We were established in 1968, on land farmed by the McCann family for over 200 years, on the shores of Strangford Lough, an area rich in fertile soil, noted for it’s ability to produce vegetables to a very high standard.
This has helped to ensure the high quality of the ingredients we used and today you will still find that same great quality and pride in everything we do. We work with other farms and local growers, our neighbours, to help us deliver a taste of Northern Ireland to the world.
To accommodate demand from a core market of Retail and Foodservice Customers in 2011 we invested £5.5m in a purpose built manufacturing factory that includes a cutting edge Food Innovation Centre.
Willowbrook Foods are a fresh food producer and processing company based on the McCann family farm in Killinchy. The firm creates a variety of products which are exported throughout the UK and Ireland. The family owned business was officially established in 1968 when Managing Director John McCann began farming vegetables on his father’s land and started selling the produce in local markets. Initially Willowbrook Foods were producing prepared and packaged vegetables and soup mixes and in 1978 they secured their first major contract with Wellworths and since then they have gone from strength to strength. John pioneered a new marketing strategy by using own grown farm vegetables in the packing for supermarkets, which prior to the 1970’s did not exist. This was the beginning of convenience and added value vegetable products as John identified consumers’ demand for convenient products.
Willowbrook Food’s primary factory operates from Killinchy and after expansion they opened a ‘Mash Plant’ factory in 2004 and a third factory in 2009 in Newtownards to support production due to the increase of new customers. In 2008 the company began plans to redevelop the primary factory in Killinchy and in 2011 a 60,000 square foot, food production factory opened. The £5.5 million investment has enabled the firm to increase production and has enhanced the firm’s capabilities. Alongside the new factory asset, the Willowbrook Food Innovation Centre opened in 2011. The purpose of the Willowbrook Food Innovation Centre is to deliver innovative food excellence to new and existing customers, providing them with new product solutions to suit their own customers.
Over the years Willowbrook Foods have developed their range of products and is now the largest processor of lettuce bags and salads in N. Ireland and Ireland. Willowbrook Foods currently supply to numerous top retail and foodservice companies in the UK and Ireland including Tesco, Iceland, Lidl, Aldi, Spar, Subway, KFC, Dominoes, McDonald’s, Costcutter, Nisa, Booths, Budgens, Musgrave Group and Henderson Group to name a few.
At present the company have just over 220 employees working between the three factories. Willowbrook Foods have sustained BRC accreditation Grade A for over 10 years and are approved by the Soil Association for processing of organic salads, the only company in Ireland and N. Ireland with this accreditation. Despite so many successes the company have been faced with many challenging times. In 1976 & 1977, two years of severe drought, John installed one of the first irrigation systems in NI by digging out a reservoir to hold one million gallons and he developed a ring main around the farm. Another obstacle was the demand for quality beansprouts. In the 1990s John recognised the need for good quality Beansprouts for his stir-fry production so he travelled to America and purchased a Hydroponic growing system, the only one in Ireland at the time. The system is currently still used today.
Innovation is the key to the success of Willowbrook Foods over the last 45 years. With continuous changing consumer demands the company have been adaptable in providing innovative solutions to the retail and food service industry. Willowbrook Foods will continue to endeavour their innovative culture moving forward and welcome opportunities to discuss new product options with retail, food service and food manufacturing.
Willowbrook Foods will continue to endeavour their innovative culture moving forward and welcome opportunities to discuss new product options with retail, food service and food manufacturing excellence.
In 1968 John McCann began farming vegetables on his father’s land and started selling the produce in local markets.
John pioneered a new marketing strategy by using own grown farm vegetables in the packing for supermarkets, which prior to the 1970’s did not exist.