Growing sector about more than just saying cheese
Speciality food is not all about cheese; the range of foods is growing all the time, from ice cream to stout.
Valerie and Alan Kingston, for example, run specialist dairy producer Glenilen. The firm started life in 1997 when Valerie used the family farm's milk to make cheesecake for the local country market in Drimoleague, Co Cork.
Now they are a thriving commercial enterprise making cheesecakes, yoghurt, clotted cream, butter, cream cheese and creme fraiche.
Tralee-based PIóg Pies, on the other hand, is a much more modest venture but it provides a reasonable living for husband and wife team Stephen Neilings and Bríd Ní Mhathúna. They sell their seafood, steak and Guinness, and vegetarian pies in six local markets and many local shops.
The inspiration for new food businesses is growing all the time. One former speciality food diploma student, Derek Neville, from Mallow, plans to create a new drink called Blackwater Stout, while former student Nicola Hassett hopes to start a goat cheese and milk business in Ballydehob, Co Cork.
Former student Philip O'Connor, based in Bandon, Co Cork, has had great success with his Seymours biscuit brand.
Caroline Rigney raises rare-breed pigs to produce sausages, rashers and pudding for her Rigney's Farm B&B in Curraghchase, Co Limerick.
"Caroline runs a great business and her food ties in with a growing trend in food tourism," says Angela Sheehan, coordinator of the UCC Speciality Food Diploma.