New innovator: Oliver Carty
Pigmeat processing might not seem like the most obvious place to find new product innovation but in recent years it has been central to the continued success of a business founded 30 years ago by the late Oliver Carty.
Today the company is run by his son Ted, who is behind a major drive to put pork at the top of people’s shopping lists.
The company, which employs 150 people in Athlone, has spent close to €700,000 over the last 2½ years on the development of new products.
A large part of its business is own-brand products for the SuperValu chain.
“Bacon is a very traditional product and one that has a tendency to be favoured by older consumers. If we hadn’t found a way to innovate and bring younger people with us, our business would have been destroyed,” Carty says.
“Today’s consumers have busy lifestyles and one of the tasks we set ourselves was to make bacon an easier, faster product to handle and cook.
“Bringing a new product to market is always a risk and a challenge but we have been working with Musgrave [the company behind the SuperValu brand] for 20 years and they are very receptive to new ideas.”
Catching consumers’ attention was the first step in the process, so the company switched to a new type of packaging to improve product presentation.
Then it addressed the issue of cost-conscious but time-poor shoppers with a series of no-waste products such as breakfast packs that feed one or two people.
A series of other products has followed, that has included dry-cured bacon chops, lardons and herb-crusted loin joints. With healthy eating in mind, the company has developed new processing methods to greatly reduce the amount of salt in its bacon. It has also introduced low-fat products such as pork medallions.
“One of the more unusual products we came up with was a rack of pork ribs and we’re very proud of it,” Carty says.
“People are used to a rack of lamb, so why not pork? It’s a very different product but one that can easily be served up for a Sunday lunch. From a cost perspective it is significantly cheaper than lamb or beef when feeding a family.”
Despite having a line-up of food awards under its belt, the company is not resting on his laurels and is working on a range of ideas – including sauces and flavoured butter – intended to add value to its products.
It is also developing stuffing mixes and baking its own bread as part of this.
“We are injecting the stuffing into the pork fillets to ensure the product is easy to handle and doesn’t split,” Carty says.