Kerrygold owner Ornua has reported higher revenues and operating profits for 2018 on the back of a "standout" year for its butter brand.

Ornua, the country's biggest exporter of dairy products, said its revenues for last year rose by 0.6% to €2.082 billion, while its operating profits increased by 14.8% to €35.2m.

Ornua exports to over 110 countries around the world and it sold a total of 3.4 billion litres of milk equivalent during the year.

Kerrygold is now the second biggest butter brand in the US with 2.6 million packets of butter sold each week there, while Kerrygold is also the fastest selling product of all food and drink brands in the German retail market. 

Ornua paid a total end of year bonus of €19m to its co-op members, an increase of 27% on 2017. 

Last year it bought 570 million litres of milk equivalent under fixed price contracts, helping to protect against volatility.  

Ornua said that it has been preparing for the potential impact of Brexit for the last two years, adding that planning for an event where the outcomes are still unclear has been a "significant challenge". 

It said that the UK remains a key strategic market for Ornua and any change in the status quo will create competitive challenges for Irish dairy exports. 

"Ornua has developed sales channels across a diverse range of markets and will continue to invest to minimise the potential impacts of any Brexit deal," it added.

John Jordan, Ornua's chief executive, said the exporter's strong trading performance in 2018 came despite a challenging global environment characterised by highly volatile butter prices, drought conditions in Europe, economic uncertainty due to Brexit and global trade wars.

"Our key focus for 2019 is to drive growth for our full brand portfolio and food ingredients businesses across our 110 markets and to continue to deliver value for the 14,000 dairy farmers we represent," Mr Jordan added.