The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Mary Harney, has officially opened a new €40m production facility in Waterford city on behalf of Diageo, the company that produces Guinness.

The new state-of-the-art plant, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland, has commenced production of the 'essence of Guinness' at the riverside site on Mary Street, where brewing has been taking place for more than 200 years.

The essence, which is known as the special ingredient for the drink, will be exported to each of the 50 countries where Guinness is brewed.

The facility was secured for the city after an extensive review by Diageo Global Supply of potential locations involving both existing and new global sites.

It represents one of the largest private investments ever made on a single site in Waterford.

The Tánaiste said: 'This type of high-end investment will copper-fasten Diageo's presence in Waterford well into the 21st century. As sales of Guinness in far-flung locations continue to grow in the years ahead, it is to be hoped that production here in Waterford will continue to expand.'

Diageo says that, at full production, the plant will have the capacity to produce the special ingredient for 550 million pints of Guinness per annum.