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New owner sets out plans for Northern Ireland’s Abernethy Butter

Posted: 6 June 2024

By Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Peter Hannan

Abernethy Butter’s new owner, Peter Hannan, has promised that the much-loved hand-churned product will not be diluted under his stewardship. The founder of premium meat supplier, Hannan Meats, acquired the business in March, after founders Will and Allison Abernethy put in on the market last summer.

Hannan, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2021 for his contribution to Economic Development in Northern Ireland, said he received a phone call saying the deal the Abernethys had struck which had fallen through, but that the couple was set on retiring. 

“I said to myself, ‘Abernethy Butter can’t disappear.’ Will and Alison are very, very entitled to retire, but it was like losing the star player off the team, Northern Ireland without Abernethy Butter. I just couldn’t see it.”

The Abernethys started selling their hand churned Irish butter in 2005, using milk from a dairy in the couple’s hometown of Dromara, County Down. Over the years, the distinctive patted rolls of butter have built up something of a cult following, with listings in Michelin-starred restaurants, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, and a number of awards including Great Taste and Northern Ireland’s Blas na hÉireann. 

Production will be moved to Hannan’s new premises in the Moira area, a 10,000 square foot site and former pub, and ramped up to meet high demand for the butter. Ateam of four will be responsible for production. Hannan told FFD that as well as SALSA approval, and some “exciting” plans further down the line, an increase in production was on the cards, but only so as to sell more of it to restaurants, fine food retailers and bakeries.

“We certainly don’t intend to flood the market, but we’d like to make it more widely available to more people because historically there was only a certain amount of it,” he said.

“This was never a commercial decision. It never will be commercial. It’s always been about the product. We love sharing food. We love making food for people to enjoy, and that’s what we want to do with Abernethy.

This article first appeared in the June 2024 edition of Fine Food Digest .