Export markets have been a key focus for Silver Hill Foods since the family firmcame into existence some 50 years ago. A fully integrated firm based in Emyvale, Silver Hills has a unique proposition. It supplies duck products primarily to the food industry, and looks after everything fromduck productiontobreeding, egg production, hatching, processing and cooking.
It then targets and sells to Chinese communities and restaurants in Britain
and mainland Europe. With its target market in mind, the company has also successfully bred its own hybrid duck, specifically for Peking products. Stuart Steele, managing directorof the second-generation family business, said its priority had always been its target market, both at home and overseas. ‘‘We did our research into the type of duck that those customers wanted us to produce,’’ he said.
No ducking of hard work
‘‘We pay great care and attention to getting the duck product right. We now have customers spread out right across Europe. ‘‘We started off very much as a small farmenterprise, and have grown into a major exporting business specialising in all duck products.We use every single piece of the duck except the quack.That includes meat products and down products, and we recycle the waste involved aswell.’’ Stuart said the company exported raw and cooked meat products, competing on quality rather than cost.
‘‘It is very difficult to compete on cost if you are based in Ireland, so we concentrate on producing a high-quality duck product,’’ he said. ‘‘You can find our duck served in Gordon Ramsay’s and Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants.’’ Silver Hill has worked with Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia to research target markets in Europe. ‘‘You need to know the market and you need to know the local customs,’’ Steele said.
‘‘Bodies like Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia really have the expertise in the given markets. We always look to use every support there is.’’ Silver Hill Foods employs 160 staff at its Emyvale headquarters and in sites in Bragan, Co Monaghan, Omagh and Tyrone. It established the Silver Hill Feathers subsidiary ten years ago to convert duck down by-products into duvets, pillows and cushions. ‘‘We are a low-volume producer in a high price environment, so we always have to be innovating,’’ he said.
‘‘Our R&D manager’s role is to come up with a new product every single week. This year, we are increasing the range of down products with new duvets and pillows.’’ Although the majority of Silverhill’s revenues are generated overseas, the company is also active in the Irish market. It opened its first retail outlet in Emyvale last December, stocking meat and down products. ‘‘We opened the shop to make it easy for people to buy our products, be it our meat products or our duvets,’’ Steele said.
A slew of awards
‘‘We also wanted to give a platform to other local goods producers, and that is working quite successfully.’’ Silver Hill has a slew of awards under its belt from organisations such as Sustainable Energy Ireland, Irish Food Writers Guild, Bord Bia and Ulster Bank. It runs duckthemed cookery competitions, and uses the internet for additional marketing campaigns. ‘‘The days of us producing a duck and putting it into a bag are long gone,’’ Steele said. ‘‘Our website will be redeveloped this year as a portal for selling meat and down products all over the world.
We also have a Facebook page. ‘‘We want to let people know our story, which is thatwe farm everything ourselves and do everything the hard way here in Emyvale. It definitely seems to pay dividends for us.’’
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