Small business case study: Hannan Meats

Posted on June 4, 2013 · Posted in Belfast Telegraph

Hannan Meats is a Northern Ireland success story, which has expanded strongly since it first opened in 1989.  Founder and managing director Peter Hannan originates from the Republic and already had strong knowledge of the meat industry from his work in both the United States and Great Britain.

 

Peter came to Northern Ireland to set up a meat factory in Lurgan for an employer, for whom he ran the business.  “We built up a substantial business and after about five years I left and went back to America,” he recalls.  “In 1989 I came back here because I love it.”

 

Initially the business was small scale, with Peter driving his own van to distribute his meat.  But the firm gained a reputation for quality, leading to some top hotels and restaurants in Northern Ireland asking for his business to provide their meat.  Today Hannan Meats supplies about 300 hotels and restaurants and has six vans on the road.  Those vans cover all of Northern Ireland every day, with produce also being shipped to England, including to London.

 

The business now has 31 full time staff, plus others who work part time.  The Hannan Meats operation has a turnover of about £8m a year, though there are also other operating companies in the group.

 

“Beef is the biggest part of our business,” explains Peter.  “We developed an aging process which uses Himalayan salt.  The whole process is very scientific and it means we can age beef in the proper environment.  It gives it the right flavour.”

 

After building a new chamber for the process, demand quickly outstripped capacity and a new facility had to be built to expand supply. “We are also dry cure a lot of bacon, which we are very enthusiastic about,” continues Peter.

 

“We think we can make bacon as it used to be.  Proper dry cured traditional bacon.  We have managed to achieve that in our trials, so we are looking to roll out production of this exceptionally high quality dry cured bacon product.”

 

Much of the growth and strong reputation of Hannan Meats has been down to its success in winning food quality awards.   Recent prizes include the product of the Year at the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards in March and a Farmers Journal award earlier this month.

 

In total, Hannan Meats has won 20 food quality awards.  The most impressive of these was a Gold 3 star award for its Moyallon Guanciale – an unsmoked Italian bacon which is prepared using the pig’s cheeks – placing it as one of the top 50 food products in the UK.

 

The year before, the same product was awarded the title of ‘Supreme Champion’ in an event sponsored by Fortnum & Mason.  The prize impressed the quality retailer so much that it set-up a meeting with Peter for the following day, which led to a contract to supply some of its excellent beef products.

 

“We launched with them about four weeks ago,” explains Peter.  “It has gone tremendously well.  We have just done a two day promotion with Fortnum & Mason.  They are absolutely delighted with the way things are going and we are ourselves.”

 

The reputation the business has gained in the wholesale market has led to it also having a growing presence locally in the retail trade, through its Meat Merchant, which opened three years ago adjacent to the Moira factory.

 

“We had people coming to the door,” says Peter.  “It was getting out of hand, so we had to build across from the factory.  Three months later we had to extend its opening times.”

 

After being open at launch for one and a half days a week, the Meat Merchant now operates from Monday morning to Saturday lunchtime.  “We have over 2,000 customers a week,” says Peter.  “It is wholesale to the general public – the same quality and price as to our restaurants.  People seem to love it.”

 

The key to the business’s success is simple, believes Peter – quality.   “People are eating less meet, but better meat and we are meeting that demand,” he says.  “If people are eating a steak once a week they expect a better steak.”