A CO Down artisan food manufacturer is to create up to 125 new jobs after a £17 million investment in its bacon production premises.

Downpatrick-based Finnebrogue has launched the recruitment drive following the establishment of a new manufacturing facility for its nitrite-free bacon.

The company has pledged that the new roles, 30 of which are in place, will be filled by 2022 and add £3m in annual salaries to the local economy.

Production of ‘Naked Bacon’ began last year in Downpatrick and for the first time in the UK and Ireland nitrite-free bacon is now widely available in leading supermarkets.

Such has been the popularity to date, the company, which is also the UK’s leading top tier sausage maker, is anticipating that sales of its popular bacon product will reach £23m in three years.

Denis Lynn, chairman of Finnebrogue Artisan said a commitment to make food “better and safer” inspired the creation of Naked Bacon.

“We always set out to make food the best it can be, without being bound by the way it has always been done. And so, after much research, we discovered a process that uses fruit and spice extracts to flavour the pork, keep it pink and retain shelf life.

“We are using this technology in our Naked Bacon and we’ve had a great response from both retailers and consumers.”

Business support body, Invest NI has offered Finnebrogue over £1.3m of financial support towards the capital investment (£710,350) and new jobs (£625,000).

Brian Dolaghan, executive director of business and sector development at Invest NI added:

“Agri-food is one of our priority sectors and it is great to see the new facility operational and producing this cutting-edge product. Our support is ensuring Finnebrogue is able to capitalise on its innovation and realise growth.”

Finnebrogue Artisan also produces and sells ‘The Good Little Company’ range of healthy sausages and recently opened a £3m vegetarian factory, which it has said could create as many as 90 jobs.

The opening of the factory marks a significant up-scaling of the firm’s meat-free production and is expected to have a turnover of £30m a year when at full capacity.

Founded in 1985, Finnebrogue is one of the fastest growing food manufacturers in the UK and employs almost 500 people, with company turnover now in excess of £90m.