Bakery back on track
FOOD BUSINESS:When a fire wiped out their family bakery, the Lawless clan fought back, they tell MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBY
PAUL AND SIOBHÁN LAWLESS and their children (pictured, left to right) Cian, Gráinne, Aisling, Meadhbh and Eoin are the family behind the Foods of Athenry brand that produces baked goods, including a gluten-free range, on what was previously their dairy farm.
They’ve been picking up industry awards since they went into business in 2004, but last June their business burned down. The family rallied and rebuilt their premises, getting back to full production in January of this year.
It was an amazing feat, “due in no small part to the five support systems who live with me”, Siobhán says of the children, who combine third-level studies with their roles within the company.
Aisling has completed a business degree and post-grad online marketing and PR course, and is currently doing an internship with the family business. Eoin, who has gone back to college to do a second degree, does deliveries on Saturdays. Gráinne is doing a Masters in dietetics and has input in that area. Meadhbh is a fashion student who looks after the company’s photography requirements, and Cian is a first-year student of theology and world religions at Trinity College. “He’s the thinker, yet to find his niche in the business, but he feeds us and is an amazing cook,” his mother says.
Having started baking as a sideline, in 2004 the family took the major decision to sell their dairy herd and turn 4,000sq ft of milking sheds into a bakery. Five years later they expanded, to produce a gluten-free range in response to consumer demand.
But as they were eating breakfast on June 29th last year, the day after Paul’s 50th birthday, a fire broke out in the bakery, and completely destroyed the premises. After a four-month closure, they reopened in November 2011 to service their Christmas contracts, and haven’t looked back since.
Foods of Athenry won a Blas na hÉireann award recently for its gluten-free granola bar, and recently launched a range of “free-from” crackers in cranberry and hazelnut and multiseed varieties. You’ll find the company’s “Craicers” – bad puns are a recurring feature – in Tesco (€3.95), which stocks their gluten-free-range nationwide in Ireland and the UK, as well as in a family-bag version in Dunnes, and some branches of Spar/Eurospar and independents.
The company also makes granola, scones, pies, soda bread, biscuits and cakes, and gluten-free Christmas puddings, cakes and mince pies. It won seven awards at the Great Taste competition in the UK this year, and the range is available in Harrods and Selfridges London and Dean DeLuca in New York.