By SAM BUTLER
Enniskillen chef and businessman Declan O’Donoghue has an extra reason to be cheerful this Christmas!
Declan, who owns Erne Larder Preserves in the town, completed the first order from the US for his jams, relishes and chutney well ahead of the festive season and saw record sales of his products here and in other markets, including Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
“The export business to the US was the real icing on the Christmas cake after a very successful few months for our business,” Declan says.
The new deal led to Erne Larder’s popular products featuring in Christmas and New Year hampers distributed by Over Th’Eire, a recently launched New York-based food distribution business.
Declan shipped his successful Irish gin and cranberry relish, Irish bacon ketchup and Irish stout onion jam to the new customer for inclusion in its seasonal hampers for customers across the US.
Declan, who lives just outside Enniskillen, says the US deal followed a telephone call from Steph McCrory, one of the founders of the quirky Over Th’Eire, the business specialising in Irish foods and aimed in particular at the huge Irish and Scotch Irish communities in key centres such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
“Steph, who is originally from Enniskillen, had been told about my products by one of her friends from Northern Ireland who had enjoyed them.
“Steph subsequently checked our website and decided that our unique Irish gin and cranberry relish would be perfect condiment for their Christmas hampers and also ordered our Irish stout and onion chutney, and Irish bacon ketchup.
“We talked terms and she then placed an order for the products.
“We are absolutely delighted to win this breakthrough business, which will add a bit of a ‘kick’ to traditional Christmas meals around the US, a market we’ve been keen to penetrate for some time.
“Encouragingly, there’s the prospect of further business there for the relish and our other artisan products, especially our very successful Irish bacon jam,” adds Declan, an experienced chef who has won widespread acclaim for the portfolio of original recipe products.
“I’d be really keen to get over there when conditions allow,” he continues.
“It would be great to help them in marketing more products in 2021.
“I’ve found that customers react very favourably from talking directly to the makes of artisan products,” he adds.
The small company has already won significant sales in Britain and the Republic of Ireland for its range of premium quality products.
Customers in Britain include the influential Artisan Food Club, which supplies small batch foods from around the UK to delis and other specialist retailers there.
Erne also has a very strong base in Northern Ireland and is already supplying most delis and artisan food shops as well as leading retail chains such as Eurospar.
It has also supplied both Aldi Ireland and Lidl. In addition, the small business supplied sauces and other products to caterers across Ireland.
Declan established Erne Larder in 2017 on the back of a successful career that included creating original sauces for meals in hotels and restaurants across the island of Ireland and in Scotland for over 20 years.
His original product was a unique smoked Irish bacon ketchup which was quickly followed by the Irish bacon jam.
The successful smoked bacon jam followed approaches from other hotel chefs for the product he had created for meals and also for cheeseboards.
“I had always been interested in making my own food products and decided to start with a range of unusual jams and chutneys,” he continues.
“I aimed to set my business apart in a competitive market sector by developing a range of different and tasty flavours – hence the Irish gin and cranberry relish and Irish bacon ketchup,” explains Declan.
A key element in his approach is a focus on locally-sourced ingredients.
“There are so many excellent products available across Northern Ireland that can be used to create innovative and tasty products,” he adds.
Declan is planning a rest at home with wife Rachel and their two young children over Christmas.
“I really need the break this year to help me recover from an especially hectic run into Christmas,” he says. He’d been working 16 hours a day to meet the volume of orders for the products and delivering to local delis and independent grocers.
“The US business is a further example of hard work paying off.
“I was taught to work hard, being a chef from the age of 16 in a gruelling industry, working very long and unsociable hours, sacrificing time away from my family and friends.
“I’ve learned the value of hard work and its now really paying off for all of us,” he adds.