John Walshe

Callan Bacon Company

Business Purpose

Callan Bacon is a specialist in sliced bacon and is the largest producer of consumer bacon joints in Ireland.


Personal Bio

John Walshe is a Chartered Accountant with wide experience in industry in Ireland, UK and South Africa.  In 1985 he became MD of Callan Bacon Company Ltd when the business was purchased by his parent’s company M&M Walshe Ltd.  Callan Bacon at that time had 12 employees and operated in a 200 year old building.  John purchased a five acre site just outside Callan in 1988 and a new factory was completed in April 1990.  Since then the company has expanded rapidly and now employs over 200 people with a turnover of €56m.  The company also completed a 36000 ft expansion in 2010.  In November 2011, John purchased the Rib World business in Clonmel which employs 70 people.  John has continued his personal and professional development in order to meet the continuously changing business environment.  Last year, John completed the Leadership 4 Growth programme ran by IMD (Switzerland) under the auspices of Enterprise Ireland with 26 other CEOs from the food industry.  John is married to Marie and they have three children, Michelle, Paul and Nicola.  Michelle and Paul work in the business and are the fourth generation of the family to work in the business.


Company Profile

Callan Bacon Co. is a fourth generation family business which was established in 1924.  It presently has a turnover of over €50m which represents a growth of approximately 100% in just 3 years with just over 200 employed today.  This growth was spearheaded by John Walshe (Managing Director) and his experienced senior management team.  The success of the company was recently recognised when it was awarded the accolade of Best Managed Company.

Backed by 90 years of tradition, Callan Bacon is the bacon specialist supplying bacon through the UK and Ireland.  In the past 3 years alone, Callan Bacon has picked up 12 awards including Blas na hEireann, The Grocer and Great Taste.

Callan is the largest producer of consumer bacon joints in Ireland with exports now accounting for 60% of the company’s turnover.  Over the years, Callan has always reinvested its profit back into the business and, as a result, Callan is now a world class facility.  A large extension was built in 2010 which trebled the size of the factory to 57,000 feet and positions it as the most modern and automated plant in the country.

Callan is the most efficient company in its sector.  Over the last 10 years a bespoke ERP system has been put in place which accurately measures the efficiency, giveaways and profit on each batch of product produced.  This provides the management with real time information allowing them to react and rectify any problem before it has a large impact on production.

Callan has a diverse customer base with customers in the retail, wholesale and catering business. Their main customers are retail based including Aldi Ire & UK, Lidl Ire & UK, Iceland Frozen Foods, Dunnes and Tesco.

In November 2011 M&M Walshe purchased the assets of Ribworld.  Since taking it over, the company has seen great success growing by over 50% with employee numbers growing from 35 to 76. Ribworld is based in Clonmel just 22 miles south of Callan and is a cooked pork specialist, specialising in ribs.  Since taking over the company,  M & M Walshe have introduced 2 successful new products to the range and 2 large retailers in ASDA and Iceland. Ribworld enjoys great success through Europe and has become the brand leader in Sweden.



What vision prompted you to start-up your business?

I always had a drive to build something for myself which would be both exciting and successful, something for everyone to be proud of.


What were the best & worst pieces of advice you received when starting out? The best was most definitely to work on the business not in the business and the worst … ‘sure it’ll do’.


How did you secure your first investment?

Enterprise Ireland were a major backer in the opening of our first green field site in 1990 which was the catalyst for our success.


What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it? When we lost our major customer exceptionally quickly, we were left very exposed, a real fight or flight moment. We came out fighting for every bit of business available and ensured we never left ourselves in a situation where we depended on one customer again.


What moment or deal would you identify as the “game changer” for the company?

The day we decided to stop dissembling pigs and only do things which added value for our customer.


What are the biggest challenges you face now?

The constant downward pressure on selling price whilst the cost of production continues to climb.


What is your greatest business achievement to date?

To take a green field site and create a profitable €55m company which has grown by 100% in the past 3 years and is continuing on that path.


What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?

  • Give value to the customer and build their trust.
  • At all times know your 3 important figures – margin, wages and overheads.
  • Invest in your team- they are your future.


Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?

Yes, one of my first business ventures was the tyre industry where we successfully sold the business on to Michelin.


Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?

Yes I think the Irish have a natural flair for business and developing relationships.


When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?

I always look for driven people who are generally over qualified for the job as they have the potential to grow the job and hence the company.

Year: 2013
Category: International
Sector: Agriculture


Email: info@calanbacon.com

Phone: +353 5677 25144

Address:  Callan Bacon, Westcourt, Callan, Co Kilkenny, Ireland