Cookstown still sizzling after nearly 80 years

23 Jun , 2015  

Part of the KARRO Food Group, Cookstown has been one of Ireland’s leading pork producers since 1937. Its famous sausage sizzlers have been part of many family’s daily meals for generations.

The brand really came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the late George Best declared Cookstown to be “the best family sausages” in a major TV and newspaper advertising campaign. Ivan Bell, who was Cookstown sausages sales manager at the time, said sales went from “pounds being sold on a weekly basis to tonnes being sold.”

In 2007, Cookstown District Council unveiled a commemorative plaque as a way of thanking the Manchester United and Northern Ireland soccer legend for putting the Co. Tyrone town’s famous pork sausages on the international map. The commemoration, which was requested by local football clubs, was erected on the site where Cookstown’s great range of pork products – including hams, bacon, gammon and sausages – continues to be produced to this day.

“People still associate George Best with our brand,” Cookstown site director Andrew Irwin explains.

“And there’s no doubt that the adverts featuring George at the height of his fame helped Cookstown to become known for its ‘sizzle’.”

Recently, the Cookstown brand has been re-launched with a new TV campaign called ‘Me Time’ and striking new pack colours and graphics that deliver a bright on-shelf presence. Cookstown also produces ‘own label’ products for supermarket chains

Cookstown’s production plant employs 780 people and as such is one of the largest employers in the Mid-Ulster region. Approximately 22,500 pigs are slaughtered at the facility every week.

Last year, Cookstown became part of the KARRO Group which supplies fresh pork, bacon and ham to retail, foodservice and manufacturing customers across Ireland and the UK.

KARRO operates through integrated farming, slaughter and processing operations from eight sites in the UK and Ireland, processing circa 45,000 pigs each week for the major supermarkets and wholesale markets.

KARRO Food Group is a relatively new business built on long-standing foundations. It was launched as a privately-owned company in January 2013 following the purchase of Vion Food Group’s UK pork division by private equity company Endless and Karro’s existing management team. KARRO are headquartered in Malton, North Yorkshire and employ circa 3,000 staff across all operations.

“Of the eight sites run by KARRO, Cookstown is the main slaughter site. Our brand or identity hasn’t been affected by the change in ownership,” says Andrew.

Proud to promote Irish and Northern Irish pork products, Cookstown buys its pigs from farms the length and breadth of the island.

“Irish bacon and pork has an excellent reputation around the world and we want to push that as much as we can,” Andrew notes.

He continues: “The pig business has its ups and downs. It’s always a challenge for the producers and the farmers. Our strategy is to drive our export agenda, to grow our sales in the US, China and Asia. Hopefully, this will enable us to return more money to the farmers that will allow them to grow with us.”

Cookstown is proud to be part of an industry that makes a strong contribution to the economy both north and south of the border. There are only about 500 pig producers in Ireland, yet it is the country’s third largest farming sector.

In conclusion, Cookstown delivers on all fronts for suppliers, retailers and consumers. The brand’s exciting packaging, coupled with its reputation for quality, freshness and taste, will ensure that Cookstown remains the home of the sizzle for many more years to come!

Cookstown Northern Ireland
70 Molesworth Road,
Co. Tyrone
BT80 8PJ.

Cookstown Ireland
Level 2,
The Osprey Business Campus,
Devoy Quarter,
Co. Kildare.

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 2 No 5, October 2014