36 countries are nuts about our products

Susanna Hassard, Asda's Regional Buying Manager for NI and Scotland and Tim McVicker, Commercial Director for Forest Feast
Susanna Hassard, Asda's Regional Buying Manager for NI and Scotland and Tim McVicker, Commercial Director for Forest Feast

A Northern Ireland food company which has grown to become a £12.1m turnover firm since it’s launch in 1996 is getting set to celebrate 20 years in the business in 2016.

Family run Kestrel Foods, which distributes a range of dried fruit, nuts and seeds under the brand names Forest Feast and Acti-Snack, has grown from a small packaging company to an export business supplying over 150 products across 36 countries worldwide.

Earlier this year the Portadown based firm received a £750,000 investment injection from Invest NI into its processing and packaging technology at their site in Carn.

Owned by husband and wife team Micheal and Lorraine Hall the couple said 2015 has become somewhat of a turning point for the company.

As a result of the investment, a targeted growth strategy and commotment to new product innovation, Kestrel Foods has been able to further tap into both domestic and international markets.

Financial reports for the company seen the couple announce a 5.7% increase in turnover from £11.5m in 2014 to £12.1m in for the financial year ending April 2015.

A significant proportion of this encouraging performance and increased turnover is due to a comprehensive marketing and advertising campaign both for its Forest Feast and Acti-Snack brands.

Forest Feast experienced a very successful launch of its innovative new ‘Street Food’ snack range at the beginning of this year while Acti-Snack, which launched two years ago, has been making great strides in the sports nutrition market.

As a result of “aggressive pricing of supermarket own brand products” Michael said it emphasised the importance of Kestrel Foods developing their own brand offering.

He added: “We responded by bringing the sights and sounds of the international street food scene to life through our mouth-watering ‘Street Food’ snack range.

“Five lines of exotic Forest Feast Street Food snack mixes hit supermarket shelves, celebrating the world’s most exciting street food flavours, from the hickory smoked barbeques of Louisiana to the exotic spices of Thailand.

“Now stocked in over 150 Asda stores across the UK, we’ve successfully tapped into a growing consumer trend.”

Street Food is also performing well in the Republic of Ireland market, having been listed by leading convenience store partners such as SPAR.

Adapting to ever-changing trends and product innovation is key to Kestrel Foods business explained Lorraine.

She said: “We have to continually analyse emerging trends to ensure our product portfolio reflects the needs of today’s consumer.

“We also have to identify emerging sectors which represent core growth opportunities, and have considerably grown our customer base in these areas.”

This hard work and determination means the company have made significant inroads into the foodservice, travel retail, airline, e-commerce and hospitality markets, as well as supplying retailer private label.

Michael and Lorraine believe this success is down to “mix of innovation, quality and flexibility to meet specific customer needs” said Michael.

Of course the growth plans don’t end there, the company have ambitious plans for the Armagh plant and the investment made earlier this year will ensure Kestrel have the ability to deliver increased production when necessary.

Lorraine McAfee, Financial controller, Kestrel Foods said: “Kestrel Foods has undertaken a period of significant capital investment in new production facilities, processing and packaging technology, focused on the future growth of the company.

“Trading conditions over the past 12 months have been difficult given the high price of commodities.

“However, the business has been able to identify new opportunities and as such the Directors are confident of significant growth in the company going forward and the investment which has been undertaken is commensurate to this.”

Looking ahead, it is not surprising that Kestrel’s growth plans show no sign of slowing down.

Its ultimate goal is “to manufacture and supply premium quality branded dried fruit, nuts and seeds on a global basis” said Michael.

With long-terms plans to further expand Forest Feast and Acti-Snack brands and hopes of making further strides in the International market, Kestrel owners Michael and Lorraine are confident the company will achieve and develop long-term success.