OonaghEats.com is moving

Hi everyone,

The OonaghEats blog has moved to our main website www.alphaomega.ie and from now on can be found here!

This site will not be updated any longer so please follow me over and I hope you will continue to follow us there to get lots of news and updates about food producers and issues of interest to the food sector.

Thank you!

My COVID-19 Year of On-Line Food Buying!

In 2020 I decided to put my money where my mouth is (literally) and buy foods and drinks from the list of producers on the Food & Drinks On-line Directory, at least once from every county. It was very enjoyable waiting for my weekly deliveries and the courier company were highly amused at the range of parcels they were bringing! In all, I’ve purchased directly from 45 producers’ websites to date, and this doesn’t count those I’ve bought from in shops or in person. 

A couple of observations:

Packaging – many producers are moving to recyclable or compostable packaging materials which is really important for online sales. Failing that, Velvet Cloud, for example, will collect and take back their boxes for free once you have 6 of them. I’ve also noticed some really innovative packaging from Morans Mega jams – it looks like soft plastic but its actually fully recyclable! 

Variety Packs / Mixed Cases – Mixed boxes are the way to go! Mariko and Ballycross, for example, allow you to pick across their varieties, mixing and matching flavours and quantities. If I was to offer other producers one piece of advice, then this would be it. I don’t want 10 bottles all the same, especially if I’m buying something for the first time. I want the option of a mixed case, and I’m far more likely to buy as a result. Also, look at the minimum quantities – some producers are selling wholesale quantities in a retail shop, that’s not great for consumers.

Collaborations (apart from seasonal hampers) are a great idea – you can buy Joe’s Farm Crisps & Mella’s Fudge through Achill Island Sea Salt; Benny’s Deli has teamed up with Roscommon Chocolates; The Cashel Food Box is a mixed box of the finest, award-winning Tipperary produce. 

Postage – if you can at all, keep postage down to less than €8, even if that means you have to absorb part of the cost.  

Range of Produce – there are lots of jams & condiments, sauces, chocolates & confectionary, coffee and tea, gin & beer, and baked goods. There seems to be a gap in the on-line market for prepared foods and snacks among others.

So who did I buy from, well, I bought from several producers in some counties, and I bought several times from others including Mariko, Mella’s Fudge, Butler’s Chocolates, Richmount Cordials and Velvet Cloud, all of which became favourites, So, here goes…!

Antrim

Sea Sugar – handmade sweets, from scratch, using 100% natural extracts, essences and colours

Armagh

Ballylisk of Armagh – cheese and milk

Linwoods Health Foods – large range of organic milled or dried seeds and berries

Carlow

Carlow Farmhouse Cheese – cow, goat and sheep cheese

VegOut – fruit and vegetables juices from the people at Sunshine Juices

Cavan

Moran’s Mega-Jams – Jams, Chutneys and relishes

Clare

Burren Smokehouse – hot & cold smoked Irish organic salmon, wild smoked salmon, rainbow trout & mackerel

Cork

Mella’s Fudge – handmade fudge

Derry

Broighter Gold – Rapeseed oil

Donegal

Donegal Farmhouse Cheese – “Kilard cheddar”, a Semi Hard Cheese cheese handmade from pasteurised cows milk

Down

Mash Direct – mashed vegetables, 100% Gluten free (another one of my case studies from my book Money for Jam)

Dublin

Phoenix Delite – specialist chocolates including sugar free, lactose free and gluten free!

Butlers Chocolates – chocolates, truffles & hampers

Fermanagh

Black Bacon – rare breed bacon from O’Doherty’s in Enniskillen

Galway

Bláth na Mara – edible seaweeds and seaweed bath

Solaris Tea – finest quality specialty organic tea and accessories

Kerry

Dingle Distillery – gin, vodka, whiskey, and hand sanitiser

Kildare

Fused by Fiona Uyema – Japanese sauces

Kilkenny

Highbank Orchards – Organic syrup, vinegar, spirits and cider

Laois

Paddy O’s Granola

Leitrim

Chef Sham sauces – delicious asian inspired selection from Chef Sham Hanifa including Chilli Ketchup, Hoi Sin, One for All and Sweet Chilli sauces

Elements of Chocolate – handcrafted, small batch, gourmet chocolates

The Shed Distillery – Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin, original, with Sardinian Citrus, & merchandise

Limerick

Ballyhoura Apple Farm – apple juice, apple cider vinegar, apple chai iced tea and more

Pandora Bell – Handmade lollipops, nougat, fudge and pâtes des fruits!

Longford

Richmount Cordials – elderflower cordials

Louth

Simply Fit Food – Power bowls (vegan) and ready meals

Spoonful Botanical – a blend of the highest quality Herbs, Spices, and fermented fruits

Phytafix – Immune Phix whole-food, plant-based nutrition supplement

Drummond House – award winning seasonal produce incl garlic varieties and asparagus

Mayo

Achill Sea Salt – sea salt and fudge

Mariko Green Tea – sparking green tea drink

Velvet Cloud – Irish Sheep’s Milk Yogurt & Cheese from Rockfield Dairy 

Noo Chocolates – luxury handmade chocolates from the Wild Atlantic Way

Meath

McEntee’s – Award winning traditional Irish loose teas, accessories & gifts

Monaghan

Glaslough Chocolates – handmade chocolates, shards and hampers

Offaly

Ko Kombucha – Kombucha drinks and starter kits

Roscommon

Benny’s Deli – bread, cakes, jam salads, meats – their hamper also contained Roscommon Chocolates

Sligo

Bosca Bakery – all sorts of brownies delivered through your letterbox!

Tipperary

Cashel Cheese – cheeses and more in The Cashel Food Box (a mixed box of the finest, award-winning Tipperary produce)

Tyrone

Ispíní Charcuterie – range of Irish cured meats, salami and chorizo

Waterford

The Lismore Food Company – sweet and savoury delicacies and delicious drinks

Westmeath

Kilbeggan Organic Foods – Organic porridge oats, porridge bread mix and oat cookies

Wexford

Ballycross Apple Farm – range of apple juice and other flavours

Wicklow

Rhoda Cocoa – artisan luxury chocolate

Women in the Food Industry

I was delighted to be interviewed recently by Katia of Proper Food for inclusion in her Women in the Irish Food Industry series, which you can read here. Some of the questions really got me thinking about where my love of food originated (not just my hunger!) and how it has developed over the years.  I believe that it’s important to shine a light on success, to promote other women, to encourage young and old to do something they’ve always wanted to, and to give recognition for what they’ve achieved. If you see it, you can be it, right?!

Other women who feature include Laura Sinnott of Wexford Preserves, Orna Larkin who is Head Pastry Chef at the InterContinental Hotel in Dublin, Lynsey Campbell who is the lead cellar brewer at Whiplash brewery, Cliona Swan of Pizza Da Piero, Aisling Flanagan of Velvet Cloud yogurt (a firm favourite in this house!) and Rockfield Cheese, Carol Banahan of Carol’s Stock Market, Birgitta Curtin at teh Burren Smokehouse and many more (many of whom appear in our Food & Drink Producers On-line Directory by the way), so check it out.

Blas na hEireann Producers’ Champion Award – looking for nominations

Hello everyone,

I know I’ve been a bit quiet of late, but there is some exciting news coming and I’m waiting until its official before I tell you! I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

In the meantime, the call is out for nominations for the @BlasNahEireann #ProducersChampionAward – it should be someone who is working hard to promote & support Irish Food. For example, someone who set up a Directory of producers who are selling online….perhaps!

I know I’m being cheeky, but I would really appreciate your nomination.

Please take 2 mins to make your suggestion. Here is the link: Nominate now!

Thank you!

Best wishes,

Oonagh Monahan

 

Irish Quality Food Awards 2020 – Winner!

This is just a short post to let you know, in case you didn’t hear, that I won the IQFA Covid-19 Response Frontline Hero – Local Community Champion Award which was announced last Friday! #thrilled

You can read all about the other winners and shortlisted nominees here. And you can watch the 30 minute ceremony here. Not quite the same as a glitzy event in the Burlington Hotel, but what can you do?!

Thank you so much to the Irish Quality Food Awards team for this amazing award! I’m so pleased to have been able to help our fantastic Irish food & drink producers in some small way during the pandemic. I bought something on-line from each county over the course of eight months and will be posting about them all in the new year.

#ChampionGreen #shoplocalireland #showyourloveforlocal #shopsmallireland #GreenFriday #thisisirishfood #buyirish #supportlocal #shoploca l#buylocal #supportsmallbusiness #LookForLocal #buyirishfood#buyirishonline#irishfood

IQFA Awards – Shortlisted!

It’s always nice to get good news, especially these days. On Wednesday last I learned that the Oonagheats.com Food & Drinks Producers’ On-Line Directory (what a mouthful!) had got the attention of the judges at the Irish Quality Food Awards. It turns out that I’d been nominated and subsequently shortlisted for an award!

It’s the COVID-19 Response Frontline Hero category at the 2020 Irish Quality Food and Drink Performance Awards. Thank you so much to those of you who nominated me, I’m so pleased / chuffed / thrilled / all of the above!

But I’m really more pleased at having been able to do something small to help food & drinks producers to survive in the face of lost orders and customers as restaurants, cafes and hotels closed due to COVID-19. Some producers reported a loss of 75% of their sales. It is the food & drinks producers who are the real heroes, I mean it.

Fingers crossed for the awards event on December 11th – I’ll let you know what happens. You can read about all the other categories and shortlisted entrants here.

Long list of food & drinks producers online and growing!

Good morning!

As you know, most of the shops are shut because of the COVID-19 restrictions. We cannot physically go into our local retailers and many of us are shopping more on line now than we ever did. The problem is that when you search for something, more often than not, the first page of results brings up retailers with plenty of money to spend on marketing, and frequently these are overseas. Not so for our smaller food & drinks producers.

As Christmas approaches, and Black Friday looms, online shopping will become even busier and I’m asking you, please, to buy from Irish producers and suppliers first. Make a little effort to find your food, drink and gifts locally, and by local I mean on the island of Ireland. It might be a little more expensive, but in the long run, unless we support Irish producers and suppliers now, saving jobs and supporting the local economy, we will pay dearly for it later.

The list that I started back in April with 40 producers has now grown and this morning its at 213!! Every day I’m being contacted by producers asking to be included and I’m only delighted to do so.

Here is the current list (as of this morning, November 3rd) in order from the county with the most (Cork) to that with the fewest (Kildare):

Cork26
Galway17
Dublin15
Meath15
Mayo11
Sligo10
Tipperary9
Louth8
Donegal7
Wicklow7
Clare6
Kerry6
Kilkenny6
Leitrim6
Longford6
Tyrone5
Antrim4
Armagh4
Cavan4
Laois4
Offaly4
Roscommon4
Waterford4
Carlow3
Derry3
Down3
Fermanagh3
Limerick3
Monaghan3
Westmeath3
Wexford3
Kildare1
TOTAL213

I’m absolutely sure that there are many more producers out there that meet the criteria for inclusion in this directory, so please, spread the word, tell them to get in touch, remind them that its a free service, and encourage your family & friends to buy Irish!

Reminder – this list of for Irish food & drinks producers only who have both an e-commerce site and who are delivering.

Where can you rent kitchen / food production space?

One question I’m frequently asked is where a food producer, who had outgrown their home kitchen or whose home kitchen isn’t suitable, or who wants to expand, can rent kitchen / production space. I put together a list last year which is still fairly up to date, but I’m wondering if there are any cafes or restaurants or community centres that are closed at the moment who might be willing to rent their kitchens out? If so, please get in touch.

A number of food units around the country can be rented by the hour, week or longer term. Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), Councils, the Rural Development Companies and some community and private enterprises have built proper food units finished to food production standard that you can rent – contact your local council, community office or enterprise company to enquire. Here is a selection on the island of Ireland:

Northern Ireland

The only Food Business Incubation Centre at the time of writing is situated at Loughry Campus in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The Centre was opened in 1998 and provides the food supply chain with eight purpose-built food processing factory units finished to the highest standards in two sizes, 175mand 225m2 (www.cafre.ac.uk). At the time of writing last year, there were plans afoot to build a second food enterprise centre in Armagh, but I’ll need to follow this up and see where its at.

Republic of Ireland

Connacht

The Food Hub in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim is a shining example. Operational since 2004, the Food Hub provides 26,000 sq. ft. of premium food production space across 14 independent work units and the Community Kitchen is a timeshare production unit where start-up food businesses can make their foods in a fully-equipped kitchen, paying by the hour (currently €15/hour) with no commitment other than to bring your own ingredients (www.thefoodhub.com);

Moy Valley Resources IRD has clients occupying Enterprise Units at a number of locations around Ballina, Co. Mayo, for a mixture of both food and non-food producers (www.moyvalley.ie);

Enterprise Castlerea in Co. Roscommon is currently developing a new facility which will include a kitchen and units to rent, called An Chistin in the Enterprise Hub; (www.castlereaenterprisehub.ie)

Castlehill Foods is a 900 sq. ft. (84m2) kitchen and food production premises available to hire outside Killala, Co. Mayo (contact Clair O’Connor on (087) 652 6065);

There is a new community kitchen available to rent in Balla, Co.Mayo. Contact Seamus Caulfield ballacrdmanager@gmail.com

Munster 

The North Tipperary Food Works in Rearcross, Newport, Co. Tipperary was developed by North Tipperary Food Enterprise Centre (Rearcross) Ltd. An old creamery building was converted into a premium food workspace. There is a timeshare kitchen and production units for rental. At the time of writing, the cost of rental of the timeshare kitchen is €15 per hour + VAT for the fully equipped kitchen which includes gas, water and electricity. The Food Production units cost €550 per month + VAT and as a tenant, you kit them out yourself as well as taking over utility bills (www.northtippfoodworks.ie);

The Limerick Food Centre at Raheen Business Park provides food manufacturing and processing units for commercial letting. Contact Gerry Fitzmaurice, M: +353-86-6380596, T: +353-61-712860, Gerry.Fitzmaurice@shannonproperties.ie(www.shannonproperties.ie);

The Ferbane Food Campus in Co.Offaly opened in 2003. Contact Donal Egan, Business Development Manager, Mobile: 085 877 6098 Tel: 090 6453926 Email: donal@ferbanefoodcampus.ie www.ferbanefoodcampus.ie

Cork County Council operates Cork Incubator Kitchens and can be contacted via www.corkincubatorkitchens.ie

Leinster

North East Food Hub in Ardee, Co.Louth has a fully fitted high spec food unit featuring the highest quality appliances and work areas available to let and a training area  for food courses or demonstrations;

Nutgrove Enterprise Park, Dublin has two high-spec food production units, each 59.45m2 with own-door ground floor access and parking (www.nutgrove-enterprisepark.ie / info@dlrceb.ie);

SPADE Enterprise Centre is a community-based enterprise centre in the converted St. Paul’s Church at North King Street, Dublin (contact Susan Richardson, Centre Manager, (01) 617 4830 www.spade.ie);

Terenure Enterprise Centre (Dublin) has 3 fully-serviced food units (01) 490 3237 / www.terenure-enterprise.ie;

Hour Kitchen is a well equipped facility in Churchtown, Dublin 14.Tel. +353 1 298 0839; E-mail. info@hourkitchen.ie

In Kilkenny, The School of Food offers a commercial Kitchen for small or growing food businesses, professional Chefs or home Cooks to rent on a daily basis. Costs are €90 + VAT @ 23% per day or €45 + VAT @ 23% per half day and includeWaste, Electricity, Sanitizing Solution for Cleaning, Gas, Cleaning Equipment. Contact them at https://schooloffood.ie/incubation-kitchen

Newmarket Kitchen has opened in Bray. Co.Wicklow and offers shared kitchen space on a membership basis. Full details are available on www.newmarketkitchen.ie

Wicklow Enterprise Centre has two food units, comprising 92sq.m. and 85sq.m. approx, over two floors. Contact 0404-66433 www.wicklowenterprise.ie

Ulster

Údarás na Gaeltachta has three food units in Co. Donegal (www.udaras.ie);

Ballybay Food Park, Co.Monaghan has 3 units and an existing Production/Test/Training Kitchen already in the building. Tel: +353 87 602 5291  www.enterprisingmonaghan.ie

NAME COUNTY Shared / Community Kitchen FOOD PRODUCTION UNITS
Enterprise and Research Incubation Campus Carlow Carlow 0 2
Limerick Food Centre Clare 0 3
Ballyhoura Food Centre Cork 0 1
BIM Seafood Development Kitchen Cork 1 2
Cork Incubator Kitchens Cork 1 0
Kickstart Kitchens Cork 2 0
Base Enterprise Centre Dublin 2 0
Enterprise Centres Ireland East Dublin 1 0
Hour Kitchen Dublin 4 0
Nutgrove Enterprise Park Dublin 2 0
SPADE Enterprise Dublin 1 19
Teagasc Food Research Centre Dublin 0 2
Terenure Enterprise Centre Dublin 0 2
The Liffey Trust Food Hub Dublin 0 10
Acorn Kitchens Kildare 1 0
The School of Food Kilkenny 1 0
Mountmellick Food Hub Laois 1 3
The Food Hub Leitrim 1 18
Limerick Racecourse Kitchen Limerick 2 0
Ballyhoura Food Centre Limerick 0 2
North East Regional Food Centre Louth 1 0
Clar IRD Mayo 1 0
St. Coleman’s Training Centre Mayo 1 0
Moy Valley Resources Mayo 0 tbc
Ballybay Enterprise Park Monaghan 1 0
Ferbane Food Campus Offaly 1 3
The North Tipperary Food Works Tipperary 1 3
Food Business Incubation Centre Tyrone 1 8
Newmarket Kitchen Wicklow 1 0
Wicklow Enterprise Centre Wicklow 0 2
THIRD LEVEL INSTITUTIONS with available kitchen Space      
Athlone IT Westmeath 1 0
Cork IT Cork 0 9
GMIT Galway 7 2
IT Tallaght Dublin 2 0
IT Tralee Kerry 2 2
Letterkenny IT Donegal 5 0
St. Angela’s College Sligo 1 0
PLANNED      
An Chistin Roscommon   10
Bia Innovator Campus Galway   12
Ballybay Enterprise Park Monaghan 0 4
Cavan LEO Cavan tbc tbc

Marketing your Food Business

Before you strike out and set up a food business, there are a few very important questions you need to ask, and you may not always like the answer. This is called Market Gap Analysis.

Questions to be asked include:

  1. Is there a gap in the market for your food / food business? Is there anyone doing locally / regionally / nationally what it is that you want to do?
  2. Is your food / food business Unique (how?) Different? Better?
  3. When did you last benchmark your food products? In other words, compare them to your competitors, honestly!
  4. When did you last assess the competition? What are they doing in terms of marketing, packaging, pack sizes, varieties etc.
  5. Have you segmented your target market? i.e., demographics – see below!
  6. When will they buy it and where will they consume it, i.e., on what occasions? and how does this impact on pack sizes, quantities, packaging?
  7. How can you help the retailers make more sales? In store demos and tastings, shelf ready packs, social media, competitions.
  8. Is the market big enough or is it too niche? Will enough people buy it or can you price it at a level that you can make a profit?
  9. What are consumers willing to pay for your foods? Benchmark against others, does the gap analysis and benchmarking indicate that there may be a gap for a cheaper / luxury / small / bigger version of what your competitors do?
Define and segment the target market: 

– Segmentation of Food Shoppers By Usage, Motivation and Needs; 
– Identify what your target customer wants;
– Who buys / will buy your foods? Families, couples, older people, singletons, children…?
– Determine when they will buy your foods, i.e., on what occasion – every day, special occasion, treat, parties etc;
– Determine what motivates them to buy it – price, quality, convenience, allergen needs, meets ethical considerations (Fair Trade, Organic, low air miles etc), local / Irish food, occasion etc.;
Identify gaps in the market not currently serviced – this will come from the Gap Analysis you’ve completed as described above

Marketing activities 

Many producers approach marketing in a haphazard way, not really thinking it through, or thinking they can do it on the side, or via social media on their phone in front of the TV! But really, you need some structure. So ask yourself:

Do you have a marketing plan? What marketing activities are you planning to do this year?

Do you have a marketing budget? Possibly no, but you really should budget for in store tastings, your time, travel, giveaways, attendance at trade fairs & shows (whenever they’re back on!), social media marketing, promotions etc.

Who is going to do your social media work? Which platforms are you going to use? (this will be dictated by your market segmentation, as different age groups and genders use different social media platforms – here are some tips as to which to choose), how often are you going to post? have you got a good image bank, i.e., great photographs you can use?

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. You can read more about Marketing in Chapter 6 (Routes to Market, Branding & Marketing) of my book Money for Jam – the Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Food Business, available to buy from any of the great book sellers listed here!

Calling Co.Mayo Food & Drinks Producers!

We are currently working on the development of a Mayo Food & Drinks Strategy 2020-2025 on behalf of South West Mayo Development Company CLG and Local Enterprise Office Mayo. The team has been very busy talking to food and drinks producers in Mayo and stakeholders including agencies, producers’ groups, support agencies, hotels, restaurants and consumers to get a good picture of what is going on in the county. 

At the moment the audit and database of producers is being finalised to try to make sure that everyone who is anyone in Food & Drink in Mayo in included. So, we want to talk to food and drink producers, producer groups (e.g., organic groups, bee-keepers, GIY, lamb and beef groups and others), food retailers and food and drink distributors to find out how you’re getting on, what you might need for the future of your businesses in terms of resources, funding, production space, staff, distribution, training and more to ensure that will be captured in the strategy. Three on-line workshops took place in April (via Zoom of course!) and were really well attended by food and drink producers across the county.

You can add your own details to the producers database (it’s not going to be published anywhere, it’s just to get the big picture for the purposes of developing the strategy)> it will take just a few minutes, and you can access it by downloading it here and emailing it back to me by Monday 22nd June.

We’re starting to wind down the Needs Analysis element of the project, so this is a last call out to anyone who is involved in producing foods in Mayo to complete our short (3 minutes!) survey. Please just click this link and complete it by Monday 22nd June.

For more details please contact 

Oonagh Monahan, Alpha Omega Consultants

086-1760496 or E-mail: oonagh@alphaomega.ie


Thank you!