Award Winning Irish Food Producers
Sea of Vitality – Gold Winners 2014 (Seasonings) for their MIlled Dillisk
It seems like yesterday that we started at the local farmers market here in Dungarvan. We had this idea of adding seaweed to everyday foods because we knew the huge benefits of eating seaweed. Our approach was to try it in everything we could think of and surprisingly it worked very well most of the time. Seaweeds have been part of the Irish culture for centuries and unfortunately fell out of general favour during the famine when it became associated with poverty. Thankfully at present seaweeds are making a strong comeback mainly due to scientific research and people’s need for healthy nutritionally rich foods.
It is amazing how much the public attitude to seaweed has changed over the past 3 years. We are finding more and more evidence of a general awareness of the benefits of including seaweed in our daily diet. Young people readily embrace new and natural foods that are beneficial for their health and wellbeing but we have found that more and more of the older generation are coming on board.
What is our typical day like?
I don’t know!!! Since we started Sea of Vitality our ‘typical days’ have become rarer and rarer. We started using to-do lists and daily programmes to help us get stuff done but we never know what’s around the corner. For example in early December we were working on updating and refreshing our posters for doing tastings and just when we had it nearly wrapped up the phone rings. A company in Kuala Lumpur are interested in bringing our products over to the Malaysian market!! Needless to say the posters were forgotten about and we were off on another adventure. That’s how we see our business…a series of adventures, some big, some small but each one a great buzz.
Best day since we started. There have been many great days. There is a great buzz around markets and festivals. We love the interaction with customers and networking with other businesses and services. We think the best days though were when we won our awards in 2014. Winning awards is, in our minds, an endorsement of our products and gives us the motivation to continue to push onwards. So, which award gave us our best day?. Without doubt winning our Blas award is head and shoulders above everything. The whole weekend was amazing and the organisation was first class. It was great to meet and chat with other finalists and award winning Irish food producers and we have kept in contact with a lot of people we met that weekend.
Harvesting seaweed When we started back in 2012 we harvested our seaweed locally in Waterford along what is known as ‘The Gold Coast’. The seaweeds here are clean and fairly plentiful. Our plan for including seaweed in everyday foods meant that it needed to be dried and ground to certain consistencies. This is a very labour intensive process and we soon found that harvesting, drying and hand grinding the seaweed was not an option for us. As demand grew we had to look to other sources of seaweed. Fortunately for us a seaweed harvester located on Inis Mor, Aran Islands has a daughter married to a Dungarvan man! Problem solved. We started to source our seaweed from the west and this has become an important aspect of the provenance of our seaweed. All the seaweed is harvested by hand and air dried. Because of Irelands rugged west coast the most effective way to harvest seaweed is by hand. Research and experiments are currently underway to determine the viability of farmed seaweed in Ireland. Once the seaweed is dried it is ground down, rather like a spice, which makes it more convenient to cook with and allows it to incorporate better into the recipe.
We still love to harvest seaweed locally for our own use and experimentation. We also give practical foraging workshops and have been working lately with culinary students from WIT.
What do we love about the business?
There are so many aspects of the business that we love. We are lucky to be involved in the food industry and meeting so many wonderful people who are so helpful and free with their time and advice. Interacting with the public is always a fascinating experience. They are so encouraging and supportive to small businesses and at the same time they keep us firmly grounded!