Glenisk factory fire a huge blow for the organic dairy sector

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The fire at the Glenisk plant in Co Offaly has been described as a devastating blow for the Cleary family and the organic dairy sector which supplied it.

Managing director Vincent Cleary said that the company will regroup and rebuild to become operational as quickly as possible following the fire on Monday which completely destroyed the yogurt manufacturing plant.

He admitted that tears had been shed over the incident but that they would “make a list” to get back to work.

Smoke was first noticed at midday in the incubation room and within seconds the fire quickly spread along a wall.

Even though there was shock among the staff, the building was evacuated quickly because of regular drills.

Glenisk had a turnover of €24.1m in 2019 and made a profit of €1.2m. The vast majority of turnover was based on sales in Ireland.

IFA Organic Project Team Chairman Nigel Renaghan said the fire in the Glenisk plant in Offaly is devastating for the Cleary family and the Glenisk brand.

Vincent Cleary, Managing Director, Glenisk. 'We are going to regroup. We will come up with a Plan B, we need to get back on shelves as soon as possible.' Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.
Vincent Cleary, Managing Director, Glenisk. ‘We are going to regroup. We will come up with a Plan B, we need to get back on shelves as soon as possible.’ Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.

“The fire could have disastrous consequences for organic milk suppliers. The facility handles the majority of organic milk across the island of Ireland,” he said.

Glenisk sources milk from approximately 50 organic dairy farmers across Ireland and it’s the destination for 90% of organic milk.

Up to now, the company had bolstered its sale of organic yoghurts, following a period of growth since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The number of staff employed by the firm had grown to 85 and it held the number one position in the yoghurt market in Ireland with a 19% share.

“Glenisk suppliers must be safeguarded at this time, and alternative arrangements put in place for the processing of the milk,” he said.

Speaking about the fire Mr Cleary said he thought the incident was a drill at first. “But it was the real thing. I think the training saved a lot of lives yesterday.” The factory was a burnt-out shell as a result.

“We are going to regroup. We will come up with a Plan B, we need to get back on shelves as soon as possible.” Mr Cleary said he was humbled by offers of support and capacity from competitor companies. The future of Glenisk was uncertain, but by this morning there would be a plan.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Cleary said: “We have a great crew, many have been in place for 20 years. I have a responsibility to provide gainful employment to them.

The company’s milk tankers were not damaged in the fire and will be collecting organic milk as usual “even if we have to take a financial hit to ensure there is no impact on the farmers”.

Mr Cleary said he will be seeking out fabricators and machine builders to try to get the operation back up and running.

Junior Agriculture Minister, Pippa Hackett, visited the site describing the fire as a devastating incident for the Cleary family, their staff, and also for the farmers who supply them.

“This is a successful business, built from scratch, and one of the main processors of organic milk in the country.

“As the Minister with responsibility for organics, I want to recognise the extraordinary contribution Glenisk have made to the organic sector.”