Inside the opportunity

We took some time to speak to Montgomery Food International about their business and their plans going forward.



Rhonda, how did you get into the business of consultancy and how have you become to create three sub brands?

I identified a niche in the market 8 years ago offering interim technical support to small/medium sized businesses that needed BRC and SALSA certification.  This concept works well and still does to this day as it is the main contributor to sales in the company.  In 2011 new EC legislation was enforced into the food industry associated with food labeling and food nutrition and I focused my concentration on a new market which was butchers.  I created a new sub brand called Butchery Excellence in 2014 which now has a membership base of 120 butchers in Ireland.  Opportunities grew within the butchery sector, therefore I identified this early in the process and created my own events for the butchery sector such as All Ireland Competitions, my own Butchery Trade Show and Annual Gala Dinner for our members.  These events draw in an additional income to the company and it is growing year on year.  Due to the success of Butchery Excellence, I have implemented the same model into the hospitality sector and created a new sub brand called Hospitality Excellence which will offer restaurants, cafes and takeaways interim technical support and food nutritional services to keep their hygiene score ratings of 5 on the door and exceed customer expectations offering calories and food nutrition on menus as part of their membership fee.

What are your plans over the next 5 years?

We are now on the World Butchers Council in New Zealand for World Butchers Challenge.  We hosted the biggest World Butchers Challenge in its history last year which involved a study tour for 280 people, Gala dinner that seated 500 people and organised a Trade Show that attracted over 10,000 visitors to Ireland to exhibit and visit the World Butchers Challenge.  The highlight of this event was my team, they won the World Title that year for the first time.  This event cost a lot of money to run, however it strengthened our brand, built confidence among our butchery community and opened the doors for business among the butchery sector across the world particularly in Great Britain, Scotland, Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand.

I am growing our network of corporate members e.g. we have created a membership for corporate businesses to offer their services to butchers.  We have created sponsorship for our annual gala awards, team Ireland and our Annual Butcher Show.  Our butcher show is going to the next level October next year where we will host the event in the Eikon Centre in Lisburn and we will be organising this event ourselves instead of getting involved with exhibition companies as we have three years experience in organising our own show.  With these additional cash flow streams, the company will be come more profitable over the next 5 years.

In five years time we will be in the position to split all sub brands into four separate companies e.g. Montgomery Food Consulting, Butchery Excellence, Hospitality Excellence and a new Events Company.  I have a vision to launch our own franchise for Hospitality Excellence in the UK in the next two years and Butchery Excellence to countries that do not have a butchery organisation. I am also in talks with current butchery bodies to partner with us so we can offer our services to them to increase their memberships in the UK and Scotland and in return increase our sales.  We have the best business model in food consultancy in the World in the food industry.

Have you identified any more niche markets in the food sector?

Yes we have.  We are at present working along side Invest NI to develop a new breadcrumb and batter mixes for our butchers to use as excluive products that cannot be bought anywhere else.  We are working on a new brand name and logo for this product range and hope to launch early March 2019.  The doors have already opened for this product to be sold in Scotland, GB and elsewhere with our contacts made through World Butchers Challenge.  We are very excited about launching our own product range into butcher shops next year.

What changes have you seen in the food industry over the years?

The food sector has become very challenging for small/medium sized businesses as customer expectations have grown to the point that they are struggling to keep on top these demands.  A move in food businesses including restaurants providing nutritional information is going to become mandatory in the next year.  To provide this information entails a lot of work in recipes to provide this information.  Hygiene scores on the doors are now mandatory to display in N.Ireland, therefore if a business looses their 5 on annual inspection and is reduced to e.g. 2 it can have detrimental effects on sales.  For these reasons Hospitality Excellence has been launched to help business stay ahead of the game and their competitiors.

A huge increase in  the number of product recalls associated with undeclared allergens and listeria monocyotgenes is becoming more apparent each week in the food industry.  We help our clients to ensure that supplier approval, food labeling, specifications and listeria controls are being adhered to in this forever changing industry.  There have been more recalls in the last 12 months that are costing companies millions of pounds, because the procedures they are following are not sufficient enough to eliminate these problems.  That is where our expertise is required.

There is a steady increase in the number of butchers that are becoming EC approved and selling product outside of their county which is great to see.  They are becoming small factories in their own identify and brand which is giving them opportunities to export over the border and vice versa.  There are a lot of small artisan producers popping up all over the UK and Ireland as well selling anything e.g. butter, jam, sauces, cheese etc.  This move is clearly evident from the number of company exhibiting at trade shows etc.  This will continue to grow over the coming years.

How will BREXIT impact your business?

When it comes to BREXIT, I feel that a business person needs to step in and tell the Government what they need to do. In my opinion Ireland has a border on the Irish Sea already as goods are checked by customs at our ports and passports are checked at our airports.  Why reinvent the wheel? Just increase the checks that are already being made currently.  The costs of my services will increase in the Republic of Ireland as I will have to start paying ROI VAT as currently we are zero rated exempt.  We have had to open two new offices in London and Dublin in order to prepare for BREXIT, even though we don’t know what is ahead nor have received any advice regarding BREXIT.

What makes you stand out from your competitors?

We are a proactive company.  We look at trends and movements in the food industry on a daily basis, we are constantly trying to improve our clients businesses and our own by being innovative, increasing our product offering and staying ahead of the game.  We find competitors are copying us, however they don’t do it so well.  Its all about good leadership skills to deliver and being creative in our approach and ability to act quickly in industry to create sub streams and ideas within your own organisation to drive improvement.

How has the Internet impacted on the food industry?

The internet has impacted on the food industry in a major way.  if a food company has a product recall or withdrawal it is on the public domain for life.  Due to social media being so viral now, news can spread in seconds from people liking and sharing posts.  A company can be ruined overnight by social media posts that are portraying bad stories as the media picks up on them very quickly through social media. The strength of social media now cannot be under estimated, therefore companies need to ensure they have the right people in the right jobs to ensure systems are in place to avoid product recalls and withdrawals.

Predictions in Industry?

In the future I can see that if a butcher does not sell ready meals as well as raw meat and develop their businesses into food halls, they may not survive.  I can see factories employing people to work specifically on ingredients used to make food products and not just supplier approval.  the factories are finding it harder to keep food labels up to date, therefore people will be employed to look after labels for products and not just current specification writers.  I can see an opportunity for an expert to come on board with the FSA to help them eliminate the Listeria Monocytogenes problem we have in the RTE sector of the food industry and advise companies on what they need to do to protect themselves from a recall.

All paperwork and systems will be computerised from auditing to record keeping and label control.  Systems will be in place on line so that all customers can see factory grades and I suspect that the Republic of Ireland and rest of Europe will introduce Hygiene Scores on Doors for all food businesses to keep on trend with the UK.  Technology will become so advanced, it will become cheaper to implement such systems that appear expensive now.

The price of food is going to increase dramatically over the coming months as the cloud of BREXIT hangs over us as the price of raw material and packaging is going to hit companies in Ireland hard.  A breath of fresh air is needed in Westminster soon to give us the confidence that we as a nation are going to be ok.



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