Celebrating Sucessess with Small and New Food Companies in Cork
Here at Clara Cooks, this month, we have recently reached a key business milestone in reaching 1,000 followers on Instagram! This got us thinking about business successes and milestones, especially those of smaller and newer companies like us.
What a business classifies as a success will mean different things to different companies. For a smaller and newer company, it might be getting their products into a new store or launching a new product or service. However, for larger and more established companies, it may be getting their products/services into a new country, or reaching another 1 million social media followers! No matter what the success, and how big or small it is, we believe these moments deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged.
At Clara Cooks, we have a passion for supporting small and local companies in Cork. Therefore, we decided to do some research and reached out to some of the people behind new Cork companies to hear from them about their business successes and milestones, so that we can all celebrate with them!
We have interviewed just four of the amazing owners of some of the small and new food companies in Cork, but there are many more that you can support! And it is not only Cork that has fantastic small and new food companies. Wherever you are, make sure to look out for new and small companies in your area, and make sure to support them if you can!
Loretta Kennedy: MammaBear foods
Their Business Journey:
MammaBear foods is a Cork-based food company that was created by Mayo-born Loretta Kennedy in 2018 and was launched with help from the SuperValu Food Academy.
Kennedy’s children were her motivation to start her business. She is a mother of three, and ketchup is one of the foods that her children absolutely love. However, she was worried because ketchup is a product known for being high in both fat and sugar. She began looking for healthier alternatives, but when she could not find any that her children liked, she began to make her own and this was the starting point of her business. She did a start-your-own-food-business course through Cork South LEO and then began manufacturing in an incubator kitchen in Cork.
She initially started selling to farmers’ markets to see if there was any interest, and she quickly found that there was a niche for a healthier ketchup for children. The launching of the product however was a slow process, as she wanted to ensure that the ketchup was the best it could be in terms of ingredients, taste, and price. She says her children remain her biggest critics and they will let her know very quickly if a new idea or a newer version passes the test! Her products have no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, refined sugars, or gums, and are handmade in small batches. They are also an environmentally conscious company, using glass bottles for their products as Kennedy is keen to ensure that her bottles do not end up in landfill but are recycled instead.
When I had the opportunity to talk to Loretta, she told me that she has three new products that will be launching in Aldi on June 6th, one of which is a pasta sauce. Once again, it was her children who inspired this.‘When we were homeschooling and working from home, mealtimes were frequent and as we were all working, they needed to be fast. I developed a healthy veggie pasta sauce that was a really handy and nutritious lunch’ explained Loretta. After the tough year businesses have had, her hopes for the rest of the year are that her new products launching on June 6th will be a success. ‘A National listing of my pasta sauce would make my year after a strange 2020!’ explained Loretta.
Milestones/successes Achieved by the Company:
According to Kennedy, one of her main successes and business milestones has been getting her products into supermarkets nationwide. This included her launching the ketchup in her local SuperValu store in Glanmire. She explained how amazing it felt to see her product on supermarket shelves. ‘I felt absolutely elated to see my idea turn into something tangible’. As well as that, four months later, she explained ‘ I pitched to Aldi Ireland and won a year-long contract with them which was also amazing in terms of reach and publicity and having my product Nationwide’. All of these were key development milestones and successes for the company.
The company has also managed to win the Blas na hEireann award for the ketchup! A fantastic achievement for a relatively new company!
In Cork, you can find the products in the following SuperValu stores: Cobh, Glanmire, Youghal, Fermoy, Mallow, Ballincollig, Bantry, Bandon, Skibbereen, Grange, Tower, Togher, Kinsale, and Clonakilty. They are also available in Basil in Ballintemple, and Nourish in Bandon Road Dunnes Stores.
Niamh Scally: Clonakilty Gluten-Free Kitchen
Niamh Scally, is one of a small team of four, who runs Clonakilty Gluten-Free Kitchen. I had the opportunity to talk to Niamh, and got a great insight into the business, her business successes, and her hopes for the future.
Their Business Journey:
Niamh firstly went on to explain how she got into the food industry, and how as a result of Covid-19, she found herself taking over the company.
‘For 6 years, I have worked in the food industry and it’s always been a real ambition of mine to own and manage my own food business! I never knew what exactly that might look like, but always went out of my way to gain commercial experience in the hopes that someday, I would have a skillset that would enable me to do so.
Back at the start of 2020, like others, I was abroad living and working in Melbourne Australia, making the most of this once in a life-time adventure! It was such an amazing, foodie place – anytime I was away I would always be keen to explore the local food trends, as you can imagine, I was making the most of my time there soaking up the culture when Covid hit, and before we knew it, we were back in West Cork, living with my family and working in my parent’s supermarket, Scally’s of Clonakilty. Immersing myself in food innovation at the time and keeping busy with low key marketing campaigns for the shop, I quickly decided it was time for a challenge of my own’.
She went on to outline the growth that the company has experienced since it was set up in 2015, and how she has started a new enterprise, taking the small-in house brand, and turning it into a fully-fledged independent business.
‘We had an excellent range of gluten free bakery products that was being produced in a specialised bakery within our store, it was a small batch, in-house brand that over-time, became loved by those on a coeliac or gluten-free diet. The free from range, certified gluten-free; offered great value, choice but above all, quality. The brand known as the Clonakilty Gluten-Free Kitchen became known and trusted by those who desired great tasting, delicious products. The lads introduced the range into the shop as part of our fresh food offering 6 years ago and over the years, the range grew and its popularity did too. During the Covid lockdown, with many feeling the pinch of travel restrictions, I thought why not take the opportunity and rise to the challenge of bringing the range to more customers!
So here we are today… In October 2020, I started a new enterprise, taking the small in-house brand; Clonakilty Gluten-Free Kitchen, I turned it into a fully-fledged, independent business, relocating the production to a Cork County Council Food production facility and set about developing the brand. At the time, the range was available in my family’s store in Clonakilty and uncle’s SuperValu in Blackrock, today I am so proud to say, that since going independent 7 months ago, the Clonakilty Gluten-Free Kitchen breads and apple tarts are now stocked in 18 stores, a mix of Centras and SuperValu’s with a really exciting hotel, The Europe, based in Killarney after coming on board as of today too!’.
Niamh however is not the only member of the hardworking team behind Clonakilty Gluten-Free Kitchen, and she explained that she is one of a small team of four behind this growing company.
‘We have a small team of four. It’s all hands on deck, and we all work really closely with one another. I have two bakers, Piotr & Damian that produce the entire range by hand and I am really grateful for their skill – baking is a real craft. I also have fellow Clonakilty girl Gillian, who looks after the food production side of the house while I would work mostly on growing the business! But there is great positive energy and excitement around the development of the brand, and we’re all enjoying the challenges that operating a small food company brings’.
Milestones/successes Achieved by the Company:
She explained that over the past number of years, they have managed to achieve great success in building up fantastic relationships with their customers and with local retailers, who have embraced their company and their products wholeheartedly.
‘One of the key successes to date has been the receptiveness of both customers and retailers to small and new local producers like us. When we started out on our own, it was Halloween time which would be considered a busy period in shops. When I approached my first stores, I was genuinely overwhelmed by their willingness to take our product during the busy period and give it space on their shelves. We were now out in the big bad world and in terms of expectations, I didn’t know what to expect, our brand wasn’t widely known, so I had a lot of work to do for customers to get to know the range. We have slowly been building a specialised following too, we have a great relationship with our customers and are always keen to know what products they would love to see on their shelves’.
Niamh explained that it was her own passion for food that drives her today to continue to provide their customers with excellent quality and delicious gluten-free food. She believes that just because you’re coeliac, doesn’t mean there has to be a compromise!
‘For me, being such a food lover, I don’t think anyone should be deprived of excellent quality, delicious foods that excite you – just because you have coeliac
disease or an intolerance to gluten. It is my personal mission to keep coeliacs to the forefront of what we do, and bring them baking that excites them! We recently launched our gluten-free apple tarts in-stores, and the response from customers has been really wonderful. One told me that “since the day their father was diagnosed with coeliac disease, the thing he missed the most was apple tart” and hearing stories like this just makes it all worthwhile’.
Hopes for the Future:
After having a tough year, like so many other businesses, Niamh explained what the company’s hopes are for the rest of the year as Covid-19 restrictions continue to be eased.
‘Well, if times were normal, our team would be out in shops every week tasting and sampling our products and conversing with customers. My hopes
for the rest of the year are to get into stores to meet the consumer. We love meeting people and because we are such a new company and a new brand to the gluten-free market, it’s important to build up a relationship with your audience. We have a great niche following on our social media platforms, but it’s really not the same, you can’t beat human interaction. We also hope to reach more supermarkets by year-end, by the end of the summer my plan is to have covered Cork city and county and then work on reaching other stores across the wider Munster region. As a result of featuring on the coeliac society food list for 2021, we have a lot of people looking for our products to be stocked in their local stores. Our team is working hard to get to everyone, but with more stores comes a big list of requirements like the demand
for new equipment, more people, more space – so all in good time! But we really look forward to getting our range to everyone, it might just take a little longer than we would have hoped.’
Clonakilty Gluten-free products are available in a number of SuperValu and Centra stores including O’Keefee’s SuperValu (Bantry), Fields of Skibbereen (Skibbereen), Centra (Crosshaven), SuperValu Tower (Blarney), Quishs SuperValu (Ballincollig), Barry Collins’ SuperValu (Carrigaline), Centra (Innishannon), Ryan’s SuperValu (Grange), Ryan’s SuperValu (Glanmire), Ryan’s SuperValu (Togher), Scally’s SuperValu (Blackrock), Scally’s SuperValu (Clonakilty), Caulifields SuperValu (Bandon), and Kevin O’Leary Centra (Bandon).
Jason Linton: The Cottage Garden Kinsale
Their Business Journey:
Jason Linton is the owner and founder of The Cottage Garden Kinsale, and they provide vegetable boxes to households across Co.Cork from Clonakilty in the West, to Midleton in the East, and most surrounding towns. They have a strong focus on Irish and locally sourced produce and put a huge amount of effort into sourcing them. They are one of the only veg box schemes to be able to offer such a flexible ‘choose your own produce’ online ordering systems. They also have the facility to put together a set of veg boxes of their choosing, but with a focus on customers’ likes and dislikes.
When talking to Jason, he told me about the inspiration for setting up his business. ‘Not many people realise that only 1% of agriculture in Ireland is devoted to fruit and vegetables, and only 1% of this is organically produced! This is why we want to be part of the solution, and help support small Irish farms, and also produce more ourselves. We grow some of the produce that goes into the boxes, and it is our intention to increase our own production as much as possible over the coming years’. What we can’t grow or find locally, we import’. They believe in making a wide variety of chemical-free produce available to customers as the demand outweighs what is currently available from local sources.
Originally from London, Linton moved to Kinsale in 2010 in order to study permaculture at the Kinsale FEC. He was and remains fascinated by the idea of permaculture, along with a more natural and sustainable way of living, which he told me was a key factor for his decision to move to Ireland. After completing the course, he worked full time in a large food company. After seven years, his time with the company came to an end ‘I wanted to move towards something more down to earth, with more of a connection with the land, and from where our food comes from, and I wanted to be able to sell what I grow myself’.
He was growing his own produce on the land he is renting in Kinsale at the same time that he was working full time. In 2017, he left his job and started to deliver some of the excess produce to local customers and cafés in Kinsale. He then decided to set up another polytunnel in order to expand his operation. He asked his neighbour if he could put up a small packing shed on their spare patch of land that they had. His neighbour agreed, and as a result, he was able to start buying from other local growers and then import whatever he could not find locally. He grew the business from almost nothing, growing from a garden shed, to a rented unit that has two walk-in cold rooms and has two full time and several part-time staff.
Milestones/successes Achieved by the Company:
For the Cottage Garden Kinsale and Jason, their successes developed from their development in knowledge in running the business, and their ability to deliver their products efficiently to their customers.
Jason told me that at the beginning, it was a learning curve. ‘At the beginning, I quickly discovered how much work running a veg box scheme was. There were so many logistical problems that needed solving, from stock control to delivery planning, quality control, and most importantly, finding Irish growers to work with that had quantity, quality and affordability all in one’. He spent a lot of time over the first two years putting together systems in order to provide customers with choice when they wanted
home deliveries. He was also keen to provide as much local produce as possible, and this became a priority. It is from this that Linton has been able to successfully deliver his unique veg boxes to his customers.
Before Covid hit, Linton was finding it hard to upscale his business. During the pandemic, demand for home deliveries, healthy and local fresh produce increased, and the company’s sales increased four-fold which was a huge success for them. They had also just moved into a new packaging facility with a second cold room, and had launched their webshop a few months before, marking huge business milestones for the company. Throughout the pandemic, Linton told me that they have learnt an incredible amount about how to deliver their products more efficiently. ‘We invested in route planning apps, and a second delivery vehicle. We also have just developed a stock control app, with funding from the LEO, which has allowed us to meet the demands of our customer base, and has an efficient stock control and sales channel integration system’. As a result of this, they were able to deliver their veg boxes efficiently and successfully.
Another success achieved by the business was that Linton was in a position to hire more staff. He grew the business from almost nothing, expanding from a garden shed, to a rented unit that has two walk-in cold rooms and has two full time and several part time staff.
Despite all the successes and milestones that they have achieved over the past number of years, one of their biggest successes in the business’s life has been that they have been able to build a loyal customer base, and that they are able to provide customers and their community with chemical-free healthy produce!
Purchasing your veg box:
If you’re interested in getting your own veg box from Cottage Garden Kinsale, they can be found at Kinsale Farmers Market on Wednesdays, or you can order your veg box through their website www.thecottagegardenvegbox.com. They currently serve Cork City (including Little Island), Kinsale, Bandon, and Kilbrittain., and delivery is free as long as you spend at least €25.
Tuesday’s Deliveries: Kinsale, Ballinspittle, Garretstown, Belgooly, Riverstick, Bandon, Innishannon, Ballygarvan, Kilbrittain, Harbour View, Howe Strand, Airport Business Park.Orders for Tuesday delivery must be received strictly no later than 9pm Sunday.
Friday Deliveries: Cork City, Carrigaline and surrounding areas.Orders for Friday delivery must be received no later than 8pm Wednesday.
Joan and Sean Paul: Trawl Door and Coney Island Ballycotton
Their Business Journey:
The Trawl Door is a small café and artisan food store that is located in the beautiful seaside village of Ballycotton. It is run by Joan Paul and her husband Sean, and they opened the business in June 2019 selling quiches, sausage rolls, soup, and sandwiches as well as cakes and desserts. Their focus has always been on providing homemade produce, with their salads being made from scratch every morning, along with cakes, scones, and bread!
They told me that they feel incredibly lucky to be living in Ballycotton, and that they have noticed that there is a very real connection in Irish peoples’ minds between the seaside and ice cream. For this reason, they wanted to set up an ice cream parlour with a similar ethos to their deli, which they told me is ‘really good quality ice cream where our sauces and a lot of toppings are all homemade, and so Coney Island was born!’.
While continuing to operate the artisan café/food store, they renovated the space that was previously occupied by the post office and created a cute high quality ice cream parlour, which they said has taken off exceeding their expectations. It opened in April 2021, just in time for restrictions beginning to ease, and with the summer weather on the way, they believed it was the perfect time to open. Staying true to their Cork roots, they have developed a delicious list of frozen treats to choose from, and all the flavours have been given an East Cork twist! The flavours they offer include East Cork Mess, Rocky Bog Road, Ballycotton Banoffee, Coney Island Sandwich, and Zest on the Beach.
Hopes for the Future:
As they move forward, they hope to increase their range of homemade sauces and toppings. They currently purchase their ice cream from Glenown Farm in Fermoy, but it is their hope to start making their own ice cream and have a wider range of flavours. Their hope also is that over the summer months, both their artisan food store/café and new ice cream parlour will thrive now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing and the promise of better summer weather coming!
Milestones/successes Achieved by the Company:
According to Joan and Sean, they have achieved numerous successes since opening their businesses.
Being successful in business to them means being inclusive and being able to cater for people with different requirements. They are delighted to have become known within the coeliac community and are able to provide high-quality choice to their gluten-free customers. They also cater for people who are lactose intolerant, and have also just started evening catering for children with autism, where they come in after hours. The lights are dimmed and there is minimal noise.
They are immensely proud to be able to cater for these requirements through their businesses, as they strongly believe that the ‘going for an ice cream experience should be as positive as possible for everybody!’.
Another success has been that Joan and Sean have been able to take on extra staff. They have been able to hire one full time member and three part time staff, and they envisage taking on more staff as they extend their opening hours during the summer months.
In November 2019, Joan and Sean had the honour of being awarded the Best Newcomer in the East Cork Business and Tourism Awards. Such an amazing success for a new company!
It is clear to see that there are so many wonderful small and new food companies in Cork, many more than the ones mentioned, that are doing amazing things for the community and are successful. It is so important to support these companies and celebrate their successes! Wherever you are, make sure to look out for new and small companies in your area, so that you can support them!
Here are a few other food companies in Cork that have started trading in the past few years for you to check out
- Foxglove Cocktail Company, 46 Mariners Cove, Baltimore. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Cork Rooftop Farm, Dalton’s Avenue, City Centre. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Popsicle, 18 Castle St, Centre. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- The Glass Curtain, Thompson House, McCurtain Street. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Izz Café, 14 George’s Quay, Ballintemple.You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Fastnet Foods, Coronea, Skibbereen. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Cask Cork, 48 McCurtain Street. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Blurry Bird, Anglesea Street. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- The Village Deli and Café, Ravenscourt Garden Centre. You can follow them on social media by clicking on the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
- Brunch and Deli, 77 North Main Street, Youghal. You can follow them on social media by clicking the following links, Instagram and Facebook.
By Emma Wilkinson