Making it Work

That’s a wrap: bread business Safa Food bounces back from catastrophic fire

Family firm is back in expansion mode after a difficult few years

Liam Lynch, general manager of Safa foods: ‘The one thing we need to work more on is to shout about how good the product is.’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

Safa Food, a breads business based in west Dublin, is expanding into the Nordic region as it continues its rebound from a disaster that nearly destroyed the company three years ago. The company was founded by Ahmed Roshdi in 2004. It has 24 staff at present and recorded turnover of €4 million in 2023. Safa Food produces Lebanese and Mediterranean-style breads and wraps.

The business has made an extraordinary comeback since a major fire destroyed its site and all of the assets therein. It went from a €9 million annual turnover business to staring down extinction overnight.

“It burned nearly everything down to the ground. Luckily nobody was injured. At that time, Ahmed was in the process of building the business up. We had a third-party contract for export for a niche gluten-free product,” Liam Lynch, general manager of Safa Food, told the Business Post.

Company Details

Founded by: Ahmed Roshdi in 2004

Staff: 52

Turnover: €4 million

“The insurance didn’t cover it due to a technicality. We lost nearly 20 years of Ahmed’s hard work and graft overnight. Luckily, Ahmed had just started on a new site which is where we are located now.”

The business is currently exporting its products to Britain, Spain, France and Germany as well as selling in Ireland. It expects to add Denmark, Finland and Norway as markets this year. Lynch joined the business after the fire, using his three decades in food consultancy to help save the company.

“I was approached to have a look at the business because it was going through a turbulent time. I saw how genuine Ahmed and his son Abdul are. I jumped on board and started reaching out to contacts to get us back on the growth path,” Lynch said.

“We went from €9 million turnover to €1.6 million. We’ve grown that back to €4 million and are projecting around €6.5 million in 2024.”

Lynch approached Enterprise Ireland to seek its advice and support as he worked alongside Roshdi to rebuild the company.

“I had worked closely with Enterprise Ireland through other companies I’ve been involved with over the years. They were supportive from the start and have remained so ever since,” he said. “They already knew the company well. We were able to get grants to purchase machinery working through them.”

In addition to increasing its international presence, Safa Food has expanded from being a wholesale-only business to developing a retail offering at the end of 2022. The Safa brand can be seen in Lidl, SuperValu and other stores.

“The one thing we need to work more on is to shout about how good the product is. Safa used to really be in the wholesale sector but we’re in retail now. We’re promoting the brand more now and getting the name out there,” Lynch said.

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland