Irish Food Festival is successful for six ambitious local artisan producers

Interview 6-6-19 SM Farm

Jonny Cuddy, founder and managing director of Ispini Charcuterie, the award-winning producer of a wide range of cured meats, was part of a six-strong group of local food processors taking part in the big Irish Food Festival organised annually by Sheridan’s Cheesemongers in County Meath.

He found the festival “a fantastic and very worthwhile event” that helped to increase awareness of his artisan charcuterie in the Republic.

The small company, based on the Cuddy family farm outside the Tyrone town, where Jonny looks after a 300-strong herd of pigs used in the production of quality products, specialises in chorizo, salami and other cured meats. He runs the business with sister Janice and has seen their products collect gold medals in the influential British Cured Meat Awards.

The enterprising brother and sister team won golds for mace coppa – air-dried pork neck – and fermented garlic and black pepper salami sausage and silvers for two other meats in the UK awards.

“The Republic is an important and developing market for us and is easily accessed from Aughnacloy. The festival gave us a tremendous opportunity to sample our meats and talk to existing and potential customers from many parts of Ireland. And we did good business,” adds Jonny.

Linda McGibbon of SeaSugar handcrafted confectionary in Larne shares his enthusiasm for the festival. “What an utterly incredible day. I met many new customers at the super food festival. It was fabulous to introduce our sweets to another receptive audience.

“It was our first time at the festival and we loved it. We’ll be back again next year. We did good business and met a lot of potential customers there. It gave us a tremendous boost and encouragement to build our network in the Republic,” she says.

And Susie Hamilton Stubber, founder and managing director of Burren Balsamics in Richhill, a specialist in fruit infused balsamic vinegars, is another enthusiast for the showcase. “It was a brilliant day that was so very well supported. We introduced our unique vinegars to hundreds of people and did good business,” adds Susie.

“Wasn’t it just unreal,” was the verdict of Declan O’Donoghue of Erne Larder Preserves in Enniskillen, who found his Irish bacon sauce and Irish bacon ketchup products “extremely popular” with shoppers. “It was a marvellous event and certainly more successful than I initially thought it would be. The support was amazing,” adds the chef turned food processor.

He developed his ketchup and sauce with help from Pat O’Doherty of O’Doherty’s Fine Meats in Enniskillen, pioneer of Old Fermanagh Black Bacon, Old Fermanagh Corned Beef and the first nitrite-free bacon from his own herd of heritage pigs.

Now a supplier to Sheridan’s for its network of clients across Ireland, Irish Black Butter’s Alastair Bell, from Portrush, was keen to support the hugely popular food event. “The craic was mighty throughout the day,” continues Alastair. “It was a great show for doing business. It’s among the most successful shows that I’ve attended. People were keen to taste and buy,” adds the businessman behind the unique Irish Black Butter savoury/sweet successful spread, launched in 2017.

“Sheridan’s is among our most important and supportive customers. Our savoury spread is an ideal accompaniment for a range of cheeses that they distribute throughout Ireland,” he adds.

Sheridan’s is a long-time supporter of Northern Ireland artisan foods and has a number of local products, including Mediterranean-style favourites made by Tom and Ollie in west Belfast, in its portfolio.

The popular festival was launched by Sheridan’s in 2009 to celebrate the best of Irish food, bringing together great Irish food producers and customers for a big family day out. It is now among the biggest food events of the year on the island of Ireland.

The Northern Ireland contingent, all Food NI members, were among 100 of Ireland’s greatest food producers at the event which also featured specialist workshops and family entertainment.

It was held in the small townland of Pottlereagh in north County Meath. The stalls showcased everything from farmhouse cheeses to home-baked desserts, wild food preserves to locally milled flour, to butchers, meat curers and cider-makers.

Around 10,000 people visited the colourful and family-friendly one-day event.

Kevin Sheridan continues: “This year, we highlighted the many producers from across Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, and Munster that make up the diverse food culture of our island.

“The ethos of the festival is simple: only Irish food on the tables, and only producers behind the tables. We implement strict Irish origin only guidelines and insist the producers themselves run their stalls.

“By doing this and keeping the cost of the stalls to a minimum, we attract many small and genuine Irish food producers who you wouldn’t normally see at markets and fairs around the country,” he adds.

Sheridans Cheesemongers was founded in 1995, when brothers Seamus and Kevin started selling Irish farmhouse cheeses at the Galway market. They soon opened a shop in Galway, with Irish farmhouse cheeses piled from floor to ceiling.

The family business now includes a total of four retail outlets, six market stalls, and a purpose built warehouse premises in Meath which supplies many trade customers.
The company, he adds, is “passionately committed to sourcing highest quality artisan products and forging links directly with the food producers”.

Other Northern Ireland artisan producers stocked by Sheridan’s include Ditty’s Oatcakes from Castledawson.

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