been designed to communicate the quality of the brand as well as our heritage and expertise. A key priority has been to ensure that we attract new shoppers, who, perhaps, have not considered purchasing our stuffings before, as well as ensuring our existing customers still recognise us on the shelves.

“As part of this project, we also evolved our TS Foods logo to include ‘Estd. 1978’ and ‘Co. Down’ to start highlighting our story to a wider audience and local provenance. We’ve also rolled out a new strapline - ‘From our Family to Yours’ - to communicate to everyone that we are a family run business which is proud to play a part in other families’ mealtimes and special occasions.”

The company employs around 100 people at the production plant in Castlewellan and is the town’s biggest manufacturer. Going to work every day in a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Beauty’ in the iconic Mourne Mountains is one of the benefits of her role, Joanne admits.

She joined the family business with David, her brother, in 2007. The company initially began as a popular fish and chip shop, The Dolphin, in the town. Her parents subsequently spotted a gap in the market for value added coated products within the local food service sector.

The entrepreneurial couple created their renowned ‘Chip Shop Pastie’ - the first of its kind to be sold to food retailers throughout Northern Ireland.

Following the pasty’s huge success, Tony and Ann Steele developed and then marketed successfully an entire range under the popular ‘Tony’s Chippy’ brand from a modern factory they built in the town in response to the market demand for the original products.

In 1983, they spotted another gap in the market and became the first food company in Northern Ireland to sell ready-prepared breadcrumb stuffings.

“We have continued to invest in the expansion of our factory in Castlewellan to meet the increasing customer demand and to develop new, innovative products,” Joanne continues. “We continue to value our heritage and strong family roots. Our focus remains on quality, traceability and provenance. We source only the best ingredients to ensure the wholesomeness of our product portfolio.”

Business development agency Invest Northern Ireland assisted with support for the ambitious local company. “Invest NI’s support has been invaluable,” Joanne says.

The family theme is at the heart of the company’s new marketing campaign.

Joanne adds: “Focusing on family, the campaign aims to demonstrate how TS Foods’ stuffings are part of family occasions and moments across the country and especially at Christmas.”

A first billboard advertising campaign has also been launched to back up the new brand and packaging over Christmas.

“This is our first ever venture into the world of billboard advertising,” Joanne continues. “As we enter our fifth decade of business, we wanted to increase awareness even further and showcase our brand to the next generation of families as shopping responsibilities are handed over from one generation to the next in many households.”