Meet the Producer… Cian from Pure Food

Pure Food CoCian and Paul from Pure Food Co first brought home to Waterford a Gold award for their Sundried Tomato & Chilli Pesto as well as a Best in Farmers Market Award in 2015, taking home another Gold in 2016 along with Best in Waterford and Best in Farmer’s Market for Waterford. You can find their products all over Ireland, check where your nearest shop is here

You can find more details on Pure Food Co and our other winners and finalists in our 2016 Directory or you can find more details and updates from Cian & Paul on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/purefoodcompany

 

When & why did you start your business?
We set up the business in March 2014. Both myself and Paul are Qualified Horticulturists and we met while teaching a course on growing veg organically. We decided to give up on the teaching (for now) and set up our own business producing our own range of herbs and leaves one drunken evening over a bottle of brandy! We both love to be outdoors in the garden (Cian won RTEs Supergarden and subsequently went on to receive a Silver medal at Bloom in the Park in 2014) and foraging for our native species of edible plants and fruit.

We soon came to realise that we could not compete with the big boys and decided that we needed to use our fresh produce to create our own unique products. We produced a range of pickles, relishes and preserves.

We had a glut of spinach on the allotment one week and we decided to make it into a pesto for the local market and it sold out within a couple of hours and we thought “Aha. . . we may have stumbled on something here!” We then began to experiment making all sorts of pesto from nettle to wild garlic to sundried tomato. I think at one point we were making 12 different types! Over the next year through research, tastings and markets we whittled the range down to the four we have today. We were not able to keep up with the demand of growing our own herbs and we now get our herbs from reputable Irish suppliers.

Who is your food inspiration?
Well I grew up eating both my parents’ home cooking which I guess is where my love of food came from. They are both very good cooks so I was brought up eating good, nutritious and wholesome foods.  I am told that there was nothing I wouldn’t eat (except olives though that has been remedied!) growing up. I never really cooked until I moved out of home and had to learn by myself through experimenting . . . some worked, some failed hilariously!

Now I get my inspiration from the many, many wonderful chefs we have in this country from Neven Maguire and Dylan McGrath to Oliver Dunne and so on. I am still experimenting at home and have been recently trialling some of Dearbhla Reanolds fermentation recipies and techniques.

Inspiration for food though can come from anywhere, from my travels, to people I have met; some of the small producers in this country are making some truly inspirational food.

What do you love about your job?
What do I love about my job? Hmmmm . . .  I just love producing healthy food that makes people happy, it’s as simple as that really.  I love when customers come back to us thanking us and singing our praises but for me, I like the idea that I am doing my bit and helping fight this whole obesity epidemic by producing simple healthy food.

What is your typical day?
I have two types of typical days. My working day and my days off which are becoming increasingly rarer these days!

A typical work day involves getting up at 4.30 or 5 and picking up herbs for the day’s production. We only use the freshest locally sourced herbs we can find. Then it is out to the kitchen for a 12 to 16 hour day of production. It is a long and tiresome day but we insist on the freshest possible product going out to our customers so we make to order and have it sent out within 24 hours. Days off are spent relaxing in the outdoors with my partner Kelda and little boy Rowan.

What was your best day since you started this business?
Winning the Blas na hEireann awards two years running is up there but for me personally it has to be the day we secured the deals with our wonderful distributor National Organic Products and Dunne’s Stores. These two deals propelled us from being an expensive hobby local producer to a National producer. You can now get our range in Supervalu stores nationwide, selected Dunne’s Stores nationwide and a host of independent stores nationwide.

Where do your ingredients come from?
All our ingredients are locally sourced. Our herbs come from McCormack’s family farm in Co. Meath.

Tell us about the people you work with
Paul is my business partner and the less said about him the better!

On a more serious note. . Paul looks after the business aspect of the company and were it not for him we would not be where we are today. He has tirelessly communicated and harassed at times to broker deals to push the business forward. Paul I tip my hat to you, you do a thankless job that I could never do. There have been times when I was down and feeling that this was never going to work but Paul kept on pushing (sometimes it seems pulling moneys out of nowhere to keep us afloat) and in the end succeeded on getting us through our bad spells.

It helps that we get on well together and have a friendship outside the business. We never shut off but we can have the banter be it in the kitchen or around a campfire in the woods with a beer in hand.

What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Tenacity, Ambition and Creativity.

What do you think is the key to success?
Patience and stubborness.  We have been at this now for over three years and are only in the last couple of months beginning to see the fruits of our labour. It has been three very difficult years for both of our families but the corner has now been turned. We set up the business with nothing and promised ourselves that we would not get into debt building the business. We have been true to our word, every penny the company has made has been reinvested to help it grow. It has got us tom where we are now but by god has it been a hard slog.

 

Priory Press Packaging to sponsor at this year’s Blas na hEireann

We are  delighted to welcome Priory Press Packaging as a sponsor of the 2017 Blas na hEireann, The Irish Food Awards. Priory Press have developed strong working relationships with previous winners and are proud to be sponsoring the Best Packaging Awards which are presented jointly with our academic partners UCC. 

For the overall judging of Blas na hEireann it is, as always, blind tasted and judged using sensory analysis without any scoring for packaging, marketing or design. However, in addition to the overall competition every entry which is delivered for tasting is also reviewed by the UCC packaging team, who specialise in this area. This is an additional opportunity to be recognised and in a separate judging process the UCC judges are looking for packaging design and innovation, an honour which has been presented by the UCC team, our academic partners, since the very beginning of the Blas na hEireann awards. It is wonderful to welcome Priory Press on board this year to jointly present this award with UCC.

Priory Press PackagingPriory Press Packaging are carton board packaging printers, who provide innovative packaging concepts for a variety of industry sectors. Specialising in printed sleeves and retail boxes for the food industry, the Northern Irish based company has developed a wide portfolio of clientele throughout the UK and Ireland. With over 40 years in the printing industry, their expertise in printing, the finishing services they offer such as window patching, foil blocking and UV varnish, and the quality of the packaging they produce explains why they work so closely with a number of large multiples in the retail trade as well as many small to medium producers.

Their tailored and personal approach to finding the perfect printed carton board packaging solutions for their customers is what sets Priory Press Packaging apart from the rest. Working to tight deadlines, responding to promotional sales, and providing product pitch marketing samples are just some of the reasons they have maintained long term working relationships with customers like Tesco Ireland, Lidl and Aldi, Foods of Athenry, and Unimush to name but a few.

At the start of 2017, Priory Press Packaging were awarded with a Grade AA in BRC accreditation which insists on a high hygiene and safer production environment using BRC compliant board and low migration inks for safer packaging to provide an assured supply chain for food packaging. Located just 20 minutes from Belfast, the company has a full production factory including facilities such as a design studio and photographic kitchen for customers who require full branding and artwork creation.

 

 

The best of Irish Food – Meet the producer, Steph at WeeChoCo

WeeChoCo from Co Down were a Bronze winner in 2016 for their Sea Salt Chocolate Bar. WeeChoco

You will find more details on their website or find out more details on great producers from Down and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016

Here’s what Steph has to say about WeeChoCo and what they do….

Wee ChoCo is a Community Interest Company which was developed in 2015 we hand-craft a range of delicious chocolate products for retail outlets. We also create a range of personalised chocolate items for corporate events and weddings. Our team combine the finest chocolate and ingredients to create bars with a difference.

Based in Moneyreagh Co. Down we provide day opportunities to people with learning difficulties and autism in Northern Ireland to gain work experience in a real factory setting.  Our profits go towards supporting and benefiting people with learning difficulties and autism in the local community.

What do you love about your job?
The reactions of the trainees when they have finally mastered the art of chocolate making is priceless. The pride they feel when they see our product on the shelves in shops and can’t wait to tell us all about it the next day they are in the factory.

What is your typical day?
Usually sleep in, panic and rush to get to the factory to begin the madness of chocolate making with usually 2-3 trainees depending on the day. We all plan what needs to be made that day and assign who is responsible for each task and which tasks would be better completed as a team.

WeeChoCo 2What was your best day since you started this business?
Not just winning our first food award in our first year of business but the best day was definitely seeing the reactions of the trainees when I took an award back to them. Talk about excited and bursting with pride.

Tell us about the people you work with
I work with people with learning difficulties and autism on a regular basis, they come to the factory once or twice a week and handmake our chocolate bars. Some who are interested in the office side of the business ring round to retailers and take orders over the phone as well as other paperwork etc that needs done. Some of the trainees want to work in sales they would attend events with us to build up their confidence and get to interact with the public and sell the product that they have made.

What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Fun/ Outgoing/ Friendly

What do you think is the key to success?
The key to success has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with. I am very lucky to have a very supportive and experienced family around me, and the trainees always give 110% into any task they are given.

EU & Irish Food Law Course with Irish Exporters Association

Irish ExportersIrish Exporters Association would like to offer Blas na hEireann Subscribers a 10% discount on their upcoming course on Food & Drink Regulations, an overview of EU & Irish Food Law

 

 

Food & Drink Regulation
An overview of EU and Irish food law
Dublin – Thursday, 23rd March – 9am – 2pm
Venue: Crowne Plaza, Northwood
This event has limited spaces.

What is covered?

  • Food law and liability
  • The cultural context of food law
  • Additives, processing aids and pesticides, (risk, legal issues and labelling approaches)
  • Approaches to food labelling regulations of the USA, EU, China & UK
  • Labelling law and genetically modified (GM) foods, gluten free, “organic”
  • Allergen (including nuts) statements
  • Halal, Kosher, & Vegan claims
  • Trademarks, imagery and packaging design protection in local and international markets
  • Key steps in dealing with legal actions by government agencies

Course Fees
IEA members : €399 /  Non IEA members : €599
10% discount if you quote Blas2017

For more info contact:
Fiona Luciani, Training Manager
fionaluciani@irishexporters.ie (01) 6612183

Niamh Burke, Training Assistant
niamhburke@irishexporters.ie (01) 6612182

 

A little peek behind the scenes at finalist judging 2016

JudgesOur Judges
Our judges come from a range of food backgrounds; they are chefs, restaurateurs, academics, journalists, authors, food champions, caterers and enthusiastic home cooks. Retailers with a vested interest or producers who have entered the competition are never involved in the judging process.

Watch a video of behind the scenes at judging in 2016 https://youtu.be/mxLLG4CX80c

Finding the very best
Developed with UCC and the University of Copenhagen our judging process is now recognised as an industry ‘gold’ standard worldwide. Products entered are blind tasted and competition is extremely tough, and regardless of the number of entries there are only five finalists in each category. Blind tasting means that all packaging and identifying features are removed from products before being presented for judging. This creates a level playing field for products from both large and small producers.

A trusted accreditation and mark of Irish quality
Research has shown that the Blas accreditation has the highest recognition amongst Irish consumers and using the award logo on packs encourages shoppers to buy these products. It is their guarantee of a top quality Irish product

The best of Irish Food – Meet the Producer… Claire at Passion Preserved

Claire Kelly from Passion Preserved began her business just a few years ago in 2012, although she can date the roots for growing back to her great-grandfather. You will meet her at shows and market’s across the country with her range or preserves and jellies. In 2016 Claire brought a Bronze award back to Antrim for her winning vampire chilli jelly, which followed on from success for her Sunshine Relish in 2014. You can find out more about her business and background on her website or find out more details on Claire Kelly Passion Preservedgreat producers from Antrim and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016

When & why did you start your business? 2012 because I decided that life was too short and if I was ever going to do it I’d need to get on with it before I was too old!

Who is your food inspiration? Paula McIntyre (chef and radio etc) because she embraces what is in season, is not afraid to be herself, is a real expert but never patronises or acts as if she knows it all

What do you love about your job? That I can make something I am really proud of and people enjoy

What is your typical day? Monday – Wednesday it is production, Thursday – Saturday it’s gardening as I grown so much of my produce. Admin, deliveries and everything else gets fitted Passion Preservedin the gaps

What was your best day since you started this business? I think the day I stood in Fortnum and Mason in London sampling my products which were being sold from those iconic shelves

Where do your ingredients come from? I grow probably over 50% of my produce. I source my tomatoes and courgettes bought in the summer from local growers via my wholesaler. I also work with other producers, for example my apple cider vinegar is bought from a local cider maker as are apples to top up my own cropPassion Preserved Garden

Tell us about the people you work with I don’t have employees as yet. Family supports me 100% with morale. I consider the network of fellow producers who have become friends a great support network and sounding board for problems, queries and ideas

 

Passion PreservedWhat three words would you use to describe yourself/your business? Passionate, real, happy

What do you think is the key to success? That old saying “the harder you work the luckier you seem to be”

Has there ever been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business? Visiting Terra Madre (the biennial Slow Food festival in Turin) . Walking round that and seeing producers from all over the world made me realise how I am part of something so much bigger and how food unites us all.

 

The best of Irish Food – Meet the Producer at Cavanagh’s Eggs

Cavanagh's EggsCavanagh’s Eggs from County Fermanagh are a true success story for husband and wife team John & Eileen Hall. In 2016 they won a Chef’s Larder award at the 2016 Blas na hEireann awards. You can find more on their website or find out more details on great producers from Fermanagh and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016

When & why did you start your business?
John and I got married in September 2000 and we started out as beef and sheep farmers when we bought our farm in Co. Fermanagh the same year. The foot and mouth struck NI in February 2001, less than 6 months after we got married. We had a loan to pay off so we had to explore options for making our farm viable. We decided to start producing free range eggs for a local packer from 2002 to 2012. Caged was never an option for us because it is a really cruel production method and the hens can’t perform their natural behaviours like stretching, flapping their wings, perching up high, flying, foraging, scratching, dust-bathing and laying in a comfortable nest. We launched the Cavanagh Free Range Eggs brand in March 2012 to satisfy consumer demand for a quality artisan free range egg with provenance.

Who is your food inspiration?
Jamie Oliver has done a lot to promote higher welfare standards in the poultry industry and make the public aware of the different farming methods and making the right choices when sourcing their food. For him it’s all about respecting the animals that are bred for our food and it is important for them to be cared for and well treated. I would have similar views to Jamie, because for as long as people keep buying food from animals that are mistreated then they will continue to be mistreated.

What do you love about your job?
I love the hens roaming about and listening to them singing their happy song. I love the fact that I am able to stay at home and be with my husband and 2 boys. I love meeting people when I exhibit at shows and festivals and telling our story.

What is your typical day?
I don’t have a typical day. One day I could be in the office, the next day I could be attending a workshop, a business meeting, sampling in a supermarket to promote our eggs, meeting a customer, exhibiting at a show or even attending an awards ceremony!

What was your best day since you started this business?
Winning business and awards give me a real buzz! I couldn’t say one is better than the other, because they are all exciting!

Where do your ingredients come from?
Our feed comes from AW Ennis in Virginia, Co. Cavan and our birds come from farms across Northern Ireland.

Tell us about the people you work with
We are a team of 10 workers, including my husband John and I. Two of John’s brothers work for us. One of them also produces eggs for us on his own farm. We have 2 local ladies, 2 local lads and 2 Lithuanian men on our team too, so as you can see we are an equal opportunities employers! They all get on so well and they are really passionate about producing eggs to the highest possible standards and totally get what we are about. They are dedicated to their jobs.

What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Award Winning Producer

What do you think is the key to success?
Honesty, openness, transparency, hard work, facing challenges head-on, always have a “can-do” attitude! Adaptable in this ever-changing world we live in….

Has there ever been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business?
I did my level 5 Leadership and Management Programme in Queens University through Invest NI and one of the things that sticks in my head from that programme is a quote I had heard from Thomas Edison “Many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realise how close they were to success when they gave up”, so that helps to keep me going through the tough times, because it hasn’t always been plain sailing and we do meet challenges constantly. Life is a roller-coaster, but we just need to take the rough with the smooth and enjoy the moments, because even the bad ones we are still learning something.

The best of Irish Food – Meet the Producer, Clotilde

Clotilde’s delicious chocolate collections and bars have become a recurring sight on the shelves of the Blas na hEireann finalist showcase since 2014. You can find them in her own delicious patisserie in Sligo or on her Facebook and Twitter feeds or find out more details on great producers from Sligo and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016

When & why did you start your business? About 3 years ago
Who is your food inspiration? My granny who cooked everything from scratch
What do you love about your job? We can create every day
ClotildeWhat is your typical day? I don t have a typical day, from4am to 9 pm I bake for my patisserie, ” le fournil bakery” and then I am working 8h on producing chocolates
What was your best day since you started this business? The first Blas award :)
Tell us about the people you work with They are very supportive , Tomasz, my partner who always believed in me and Camilla that also was here all the way wrapping and packaging all the chocolates
What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business? Quirky, quality, Franco/Irish
What do you think is the key to success? Hard Work
Has there ever been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business? Every day, you learn and grow up

 

The best of Irish Food – Meet the Producer…. Pauline at KooKee

In 2016 young company KooKee were a finalist at Blas na hEireann with their Gluten free Coconut & Cranberry Cookie Mix and Oatmeal & Raisin cookie mix. You might know them from the Boyne Valley Food Series or the SuperValu Food Academy, if not you can find out more on www.kookee.ie or find more details on great producers from Dublin and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016

Pauline, Damien & the KooKee family

Pauline, Damien & the KooKee family

When & why did you start your business?
My business idea came about due to my eldest son getting a diagnosis of Autism at the age of 4. This led me to give up my job to become his full time carer. With 3 small kids at home, and 1 who was struggling to interact, I began to bake cookies as a way of us all being together. In the years that followed we baked many, many cookies and gave a lot of the away as gifts. One day I was asked to bake some for a party and I was asked how much they would cost. This sparked the idea that would allow me to continue being a carer and possibly build a career. It is 9yrs since I left my job and now we have 4 fantastic kids and our business is thriving.
Who is your food inspiration?
I grew up in a family of 10. Our garden was filled with every fruit and vegetable that you could possibly grow in Ireland. My Dad thought me to cook and bake. We would watch Delia and Floyd and later as I got older I watched Jamie Oliver and had the opportunity to work for one of his companies and meet him.

What do you love about your job?
As I write this, I am working and also studying Higher level junior cert maths with Cian. Who is no longer 4 but a well adjusted 14yr old who has great potential. The fact that I have been here to support him and that he and my other 3 kids are so proud of our business is the most rewarding thing.

What is your typical day?
I get up at 7am
Call the kids
Get dressed
Call the kids again
Head downstairs and get lunches sorted
And call the kids again. I’m sure you can see the pattern forming.
Anyway, once I get all 4 to school, its straight home, hot coffee and start my clean-down before I begin work.

I then have a school collection at 1.45 and 2.45 and 3.45 and then I start homework, and dinner and general life.

What was your best day since you started this business?
Last year Cian (14) and 8 of his CSPE class mates come over to bake Doggy Bone shaped cookies for a local Dog rescue charity and to learn about running their own business. That made me very proud.

Where do your ingredients come from?
Most of our ingredients are from Andrews Ingredients and Kells Wholemeal. The rest we buy from local stores.

Tell us about the people you work with
Me and my husband Damian run the business together. But I have 3 wonderful ladies who make up our team. I tend to employ mums who want to get back to work but still need to be there for their kids. We start straight after the school run and the girls leave at 2.30 most days to collect the kids from school. We work hard and if more hours are needed we help out and collect each others kids. It difficult to find work with suitable hours when kids are involved, so the girls are really appreciative.

What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
I’m very optimistic, I’m driven and ambitious, I’m patient

What do you think is the key to success?
Keeping control and understanding all aspects of your business is key. Taking your time to make important decisions is also of great importance, as is knowing when to say no. But most of all enjoy the journey.

Has there ever been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business?
The defining moment has to be when we got the message that Brown Thomas were interested in our product. Simply by becoming a finalist in Blas na hEireann we immediately were exposed to so many opportunities, but to have such a prestigious Irish company show interest in our humble product has made us see our potential.

 

 

The best of Irish Food – Meet the Producer…. Caryna Camerino

In 2016 Lovin from the Oven, Caryna Camerino’s Bakery won a bronze award for her Chocolate Orange Cheesecake Brownies. You can find out more about her delicious bakery, cafe and cokery classes on www.camerino.ie or find more details on great producers from Dublin and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016

When & why did you start your business?Camerino
I ended up in a job in Human Resources and when the recession hit my job was basically making people redundant for a living. Awful. I started baking to cope with the stress. As time went on I became more and more stressed and so baking more and more. Eventually, I rented a stall at a local farmer’s market on a Sunday because I had so much cake. Things grew organically from there.

Who is your food inspiration?
Claudia Roden is my food idol. She is graceful, gentle, honest, intelligent and true to her heritage.

What do you love about your job?
I love seeing a product go from raw ingredients, to a delicious cake, to a gorgeous design, to being handed off to a client, and that client then sending a lovely note back to say how much they enjoyed their birthday cake.

What is your typical day?
I start my day with e-mails and paperwork from my home office at around 7am. At around 10am I make my way to our wholesale bakery premises in South Dublin, then to our retail shop on Capel street, Dublin 1 (with lots of errands in between). I try to make it back to the office by 4pm where I will continue to work until around 7pm.

What was your best day since you started this business?
The day I opened our retail shop, Camerino Bakery

Tell us about the people you work with
The team at Camerino bakery is the most friendly people, who genuinely care about exceeding our customer’s expectations. We love celebrating with our customers.

What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Genuine, enthusiastic, quality

What do you think is the key to success?
I think the key to success is constantly exceeding your customers’ expectations.

Has there ever been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business?
When I had my first staff member on a payroll I changed from looking after my customers above all else, to looking after my staff, who look after my customers above all else.