Glenisk has produced its first cartons of goat’s milk since its Offaly factory was severely damaged in a fire earlier this week.
The company’s managing director, Vincent Cleary, said operations resumed on Saturday morning at the milk bottling plant on the same site, which was not affected by the blaze.
He told RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor radio show forensic examinations have been carried out but no conclusive cause for the fire has been determined.
He said more detail is expected on Monday, but there was a possibility old wiring was linked to last Monday’s fire, which caused extensive damage but no injuries.
The small bottling plant will be used as the company’s core manufacturing base along with some other temporary buildings to help restore some operations.
“We won’t have the full suite of products, but it will be a start,” he said, adding that he is aiming to be back to yoghurt production by Christmas. The company members have “regrouped” and are “coming up with a plan”, he added.
Glenisk, which is the largest yoghurt brand in Ireland, employs 90 staff members, many of whom have been working there for 20 years.
“They are an extension of our family…. They are skilled so I can’t afford to let them go and go hunting for them ‘x’ number of months afterwards,” he said, adding that they will be put to work in “creative” ways.
Glenisk also has a “duty of care” to its 50 organic milk farmers, whose produce will be used or diverted in this recovery period, he said.
A self-described optimist, Mr Cleary said he hopes “the tears are behind us and it’s forward-looking now”.
“The generosity out there is just mindblowing. The support and everything that is coming in for us,” he said. A retired couple from Co Cork said they “didn’t have much”, but they offered a donation of €1,000, while another Cork man offered to pay €10,000, he added.
Every milk co-operative on this island and from overseas have offered support, while help has also been forthcoming from “everyone from the Taoiseach’s office right down to our courier who comes in every day and was standing in our yard yesterday in tears”, he said.