However, the entire edifice of Waterford Co-op, including Dungarvan Creamery, was to be swept away in the ensuing years. The first tentative moves at a merger between Waterford and Avonmore were made in 1991, but fell through. However, negotiations were resumed in 1997 and carried through to fruition, culminating in the creation of Glanbia, the fourth largest industrial firm in Ireland and the fourth largest dairy processor in Europe. In the major restructuring which followed the merger, the headquarters function was centralised in Kilkenny, although a back-office administrative function was retained in Dungarvan. More significantly, a decision was made to centralise milk processing at the main Avonmore plant at Ballyragget in north Kilkenny, which was both more modern and had twice the capacity of the Dungarvan plant. As a result, the Dungarvan plant was dismantled and the site sold for redevelopment as a shopping centre. Today, there is virtually no evidence left of an entity which, for several decades, was the mainstay of the town's economy and whose towering buildings dominated the urban landscape.
There is no doubt that, in an increasingly competitive international market place, rationalisation was needed in the Irish dairy industry. Even Glanbia is small by comparison with the big dairy companies in Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand and it is likely that further amalgamations will be required if Ireland is to survive in this market place. Such amalgamations always require restructuring which benefit some locations at the expense of others. It is ironic that Dungarvan, which pioneered the amalgamation process in the Irish dairy industry, should itself fall foul of a process which it put in train itself.
Author: Proinnsias Breathnach