Northern Ireland business entrepreneurs pool experience to acquire British food firm

Business entrepreneurs Paul Allen (right) and Michael Blaney celebrate their acquisition of Devon-based Pasta King. Photo: William Cherry/PressEye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TWO leading Northern Ireland entrepreneurs have pooled more than 50 years of business expertise and experience to acquire a major food firm in Britain.

Former Tayto Group chief executive Paul Allen has joined ex-Autoline Insurance head Michael Blaney to buy Devon-based Pasta King, a provider of pasta meals to schools in the UK.

Established in 1994, the £8 million turnover Pasta King employs 55 staff at its headquarters in Newton Abbot, from where it supplies more than 13 million nutritious ‘grab and go' meals into the primary and secondary education sector, and also has a growing presence in the health, leisure and care sectors.

Mr Allen, who left Tayto last year and later rescued Genesis Bakery in Magherafelt from administration, said: “There are significant synergies between Pasta King and the many other businesses Michael and I have worked with in our careers to date.

“We believe our combined insight into the market, coupled with our extensive network, will further Pasta King's growth. We hope to build on this acquisition and look forward to working closely with the dynamic team in Devon.”

He paid tribute to both Keystone Law and Allied Irish Bank, who supported the purchase process of Pasta King (

Mr Blaney, who engineered a successful exit and sale of the Autoline business to Prestige Underwriting Holdings last year (but who retained the group's wealth management arm Ashtree Financial in Newry) added: “Paul and I aim to build on Pasta King's strong track record of success and assist with its expansion into new markets.

“The company has been consistently innovating and developing new products to accommodate a wide spectrum of dietary requirements with vegan, vegetarian, coeliac and halal options amongst its offering.

“It also recently launched a new range of curries and Mexican concepts such as burritos and nachos. We are currently also exploring the production of own-label sauce solutions and ready meals for a number of customers.”

Kevin Goodall, relationship manager in Bristol at Allied Irish Bank (GB), said: "Paul and Michael have impressive track records in business and we were keen to support their ambitions to purchase and develop Pasta King.

“We wish them every success for the future as they look to expand the business further and build on the established success and reputation of Pasta King.”

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