Belfast company Maud’s Ice Cream is aiming to triple its exports by 2003 and has invested £750,000 (US$1.7m) to help it meet this goal.

The company has relocated its production facility from Glenoe, near Larne, as well as its distribution centre in Antrim to a new 10,000 sq ft purpose-built factory in Carrickfergus. The move will enable Maud’s Ice Cream to cut operating costs and improve efficiency, which it hopes will provide it with the additional firepower to grow its business beyond Northern Ireland.

The company currently has 18 employees but hopes to take on two more staff members by the end of next year. Plans are afoot to devote more marketing attention to the key export market of the Republic of Ireland, where it already services around 50 customers, reports the Belfast News Letter.

John Wilson, founder and managing director of Maud’s Ice Cream said the investment is a response to the continued high levels of demand for the company’s products in Northern Ireland and to exploit new business opportunities pinpointed in the Republic.

The company is also launching a new 500ml tub aimed at the take-home market, the fastest growing segment of the ice cream sector. It currently produces around 160 different flavours of ice cream including the bestseller Pooh Bear.