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.
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.
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!
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.
Today I finished giving the ‘Grow your own Future’ course for Clár I.R.D. in association with the Local Community Development Programme administered by South West Mayo Development Company Ltd. As well as training in Business Planning for Small Rural Enterprises, I gave a one day introductory course on Opportunities in the Small Food Sector- they all said they enjoyed it, hope they meant it!
The thing with setting up any new food business is to make sure you’ve really throught it through – what you’re going to produce, is there a market? can you get shops to sell it for you? who is going to do the deliveries? can you do the work and manage the business all a the same time? how much will everything cost? how much should you charge?….the list of things to think about seems endless…but as with all things, knowledge is power! So, hopefully my veg growers are feeling pretty powerful this evening, at least a bit more than they did a couple of weeks ago before we started!
This was all part of the Growing Locally project based at Mayfield, Claremorris, Co.Mayo. This project was set up supported by The Arthur Guinness Fund & Clár IRD in 2010. Its a community owned horticultural project established as a Social Enterprise and strives to meet social objectives by trading commercially.
For more information about Growing Locally, call 094-9371830