Business

Award-winning sandwich maker has perfect recipe to win a WEA

Gareth Chambers, managing director of Around Noon, at the launch of the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards. Guests at the launch each received a free healthy lunch courtesy of the Newry firm

IF you ask Gareth Chambers at Around Noon to whip you up a sandwich, it's unlikely you'll be handed a standard ham and cheese doorstep.

Instead, you're more likely to be served up one of his award-winners - like the 'un-bleat-able' goats cheese, cranberries, sweet potato and mango munch fest. Or an avocado, mozzarella and sriracha comin’ at cha.

And the energetic young managing director of this highly innovative and rapidly-expanding Newry business has a number of other perfect recipes - like how to win an Irish News Workplace & Employment Award.

Chambers (33) has only been in the top seat at Around Noon for 18 months, although the food-to-go manufacturer has been around for nearly 20 years (it was established in 1989 on kitchen table of his family home in Newry).

In that time the enthusiasm and unique culture he has instilled within the business has propelled Around Noon from cottage industry to corporate colossus, and it is on course to report an increase in turnover from £14m in 2016 to around £20m last year.

Employing more than 300 people, mostly at Greenbank industrial estate in Newry, it supplies a broad range of high-quality sandwiches, wraps, salads and fruit pots under its Scribbles brand. It also markets bakery items from its in-house operation, Sweet Things, which it acquired last year, and cold pressed juices.

Under Gareth's watch, Around Noon has signed off on a significant acquisition in London to expand its UK presence, acquired Chef in a Box, a premium sandwich and snack manufacturer with market-leading customers in the corporate sector.

That purchase last May from Donegal Investment Group plc for an undisclosed amount has enabled Around Noon to gain a solid foothold in Greater London and provide a platform for further UK expansion (it has already set up a manufacturing base in the English capital).

It's remarkable how a humble sandwich business can have such a strong commitment to innovation, and it ultimately led to Around Noon winning the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award at the 2017 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards.

So it was fitting that Gareth swapped pinny for podium to formally launch this year's WEAs at an event at Hickson’s Point, the new events space at Titanic Belfast.

"Winning that Irish News Award last June was hugely energising for the entire company and was very much engaged with and embraced by the younger team members, who even nicknamed the trophy as 'Awardsie'," he told guests.

"Lunch is our passion. We don’t just make it for our customers, we live for it. And the company has a set of beliefs I believe which, if applied by any organisation out there, will set you apart and ensure your growth and success."

Gareth outlined what he calls "the Around Noon way" set of six beliefs which are:

:: Passion and enthusiasm in everything you do

:: Honesty, humility and humour

:: Continuous improvement and development

:: Rewarding effort and excellence

:: Solutions - never problems

:: Teamwork

"Our business’s spectacular growth is down to the power of our people and an ethos of passion and enthusiasm in everything we do," he said.

"But this isn't unique to Around Noon. It can apply to every business and organisation, will improve every aspect of your company - and might even lead to winning a WEA!"

The Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 14. Entries must be submitted by noon on Friday April 27 and the short-listed companies will be revealed in The Irish News on Thursday May 17.

The launch event was attended by guests from several business organisations including the CBI, NI Chamber of Commerce, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Young Enterprise NI, Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, along with a number of past winners.

Guests were welcomed by Irish News editor Noel Doran, who said the WEA event has grown steadily over the years because organisations both big and small understand its value and want to be associated with it.

“They also know that the standards they have to reach in the course of their entries are exceptionally high and those who are ultimately recognised will be the brightest and best in their fields,” he said.

He commended the Workplace & Employment Awards’ eight key business partners – Ulster University, Phoenix Natural Gas, the Public Health Agency, Mount Charles, Queen’s University, Henderson Group, Carson McDowell and Titanic Belfast.

:: For more information on the awards visit irishnews.com/wea or follow us on twitter @IrishNewsWEA for updates.

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