Diarmuid O’Sullivan, MD of Irish Yogurts with plant supervisor Alan Long in Clonakilty.

A WEST Cork food company has swept the boards at one of the world’s most prestigious international food tasting events.

Irish Yogurts Ltd, the Clonakilty-based food producer has won gold star awards for 16 of its products at the annual Great Taste Awards organised by the UK’s Guild of Fine Food.

Tom Gillespie, Mona Pomeroy, Josephine Carey, and Diarmuid O’Sullivan from Irish Yoghurts with some of the award-winning products.

The awards are amongst the highest accolades given for speciality foods and this year attracted almost 9,000 entries that were adjudicated over a 45-day period by master chefs, restaurateurs, food critics and writers.

The unprecedented scale of awards is the latest chapter in a remarkable business success story for the West Cork company.

From modest beginnings in 1994 with just two employees, Irish Yogurts now employs 130 people in Clonakilty and has an annual turnover of €17 million.

The company’s products are now found under Irish Yogurts and own label brands in retail outlets and supermarket chains nationwide and in Britain’s top four retail multiples: Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrissons and Asda.

Later this month, the company will begin exporting to Austria, Finland and Spain. The company’s founder and managing director Diarmuid O’Sullivan said the multiplicity of Great Taste awards was a wonderful achievement for Irish Yogurts and its staff and were a further endorsement of Ireland’s reputation as a premium food producer.

“Naturally, we are delighted with this latest recognition. We have a big focus on the development of products which are novel and attractive to the different market segments in which we operate, from luxury yogurts to low fat, diet and probiotic varieties.

“These obviously have to be qualitatively of the highest standard but also must be differentiated from our competitors.

“To achieve that requires ongoing research and development work and innovation.

“So what we are about is combining the best of traditional food production values with R & D and new technologies.

“That is underpinned by investment in management and staff and a capital investment programme of about €10 million over the past fifteen years”, he said.

Using an artisan food method of yogurt production, the “made in the churn” products are made from fresh milk, non-fat solids, real fruit and live yogurt cultures.

All the company’s products are gluten-free, GM free and suitable for vegetarians. Currently, the company produces 37 products and more than100 own brand products, for all the major retail multiples in Ireland.

The next milestone for Irish Yogurts will be the completion of a state-of the art 25,000 sq, ft facility in Clonakilty which will integrate the company’s operations on a single site in the town.