Artisan food sector set to create 300 new jobs this year

Ireland starts exporting shellfish butter to the Middle East as food industry expands

Collecting seaweed in Co Sligo. File Photograph:  Bryan O’Brien

Collecting seaweed in Co Sligo. File Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mon, Jun 30, 2014, 21:06

What is it about us Irish and butter? First, we introduce the world to Kerrygold, spawning a never ending stream of rather dodgy TV ads and now we’re about to sell shellfish butter to the Middle East.

New Irish company Iascseafood has come up with a novel product, the world’s first long life shellfish butter and already it’s proving a hit in the Middle East with a first consignment heading for Dubai this Friday.

Iascseafood director James Grimes said the product involves mixing mussels and crabs from Bantry Bay with seaweed from Milltown Malbay into a butter which, when chilled, has a shelf life of over 90 days and can be used in sauces, soups, terrines and various other dishes.

“We’ve been passing samples back and forward for the past six months through Gillian O’Neill of Classic Fine Foods in Kildare and she came back last week, to say that we’ve got an order from Dubai and the first consignment is heading out on Friday,” he said.

Iascseafood’s Colin Ross said they are also expanding the range in the autumn to include lobster, oyster and clam butters and while they are currently making 500 kilos a month, they hope to increase this to 1,500 kilos a month within a year.

Iascseafood was just one of 58 artisan food producers participating in today’s Cork and Kerry Food Forum where Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney announced the creation of some 300 news jobs in the sector over the next 12 months.

Mr Coveney explained that last year some 200 companies which had participated in the Food Academy Start Programme had created some 300 jobs nationally and the same was predicted this year when another 200 companies will participate in the programme.

“On average, they took on a job and a half per company and we’re expecting the same this year and that’s quite a conservative figure because there’s more momentum behind the Food Academy this year than last, year because it’s growing all the time.”

The Food Academy Start programme involves a colloboration between Bord Bia, SuperValu and Local Enterprise Offices with the start up companies securing listings for their products with SuperValu which has 223 stores nationwide.

Among the other exhibitors at the food forum was Mr Coveney’s neighbour, Pat O’Farrell who has seen his Carrigaline Cheese business go from strength to strength over the past 27 years when he started making cheese at his farm to overcome the introduction of quotas.

“We do six flavours at the moment and we’re listed in the SuperValu’s of this world - we supply Ireland, the US, France, Italy, Dubai and Germany at the moment - we’re producing about 30-40 tonnes of cheese a year so it’s going very well for us.”