Ornua’s board of directors and its global teams have paid tribute to the late Sir Anthony O’Reilly, creator of the world-renowned Kerry gold brand, who died on Saturday after a short illness. He was aged 88.

As the first CEO of An Bord Bainne, he was responsible for creating the much-loved Kerrygold brand in 1962.

Some 60 suggested names were originally put forward for the new brand to represent Irish dairy products abroad.

They included Buttercup, Shannon Gold, Leprechaun, Tub-o-gold, Golden Farm and Kerrygold, with the latter going on to become a world-famous brand now recognised across the globe.

By 1989, Bord Bainne turnover hit €1bn and, in 1991, Kerrygold cheese was launched in the US, followed by Kerrygold butter in 1999.

Kerrygold Irish butter

In 2013, the Kerrygold brand value reached €500m and in 2019, Kerrygold became the first Irish food brand to exceed €1bn annual retail value.

Last year, Kerrygold retained its position as the number one branded butter in Germany and the number one imported butter in the US.


“Ahead of his time, Sir Anthony O’Reilly was a trailblazer. He had the vision, energy and optimism to create a brand for Irish dairy that would reflect the unique quality of grass-fed Irish milk in what at the time was a commodity market,” a statement from Ornua outlined.

“This vision would define the future of the industry, bringing Irish food to a world stage and great joy to millions of consumers in markets around the world, as well as supporting the livelihoods of Irish dairy farming families across rural Ireland.”

It added that the Dublin-born businessman would be warmly remembered as “the legend who brought Irish dairy to the world” and the Ornua board members extended their deepest condolences to the O’Reilly family.

‘Unique and extraordinary achievements’

A statement from the O’Reilly family read: "In the coming days, there will be many worthy tributes made to Tony O’Reilly’s unique and extraordinary achievements in the fields of business and sport.

“As well as his extraordinary philanthropic vision, which was best evidenced by the establishment of the Ireland Funds at a dark time in this island’s history.

"But, for us, he was a dearly-loved dad and a granddad.

"He lived one of the great lives and we were fortunate to spend time with him in recent weeks as that great life drew to a close."