The Glorious Row – The Secret To Growing A Family Business

Written 2 years ago by Emma Comerford


Based in Kileigh, Co. Offaly Glenisk Ltd produce organic yogurt and milk and share a vision of an Organic Ireland. The story begins in 1957 when beef farmer Jack Cleary expanded his herd to include dairy cows before bottling his own milk. To add value to his raw material Glenisk Ltd was established in 1987, primarily as a yogurt producer. Now headed by Jack’s son Vincent Cleary, the company’s turnover has grown to over €25m  in 2017.

Here, Vincent talks openly about his family’s history, his late father’s legacy and how a “glorious row” in 1987 led him to leave  the company as “he [Jack Cleary] would have been the MD and I was one of his underlings so it was up to me to resign”.

This proved to be a pivotal phase of Vincent’s career and he returned in 1994 with a wealth of external knowledge and experience. His fathers untimely death propelled Vincent into the driving seat and to this day there are seven members of the Cleary Family involved in the running of the company.

Vincent also discusses Brexit (although currently Glenisk sell more yoghurt to the middle east than to the UK) and his view of Ireland as being the ‘food basket’ of Europe. He first became aware of this working in Germany as “we are the only country in Europe that can say we’re nuclear free and we’ve got a temperate climate so can produce grass all year round”.

In 2006 Stonyfield bought a 37% share in Glenisk Ltd. This brought about an injection of cash into the business and allowed the business to expand further and to build a new factory.

Crucially, it “professionalised us as a family” and “sibling infighting disappeared”.