Lily O’Brien’s boosts profits as chocolate sales increase

Irish chocolate maker Lily O’Brien’s sales rose nearly 17 percent to €26.4 million last year as it benefited from strong growth in its core markets of Ireland and the UK.

The profit almost tripled to 150,000 euros. The company is owned by the Polish group Colian Holdings.

Newly submitted accounts for the company show improved performance in 2021.

Directors of the Kildare-based company noted that 2021 was a “much improved year” for the company, with sales up €3.8m, driven by Ireland and the UK.

“These markets have stabilized since the pandemic and directors are confident in their ability to further advance the strategic growth plan for the business in these core retail markets,” they note in the financial statements.

“The legacy of the pandemic continues to impact global airlines and hospitality, which are the Group’s key foodservice distribution channels,” they add. “These distribution channels have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Directors said the company will continue to develop sales in 2022 to deliver sustainable, profitable growth over the long term.

Lily O’Brien’s was started in 1992 by Mary O’Brien from her own kitchen. She eventually secured major deals with supermarkets and airlines, including Aer Lingus and British Airways. In 1997, she and her husband Jonathan Irwin established the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation.

A joint venture between US private equity group Carlyle and Dublin-based Cardinal Capital, Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, acquired an approximately 80 percent stake in Lily O’Brien’s for €15 million in early 2017.

This also meant the well-known Queally family exited the business, with the meat dynasty becoming investors as early as 1995.

The chocolate company had 10 inquiries after scouting potential buyers.

Less than a year later, Carlyle and management sold the chocolatier to Poland’s Colian Holdings for €40 million.

Colian owns a number of chocolate brands such as Elizabeth Shaw and Solidarność.

Last year Colian consolidated its Lily O’Brien’s and Elizabeth Shaw businesses in the UK to form Colian UK. This unit is now responsible for Lily O’Brien brand sales in the UK.

Colian UK’s accounts show that sales rose 73 per cent to £13.4m (€15.6m) last year, with pre-tax profit nearly doubling to £396,000.

Colian UK Directors note that the enhanced brand portfolio has enabled the company to forge better relationships with its key UK grocery customers, which include Tesco. Lily O’Brien’s boosts profits as chocolate sales increase

Fry Electronics Team

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