The ingredients for success in speciality foods
With the right ambition and education, it's easy to take a tasty idea from the kitchen to shop shelves. By Daithí Ó hAnluain
Speciality food production has been growing for some time and in recent years the trend has accelerated as consumers worry about food miles and seek locally produced, high quality and traditional foods.
Bord Bia had just 60 small-client businesses when it was founded back in 1994, but it now works with more than 350 artisan companies, with an annual estimated turnover of €475m.
It is a reflection of the tremendous opportunities speciality food offers, but perhaps the key lesson is that many of the country's top speciality food producers began as small enterprises in the farmhouse kitchen.
Companies like Ardrahan Farmhouse Cheese and J&L Grubb, makers of Cashel Blue, began life as farm-based experiments. Now Ardrahan has a turnover of €700,000, while J&L Grubb has a turnover of €2.3m.
Such sums show that speciality food is well established in Ireland, but opportunities remain, and there is a constant stream of newcomers to the sector.
"Farmers are very interested in moving into the speciality food sector," says Angela Sheehan, a programme manager at UCC's Food Industry Training Unit and coordinator of the UCC's Speciality Food Production Diploma.
"Many of them just want to produce food on a small scale, while others have much larger ambitions, but even small-scale producers can make a good living," Ms Sheehan adds.
Started in 2005, UCC's speciality food diploma is tightly focused on developing real-world products.