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.
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!
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.
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:
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, 175m2 and 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
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);
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);
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 / firstname.lastname@example.org);
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);
Hour Kitchen is a well equipped facility in Churchtown, Dublin 14.Tel. +353 1 298 0839; E-mail. email@example.com
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
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
Shared / Community Kitchen
FOOD PRODUCTION UNITS
Enterprise and Research Incubation Campus Carlow
Limerick Food Centre
Ballyhoura Food Centre
BIM Seafood Development Kitchen
Cork Incubator Kitchens
Base Enterprise Centre
Enterprise Centres Ireland East
Nutgrove Enterprise Park
Teagasc Food Research Centre
Terenure Enterprise Centre
The Liffey Trust Food Hub
The School of Food
Mountmellick Food Hub
The Food Hub
Limerick Racecourse Kitchen
Ballyhoura Food Centre
North East Regional Food Centre
St. Coleman’s Training Centre
Moy Valley Resources
Ballybay Enterprise Park
Ferbane Food Campus
The North Tipperary Food Works
Food Business Incubation Centre
Wicklow Enterprise Centre
THIRD LEVEL INSTITUTIONS with available kitchen Space
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.
As more food producers move to selling their foods online, also called “Distance Selling” whether using their own e-commerce site, via facebook, taking orders via SMS, phone, interactive TV, or supplying via on-line shops such as Amazon and others, its essential that labelling compliance is not overlooked. In summary, the same rules apply to foods sold online as they would if your customer walked into a shop to buy it in person.
For foods that are normally pre-packed, i.e, in packaging, the following rules apply:
(a) mandatory food information is still required (I covered in a previous post about food labels back in April), except for the date of minimum durability or use by date, and it must be available before the purchase is concluded and must appear either on the packaging (or it can be provided somewhere else, but you cannot charge your customers any extra for sending them elsewhere to get the information!).
(b) all mandatory particulars, including the use by or best before date, must be on the foods when they are delivered to the customer, i.e, on their doorstep!
For non pre-packed foods, the lawrequires the food business operator to provide information of any allergen in that food. (Again, if there is more information available to your Customer elsewhere, you can direct them there, but cannot charge them any extra for doing so).
In my opinion, the best and easiest thing to do is ensure you treat your online sales the same way as you would for sales through any retail outlet.
I am really encouraging small food and drink producers to set up their own e-commerce site. In Ireland, there is a 90% grant available at the moment for doing this, its called a On-Line Trading Voucher. Check it out today! And when you’ve got it set up, let me know and I’ll add you to the Directory on oonagheats.com !
Bread was first made by the ancient Egyptians as far back as the year 8000BC when grains, cultivated on the fertile banks of the River Nile, were ground by hand to make flat bread. Over the centuries, farmers across Europe started to grow grains for bread as it became a staple in the diet. The oldest record of bread in Ireland was also a flat bread, dating back to the Stone Age. As bread-making made its way west across Europe, the Norman invasion brought new bread making methods to Ireland. Sometime in the 11th Century, fine sieves were used to separate the bran and white bread was born, a privilege of the nobility. Thankfully nowadays, white bread is for everyone and is an everyday staple food.
The first Bakers’ Guild charter in Ireland was granted in 1478 by King Edward IV, from which arose (no pun intended!) many Bakers’ Guilds or Societies in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland. The Boot Lane Society and Little Britain St. Society were among the most prominent of these, starting in 1847. In Limerick, there are records from 1837 and records in Cork date from the 1860’s. In fact, there were a great many “journeymen” bakers who would travel around the country wherever the work brought them.
Of course, in Ireland, we are very familiar with Irish Soda bread. While we might hink we invented it here in Ireland, there are varieties of soda bread found in many countries. What we do know is that baking soda was introduced into Ireland in the mid 19th Century. The origin of bicarbonate of soda (bread soda or baking soda), a key ingredient, is unclear, with claims that it was invented in France or Germany, depending on what you read. Long before this, potash was used in baking by the native Americans to make their version of soda bread. How it works is that the lactic acid in buttermilk reacts with the alkaline bread soda which creates tiny bubbles and so allows the bread to rise. According to some sources, the reason that soda bread was so popular in Ireland intially was that it didn’t require yeast, which was relatively expensive. Furthermore, yeast bread took time for the bread to prove and rise, whereas soda bread could be made very quickly. It was also better suited to the type of flour which was available at the time.
During the Industrial Revolution, bread tins and milling and baking equipment were developed, meaning that bread could be made on a bigger scale. Other types of bread that grew in popularity over the centuries include the batch loaf and the turnover grinder, which was particularly associated with Dublin.
One of the things that all the bakeries have in common is that the bread is baked every day (well, every night really) for delivery across the country in the early morning so that you can have fresh bread on your table every day. The other, is that the love of bread in the Irish diet remains to this day and truly has stood the test of time. There are some things that just don’t change!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HISTORY OF BREAD YOU CAN VISIT
Spring is Sprung and its a lovely day here. I hope it is where you are too, though I’m afraid we’re not able to go out too far to enjoy it. I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days about how I might be able to help my food and drinks producer clients and others during these difficult times. I know there is a lot of information coming at us, it can be overwhelming. I’m not sure I can take another online seminar at the moment to be honest!
Resilience is a trait that I think we all need in spades, especially now. Rearranging our lives, our routines, our work, trying not to lose clients, trying to show agility, compromise, accommodation, its all a bit exhausting.
I wanted to do something practical, something useful and tangible, not more talking, and not just sending out more information as there’s a lot of noise already! So, I’ve set up a new page here on Oonagheats.com where you’ll find a directory listing food and drink producers around the country who are now selling online and delivering. So many have lost their routes to market over the past few weeks since farmers markets, country markets, cafés and restaurants are closed and this is just a little helping hand (I hope) to try and get the word out there.
So if you are a food or drinks producer who has had to move to online sales since farmers’ markets and many retail shops are now closed, or your distribution channels have stopped, please get in touch so I can include you. All I need is your business name, website shop link and the county you’re in.
Foods that are wrapped (or pre-packed) have lots of information for consumers printed on the packaging, including the list of ingredients, the nutritional information storage instructions, the weight or volume, storage instructions, cooking instructions and more. If the food isn’t pre-wrapped for sale, then the only information that’s required are the Allergens.
There might also be marketing information, pictures, offers, games, competitions….a lot to take in! In terms of knowing what is in the food you are eating, the two important pieces are the Ingredients List and the Nutritional Analysis.
So, what has to be on the label? According to EU law, the information that is mandatory and must appear on the label of a prepacked food is:
(a) the name of the food
(b) the list of ingredients (c) allergens or processing aids used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form
(d) the quantity of certain ingredients (listed as a %)
(e) the net quantity (weight or volume)
(f) either the Best Before or Use By date (g) any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use (temperature, time)
(h) the name or business name and address of the food business (i) the country of origin or place of provenance, if applicable
(j) instructions for use, if required
(k) with respect to beverages containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol, the actual alcoholic strength by volume
(l) Nutrition Declaration
The Ingredients List tells you what was used to make the food, and these are listed in order by weight from largest to smallest. In other words, the first ingredient listed is the largest amount, right down to the last ingredient which is the smallest amount.
The whole E number issue can be confusing, and sometimes people may think that E numbers are all bad. In fact, many naturally occurring foods have their own E number like seaweed (carrageenan or agar), silver and gold even! Many other e-numbers are given to the substances that are extracted from natural products like those from vegetable oils used in bread.
The Allergens (if any) are highlighted in the list of ingredients, usually in bold or italics or underlined.
Nutritional Labelling is required on all foods by law unless you’re a very small producer and only selling small quantities locally (i.e., within a 100km radius).
The nutrition panel has to show:
(a) The energy value (in KJ or kcal), and
(b) The quantities of fat (including saturates), carbohydrate (including sugars), protein and salt – in that order!
The food producer can also choose to give the amount of one or more of the following if they wish to: (a) Monounsaturates, (b) Polyunsaturates, (c) Polyols,
(d) Starch,(e) Fibre, (f) Any of the vitamins or minerals.
The Nutrients must be declared per 100g or per 100ml:
Mandatory Information / 100g or ml
Supplementary Information (if desired)
Energy (kJ / kcal)
Fat of which Saturates
of which Monounsaturates of which Polyunsaturates
Carbohydrate of which Sugars
of which polyols of which starch
Vitamins & Minerals (% RI)
All of these must be listed on the label
The producer MAY include all of these if they should wish to (either all or none)
Some food labels also include an additional column to show the Nutrition information per portion. For example, per bag, per slice, per sandwich. This is useful for the consumer who may find it tricky to work it out for themselves, but it’s not a legal requirement. Front of pack labelling is also voluntary – the pack can show the Energy on its own or the Energy, fat, saturates, sugar and salt (all of these).
The terms “Best Before” and “Use By” dates often cause confusion. It’s really important to note that these terms are not interchangeable! “Best Before” generally applies to foods that have a long shelf life and “Use By” applies to perishable foods or foods that, if you eat them after that date, might cause food poisoning. Never take chances with “Use By” dates! Safefood has a great phrase – Best Before is a guideline, Use By is a deadline!
This post is long overdue, but back in October 2019 I was awarded the inaugural Food Hero award from the IQFAs (Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards), sponsored by Aldi Ireland. Needless to say I was absolutely delighted!
The 2019 Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards took place on Thursday 24 October at The Clayton Hotel on Burlington Road, Dublin. Hector O’hEochagáin was MC for the event.The evening was a huge success with food producers and retailers being recognised for their hard work.
Here I am pictured with John Curtin, Group Buying Director, Aldi Ireland and Hector O’hEochagáin.