New resource for food & drinks producers selling on line!

Good morning everyone,

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 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 just now 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 list of food and drink producers around the country who are now selling online. So many have lost their routes to market over the past few weeks 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.

You can email me on moneyforjambook@gmail.com

Hang in there, this too shall pass.

Oonagh x

Understanding food labels

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
Fibre
Protein
Salt
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!

For more information about labelling, check out https://www.fsai.ie/legislation/food_legislation/food_information_fic/general_fic_provisions.html
For more information about allergens: https://www.fsai.ie/legislation/food_legislation/food_information/14_allergens.html

IQFA Food Hero winner!

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!

Quality Food Awards 25th Oct 2019 Karl Hussey Photography 2019.

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.

Ten Top Tips for Starting Your Own Small Food Business – new course!

Hi everyone!

Just very quickly, having just finished training a great group of early stage food producers in Mayo in November and another group in Leitrim in January & February on the Food Starter programme from Bord Bia, I’m delighted now to bring you my new, very special, one day course which will be held in the Neantóg Kitchen Garden School, hosted by the fantastic Gaby & Hans Wieland.

So if you’ve ever wondered what’s involved, who to talk to, where to start, then take just one day to check out the potential for your food business by coming on this new course!

March 30th, Saturday: Top 10 Tips for starting your own small food business
**Guest Lecturer Series**

with Oonagh Monahan from 10:00am – 4:00pm, €100 per person
A unique opportunity to learn from one of Ireland’s leading small business mentors, in a small intimate setting. Get all your questions answered about the what where when and how to set up your own small food business, including the latest in legislation and registration requirements. Case studies will highlight the challenges and satisfaction of small food production.

I hope to see you there!

Oonagh

Meet the new Chartered Food Scientist!

Just a quick blog today to tell you some recent happy news!  Oonagh is delighted to have been awarded Chartered Scientist status by the Institute of Food Science and Technology.

The certificate arrived in the post the other day so it reminded me to let you know! The Chartered Scientist qualification is awarded to scientists who meet the high standards required and demands a commitment to continuing professional development. It is intended to ensure high and improving standards across all scientific disciplines and reflects best practice in science.

What is a Chartered Scientist?

Chartered Scientist (CSci) status is aimed at those practising science at the full professional level and at those for whom scientific knowledge or practice at that level form an essential element in the fulfilment of their role.

Chartered Scientist status provides valuable professional recognition among fellow scientists across all disciplines and the wider community. It demonstrates high levels of experience and competence to employers, other professionals, and, ultimately, providing reassurance to the consumer that high standards are being met within the industry, particularly on food safety. It is now a recognised title under the EU Directive 89/48/EC.

The IFST awards Chartered Scientist status under licence from the Science Council. The Chartered Scientist award is only available for professional level of membership (Member and Fellow).

YAY ME!! 🙂

Tardy with the blogging, but busy with the social media!

Oh I’ve been very tardy with the blogging this year. But, in my defence, I’ve been very active on Facebook, where I have two pages – oonagheats which mostly features me reviewing restaurants and various foods and MoneyforJambook for new food startups, interesting foods I’ve come across in supermarkets and food producers. I’m on twitter @oonagheats (I love twitter!) and Instagram @oonagheats too though, so if you’re looking for a morsel, then please find me there!

And ofcourse for those of you interested in starting up your own food business but don’t know where to begin, my book Money for Jam is still for sale in bookshops all over the place and from online booksellers – here is the link to the list!

Money for Jam – 2nd edition – The essential guide to starting your own small foot business – Oonagh Monahan – book launch – Oasta Cafe . pic Frances Muldoon.

 

New food trends 2018

What will be the big food trend in 2018? We’ve already seen how protein-enriched food
has moved mainstream, no longer the preserve of the elite athlete or mud-runner! The vegan or the plant based diet as its now known, has grown hugely in popularity, as has vegetarianism.

I came across this great yogurt concept at Gifted in the RDS in December. It’s called ProU, based in Dublin, available widely. Lovely people, great yogurt, made by Killowen Farm in Wexford.

(Photo: Farmers’ Journal)

I suspect that sugar will stay high on the no-no list, and rightly so. Fat isn’t so bad in moderation, (yay for real butter!), and everyone needs their carbs (be gone, Atkins Diet).  The free-from market grows and grows, though it drives me mad when I hear Gluten-free described as “healthy”. It’s no healthier than gluten-containing foods. Don’t get me started, I’ll post about that another day.

Someone said to me last week that they reckon cauliflower will be the veg of choice in 2018. I had a great meal which featured cauli done 5 ways lately in Fallon & Byrne, including great colourful varieties. I was always a fan of cauliflower cheese for supper, with white toast buttered on the side. Delicious! I posted a photo of this on twitter before Christmas.

For me, fresh, healthy, great tasting, convenient, food on the go is something I’m always on the look out for. In 2017, Chopped was a revelation for me – a fantastic concept, well executed.

So what’ll it be? Please get in touch and let me know your thoughts. You’ll get me here or on twitter @oonagheats.

Kids need carbs!

To fuel an active healthy lifestyle, children and teenagers need
carbohydrates for energy and growth

As schools return after the Summer holidays and the weather is getting colder, it’s time to look again at what’s in their lunchboxes.

Despite the recent craze to cut carbs, the fact is, that not all foods containing carbohydrates are bad for kids, whether they’re complex (as in whole grains) or simple (such as those found in sliced bread). To fuel an active healthy lifestyle, children and teenagers need to eat carbohydrates for energy and for growth. Carbohydrates provide the body with a source of fuel and energy that is needed to carry out daily activities and exercise. Carbohydrates are vital to ensure the brain, heart, nervous, digestive and immune systems work correctly.

For children bringing lunches to school, a sandwich is a great way to provide a balanced mid-day meal, with carbohydrate from the bread and protein from meat or cheese as a filling, along with some veg (if you can get them to eat lettuce!), providing a tasty, nutritious and balanced meal. The recent IUNA report* stated that bread as a source of energy was found to be low in preschool diets at only 4-5% of a child’s diet. For children, a healthy balanced diet should include about 33% of food portions every day coming from carbohydrates, that’s one portion at every meal. The key is to make sure that most carbs come from good sources, such as bread, and that added sugar in their diet is limited.

According to the food pyramid (www.safefood.eu) children over the age of 5 years should eat 5-7 portions of carbohydrates daily. The body needs a constant supply of energy to function properly and a lack of carbohydrate in the diet can result in tiredness, fatigue, poor mental function and a lack of endurance or stamina. Bread is a convenient, healthy source of carbohydrate that is available freshly baked at a reasonable cost that your kids can eat every day. As well as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, fruit and vegetables are all excellent sources of carbohydrate.

The IUNA report also pointed out that white bread was the lowest contributor of total sugar in children’s diets at 1%, and white and wholemeal bread provided a contribution of just 1% of total fat intake. Oonagh said that “If like me you are keen to make sure your children are eating well, then balance is key and moderation in all things. Bread is low in sugar, low in fat and high in carbohydrate, making it a convenient, widely available, cost effective healthy option as part of a balanced diet when feeding your hungry children.”

*Report is the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) Report on the Pattern of White and Wholemeal Bread Consumption in Irish Adults and Pre-School Children, (September 2016))

Top Tips for starting your own small food business

I’m currently working on the 2nd Edition of my book, Money for Jam – the essential guide to starting your own small food business. It was published in September 2013, and since then, legislation has changed in relation to food labelling, or Food Information for Consumers (FIC) as its known in the trade! So, I thought this might be a good time just to share my top tips for starting out, just to keep you happy until my new book is published that is!

The header image (taken by @annaclarequinn) features a few jam producers I’ve come across – Daisy’s Pantry from Co.Louth, a Blas na hEireann winner; BoPeep Jams from Drumshanbo. Co.Leitrim, relaunched recently and a favourite of many childhoods of the past; Bramble Lodge Foods fro Co.Sligo; Erin Grove from Fermanagh (I love love love this unusual flavour!!) and Murson Farm, also from Sligo.


(1) Do your research – check out the competition! Is anyone else doing what you’re thinking about doing? If so, are they doing it well? Can you do it better? Look at their packaging, prices, where they’re selling, portion size, labels, branding.

(2) Try to fill a gap – make something that isn’t already available locally. While it’s very easy to start baking at home, the market might be saturated with cupcakes in your area. Shop keepers are always looking for something different that will sell.

(3) Work out your costs – how much does it cost you in ingredients and time to make it (and don’t forget to pay yourself!). This will help you to work out how much you can charge for it:

A Cost to produce (raw materials & packaging)
B Cost of processing / baking / preparation
C Cost of transport
D Cost of selling (market fees, store charges)
E Staff costs – starting with your own required income!
F TOTAL
G Sales value
PROFIT (G-F)

(4) Ensure that your kitchen can handle your new food business – ask your local authority / Environmental Health Officer to call and take a look. Most home kitchens are fine for low risk foods like baked goods, bread, jams, vegetarian, but NOT ok for meat, fish, dairy, prepared salads, sandwiches. You might have to extend or move to a suitable premises.

(5) Get Advice – from mentors, advisors, networks, Local Enterprise Offices and others – ask everyone for help, there’s plenty of it out there so you don’t have to shoulder all the burden! Check out www.supportingsmes.ie for potential funding supports.

(6) Leave the Branding / logos until you have your recipes sorted out. People love this part, but sometimes jump ahead to it too soon! Branding is no quick job, it takes consideration. Check out this handy guide.

(7) Labelling is really important – there are very particular legal requirements for labels which you must follow including Allergen declaration, weight, nutrition information, ingredients and so on. make sure you do this properly before you print labels or order packaging. Mistakes can be costly!

(8) Packaging will help protect your food as well as simply presenting it for sale. packaging might also determine the target market – no matter how good the food is, if the packaging is cheap and shoddy looking, it won’t sell to high end consumers.

(10) JUST DO IT – Once you make your first sale – you’re in business!

The photos below feature some producers from Mayo & Roscommon who took part in the Bord Bia / SuperValu Food Academy programme in 2016/17, one day this could be you!

Bread is good for you – it’s official!

I’m very happy to report good news for lovers of white bread like me! A report carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA), commissioned by the Irish Bread Bakers Association (IBBA) has today announced the findings relating to the consumption of white and wholemeal bread in Ireland.

white-sliced-pan

Happy days – break out the toaster! Personally, I feel totally vindicated now. I’ve always said there’s nothing at all wrong with a slice of white bread. If you stuff a sandwich with lots of fillings, that’s where any fat in the sandwich can come from, but you’re not getting much fat at all, if any, from the bread itself. Wraps, by the way, have more calories that sliced bread, just saying!

The report states that bread contributes 20% to our fibre intake, 9% to our protein intake, while white bread only contributes 1% to our daily fat and sugar intake. Interestingly the study found a direct correlation between those preschool children that ate bread and increased growth and development within that preschool group.

The report, which was a follow on report to one published in 2008, says that 57% of the population eat white bread and 72% eat wholemeal bread. The report also shows that a higher percentage of males (61%) compared to females (52%) consumed bread and males over 65 consumed the highest mean daily intake of bread compared to all other groups (1.3 slices).

Speaking at the launch of the report today, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Dr. Mary McCreery said: “It’s quite fitting ahead of the annual National Bread Week , that we’re seeing the negative comments about bread made by so called “experts”, being challenged by scientific evidence that proves the contrary. Put simply – it’s OK to eat white bread – in fact white bread can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. It’s an affordable, nutritious food, that has been consumed for thousands of years. It is low in fat, low in sugar and is a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, calcium, iron, protein, fibre, and folic acid. There are so many untruths about bread in Ireland that are totally unfounded.”

So enjoy your sliced pan – batch is my favourite, toasted under the grill on one side like my Granny used to do. Delicious!