Oatfield Sweets began as a wholesale and retail outlet on the Port Road in Letterkenny. The company was first founded by Ira and Haddon McKinney in 1927. The McKinney family began to make their own sweets and on 15 August 1927. The first sweets were made on the open coke fire in a shed at the back of the shop. The land on which the factory now stands was purchased in November 1929, the first sod was cut in February 1930. Six people were employed at the time. The company at the time was known as Mayfield Confectionery but the name was quickly changed as another company in Manchester traded by this name. The company name was changed to Oatfield. The land on which the factory is built was known as Oatfield. The May was dropped and Oat was substituted and hence the name “Oatfield”. The weekly production of confectionery was about 3 tons. Sugar was purchased in the 1930s from Tate & Lyle. Glucose came from Manchester. They were delivered by ship and rail via Derry to Letterkenny railway station. Later, glucose was shipped from Holland to the Letterkenny Port. Today, only Irish sugar and Irish glucose are used. Butter has always been Irish Creamery Butter.
By 1960 Oatfield decided to stop marketing packed sweets made by Cadburys, Rowntree, Urney’s Chocolates, Bassetts Licorice Allsorts, Jacobs Biscuits, William and Wood, Ritchies Mints and Milroy Confectionery. The company now began to focus on entirely selling Oatfield sweets. This was a major decision and proved a major success for the company.
Exporting began in August 1964. The first sweets were exported to Northern Ireland. The sweets are exported on a worldwide scale which includes countries as far away as the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Kuwait, Greece and France to name a few.
Donegal Creameries PLC purchased the company in February 1999 for £783,750. In 2007 Zed Candy, an Irish confectionery company famous for its Chewing Gum, bought the brand from Donegal Creameries.
In 2012, the owners of Oatfield Sweets, Zed Candy, decided to close the Letterkenny factory on May 27th with production being switched to England. The move sees 17 workers lose their jobs and will bring an end to one of Co Donegal’s most famous firms. At the height of its production, Oatfield employed 85 workers and produced sweets such as Orange Chocolates and Irish Butter Toffee.
End of an era for Donegal and Ireland...