Derry's Niche Drinks toast after landing a £340,000 slice of business in Russia

Niche Drinks managing director Ciaran Mulgrew celebrates earlier this year after he won approval to build a whiskey distillery in Derry

DERRY-based cream liqueur maker Niche Drinks has raised a glass in a 'nostrovia' toast after landing a £340,000 slice of business in Russia.

It is one of four Northern Ireland food and drink firms (the others are BFree, CocoMojo and Rooney Fish) which have been assisted by Invest NI to win new contracts in international markets, estimated to be worth half a million pounds combined.

And it further underlines a period of stellar growth at Niche, which earlier this year took a giant leap towards re-establishing whiskey production in Derry when the city's council granted it planning permission for a new distillery on the former Ebrington Barracks site for its Quiet Man brand.

The £12 million investment is expected to lead to the creation of 35 jobs at Niche Drinks, which already employs 70 people at its Rossdowney Road site, where it uses 25 per cent of all milk produced in the north west in the manufacturer of its Irish cream liqueurs.

The company's secretary and finance director Robin Young said: “We're very happy with our success to date. Our long term growth plans are progressing well and we continue to focus on building our export sales, particularly in the US and Europe markets.

“We've recently secured our first Russian orders for our Quiet Man Irish Whiskey and both Causeway Coast and Shannon's Irish Cream Liqueurs as a result of a visit to Russia at the beginning of this year, and we continue to build distribution in the market there.”

Niche Drinks - which in its last full trading year increased both turnover (to £17.5 million) and profit (to nearly £750,000) - has been manufacturing and exporting Irish cream liqueurs from its existing site since 1983.

It also makes flavoured vodkas, ready-to-drink cocktails and microwaveable Irish coffees, and the company sells around 50 products under its own brands, Shannon’s Irish cream liqueur and The Quiet Man whiskey, and private label agreements with retailers in North America, Europe and Britain.

Meanwhile health food distributor BFree and Rooney Fish have each signed off on £50,000 orders for customers in the United Arab Emirates and China respectively, while Lisburn energy drinks company Coco Mojo has secured a £10,000 deal in China.

Rooney Fish chief executive Andrew Rooney said: “We've just shipped a batch of our three Gold Star Mill Bay Oysters to Hong Kong in our first year of harvesting.

"We met with a leading seafood distributor during an Invest NI exhibition in China and worked hard to build a rapport which has allowed us to achieve this success. We see China as a market full of opportunities for our business and we look forward to continuing our recent success and securing further orders.”

David Waldron, European & Middle East business development manager from BFree, said: “Securing fresh export deals is vital to the success of our business. Our sales in this region have increased by 50 per cent since last year due to new deals with both Spinneys and Lulu Supermarkets in the UAE.

"We have also been recently listed with Choithrams, a major UAE supermarket, following participation at Gulfood.”

The companies all benefited from a range of Invest NI support including food business development guidance, trade advice and from participating on Invest NI trade missions and exhibitions to profile their products on a global stage.

Alison Gowdy, Invest NI’s director of trade, said: “This is a fantastic result for Northern Ireland’s biggest manufacturing industry and showcases the increasing appetite around the world for Northern Ireland food and drink.

“We are delighted that our businesses are becoming ever more visible and ambitious in taking their products to growing world markets with Northern Ireland food and drink exports valued at £1.2 billion in the last 12 months.

“All of the businesses have put substantial time and resources into fostering relationships with global customers which has helped them to secure these deals."

She added: “Invest NI's long-standing strategic focus is to assist companies to win business abroad. We have an expanding global network of offices designed to support Northern Ireland businesses which are keen to explore new opportunities. That, coupled with the provision of in-market expertise and resources, will help drive the local food and drink industry towards further global growth."

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