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!

Labels for selling foods online

Source: Food Safety Authority of Ireland

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 law requires 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.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has good information in this regard for Irish producers. The Food Standards Agency also has great information here for UK producers.

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 !

A little history of bread in Ireland

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!

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FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HISTORY OF BREAD YOU CAN VISIT 

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

Bloom in the Park 2019 – food, flowers, fantastic!

Last June Bank Holliday was the 12th year of Bord Bia‘s Bloom in the Park, or “Bloom”, as its more commonly known. Having started off primarily as a garden & horticultural show, the food element quickly grew and is now a major part of this annual event.

I really love planned, structured gardens, especially walled gardens, gardens with sculptures, gardens with built features (check out the Crumlin Children’s Hospital one) and among all the beautiful gardens, the stand out one for me was the Vina Dona Paula garden designed by Allen Rudden. I really liked this, it’s exactly what I’d like to have at our house in Leitrim (if you’re looking for a home for it?! just sayin’…). The steel, the girders, the concrete re-enforcement, the paving, the wall flowers, the planting, everything, I thought it was fabulous.

It is always the food side of any event that’s the big draw for me, and several of the gardens had a food or drink theme…

The UCD History of the Irish Diet in Plants concept garden, in their own words “tells the story of the Irish diet from the early settlers to the introduction of farming, how tastes changed with the entry of imported foods, the impact of industrialisation, and the implications of the modern expansive diet.”

Staying with the food & drink garden theme was Blackwater Gin which is made in Waterford. Now that there are so many gins on the market in Ireland (more about that anon), this was a novel way of promoting a gin brand through innovative means: “Built predominantly from reclaimed, recycled and upcycled materials, it features strong shapes, textures and contrasting materials that are softened by lush foliage of semi-shade and shade loving plants”.

The Fingal Bee Positive garden was very topical, all about the importance of bees, pollination & biodiversity:

And so onto the Food Village…so many producers, so many gins and new drinks including poitín, beer, whiskey…but also plenty of new faces as well as familiar ones:

Margaret’s Eggs headed up by the wonderful Margaret Farrelly herself, the head chick in my book! They are always innovating, new brand, new packaging, liquid egg, you name it, change is constant!

I also liked the new mayonnaise from Ballymaloe Foods, who kindly gave me lots of samples to try out! They were sold out of their beetroot by the time I got there unfortunately, though I wasn’t surprised as it’s really good, fresh, not to sweet, not too vinegary, just right. We use the Ballymaloe sauces at home all the time, so handy for the teenagers to cook for themselves coming in from school. I use the relishes in homemade burgers (Ballymaloe recipe of course!), especially the jalapeno for a bit of a kick. 

Marjorie O’Malley of Achill Island Sea Salt revealed that they were planning for the grand opening their new Visitor Experience, and which, by the time you read this, will in fact be open for business!

Another great Mayo brand is Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt and cheese, made on the Flanagan family farm outside Claremorris Co.Mayo, and I was pleased to see Aisling Roche Flanagan (pictured here on the left) there with her children all roped in and working hard, full of enthusiasm. I love this yogurt. 

The Velvet Cloud was used up last week (though its widely available in supermarkets, so do yourself a favour and go and get some!), as we made our overnight oats with the lovely blend from the Merry Mill.These are organic and gluten free (if you’re into gluten free that is, not me though, don’t start…!). The Oat Boost blend is a mix of oatflaes and seeds, really good. 

Who else…? Mallow Mia Gourmet Marshmallows started life at one of my Start Your Own Food Business courses a few years ago in Donegal, so I’m delighted to see Linda McClean has grown this business from strength to strength. 

There were a few really good innovative products among these too, like Spoonful Botanical. This one was one of my favourites – a health food with really great flavours. I don’t believe in sacrificing flavour for health benefits, and this one certainly doesn’t. I wish them every success.

I also talked to The Foods of Athenry, Lough Ree Distillery, Silver Spear Gin, East Coast Bakehouse, Sunshine Juice (lovely fresh tasting fruit and veg juices made by Walshe’s in Carlow), Mescan Brewery, Jackford Irish Potato Gin and many, many more. You can find details about all the exhibitors, including contact details here.

Finally, when I was wilting, Lough Ree Distillery sustained me – there is nothing quite like a G&T to perk you up! This one is made in Lanesborough, Co.Longford. I also bought a wee taster bottle of Silver Spear – I see that featuring tonight actually, it’s Friday after all! Interestingly, a lot of the gin producers there used good old Schweppes as a mixer, none of your fancy tonics, as they felt, and I agree, that some of the others are too flavoursome and can kill the real taste fo the botanicals in the gin itself.

We left exhausted, laden down with purchases, dying to try our new finds, and already looking forward to next year. Bloom goes from strength to strength, it was definitely bigger this year, so much to see and do, a great day out. Wear comfortable shoes!

 

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

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.