Innovation is flourishing with a churn of tradition
Small-scale Mayo butter producer mixing it with big boys thanks to its blast-from-past methods
Cuinneog Irish Farmhouse Butter and Buttermilk is a family business owned by Tom and Sheila Butler. In our house, we frequently use their buttermilk to make the best of brown bread.
Despite the product having to compete with many of the mainstream brands, such as Kerrygold and Dairygold, the business is now 20 years old, employs eight staff and continues to go from strength to strength.
Cuinneog is the Irish word for 'churn', and the seed was sown when the Butlers realised there was a market beyond their own household for country butter and buttermilk produced in their old wooden churn.
Irish country butter, once made routinely on most small-scale dairy farms, is now hard to come by. Traditional methods are still used in the Butler's plant today, with fermented cream being the basis for the butter's distinctive taste and flavour.
Although these days they are using modern, stainless-steel churns, the design and function of the churn remains unchanged.
Despite recession, the past year has been good, with sales up 8.5pc and around 1t of butter being sold a week.
It will come as no surprise that the company has won numerous awards and was recently the recipient of a Euro-toques 2010 Food Award and a Gold Great Taste Award. Its products are widely available in multiples such as Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Superquinn, SuperValu and independent retailers, and it has also made the breakthrough overseas, supplying Waitrose and Asda.
The Butlers are shining examples of how the small producer, using old traditional methods and skills, can compete at the highest level. It shows that people can innovate and create successful rural enterprises by looking to products and methods of the past.