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Jelly bean makers defy wobbly Irish economy

From Isa Soares, CNN
January 17, 2013 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
  • The Jelly Bean Factory has a turnover of 11 million euros ($14.6 million) a year
  • The sweet maker expects the company to double its growth over the next two years
  • Managing Director Richard Cullen believes Ireland's EU status is helping the company

(CNN) -- Booms, busts and bubbles are all jargon you might associate with today's troubled Irish economy. But now you can add "beans" to that list.

The Jelly Bean Factory -- a father-and-son start-up -- is defying a difficult Irish economic climate with a turnover of 11 million euros ($14.6 million) a year.

The sweet maker is refining the art of gourmet confectionery, teaming up with corporate giants including GlaxoSmithKline to produce specially designed jelly beans.

Richard Cullen, managing director of The Jelly Bean Factory, told CNN: "We make their energy sports beans under the brand Lucozade, we also partner with a Finnish company called Panda and we sell that into the Finnish market and also into the U.S. market."

The business, founded in 1998 by father Peter Cullen and son Richard, produces 12 million jelly beans a day and exports the sugary treats to more than 55 countries worldwide. The company expects growth to double over the next two years.

Before the financial crisis of 2008, Ireland's economy was known as the "Celtic Tiger" due to its rapid economic expansion and property boom.

Cullen said: "Setting up manufacturing in Ireland at the height of the Celtic Tiger was a challenge in itself - just trying to find a property that we could afford was difficult, but then finding a workforce in those early stages was very difficult as well."

The Celtic Tiger stumbled after Ireland's banking crisis and the collapse of its construction sector. A member of the 17-nation single currency, Ireland is now undergoing a harsh austerity program and grappling with high unemployment.

And as one of the three member states to receive financial aid from the eurozone's rescue funds, Ireland is also is also trying to repay a 67 billion euro ($89 billion) bailout to creditors.

But despite the country's economic woes and the problems plaguing the eurozone, Cullen believes Ireland's place in the 27-nation European Union is "definitely" helping the business.

Food regulation within the EU is tight but the Jelly Bean Factory is meticulous in its production. It takes two weeks to craft each of the individual 36 flavours, from Cranberry and apple to Belgian chocolate.

Cullen told CNN: "We transformed our business; we only use natural colours and natural flavours, so we don't have to put any health warnings on our products."

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report.

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