With expansion into adjacent areas no longer possible, Waterford Co-op embarked on a further phase of expansion in other parts of Ireland and overseas in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This included Premier Dairies in Dublin, Virginia Milk Products in Cavan, a cheese factory in Armagh and substantial dairy operations in Britain and the USA. In moving overseas, once again Waterford Co-op beat a pioneering path which the other major dairy groups subsequently followed. In order to help finance these expansions, a new corporate structure was created whereby Waterford Co-op became a holding company with an operating subsidiary – Waterford Foods – which was given a remit to raise capital by issuing shares on the stock market. Eventually private shareholders owned one third of the company's equity.
Waterford Foods was now a substantial multinational company with almost 5,000 employees, two thirds of whom were located abroad, and a turnover which exceeded the £1 billion mark in 1996. Having the headquarters of such a large firm located in Dungarvan was a major boost to the town. Of the 500 people employed directly by the company there, 200 were engaged in managerial, administrative, professional, and scientific functions, thus providing a broader employment profile than would normally be found in a town of this size. In addition, there were many spin-offs to local businesses in such areas as legal, financial and technical services, office supplies, transport and restaurants.
Author: Proinnsias Breathnach