June marks Food Month at Guaranteed Irish, a sector ultimately changed by the social and economic impact of national lockdown amid a global pandemic. According to a recent survey by Dublin research firm Innovate Solutions, 63 per cent of Irish consumers are now more willing to buy from Irish businesses and retailers while shopping during Covid-19. Irish food producers’ ability to adapt to the soaring demand for take-home groceries, online shopping deliveries and virtual cookalongs is most noteworthy.
With household favourites Clonakilty Blackpudding, Gem Pack Foods, Tayto, Flahavan’s, Pat The Baker and many more to its name, Guaranteed Irish continues to grow its network of indigenous Irish businesses, further building brand awareness amongst shoppers of the importance of supporting local producers. The recent Government restrictions have brought change to the nation’s lifestyle and shopping habits. Guaranteed Irish food producers’ agile response to meet the changing demands of Irish consumers is commendable. A home baking boom with soaring sales of flour and other baking products saw sourdough starter and banana bread making headlines as Irish consumers adapted to life in lockdown.
The Irish tradition of baking in the home is something that we all have experienced. Baking has a way of bringing the whole family together to create something special. At the heart of home baking in Ireland lies Gem Pack Foods, who have sought to serve the needs of Irish homes all over the island of Ireland since 1967.
Today, Gem is committed to the same level of excellence as they have been for over fifty years, albeit with the addition of social distancing. The operation at their Damastown factory has adapted to meet current guidelines to ensure they can continue to supply the baking ingredients needed to keep Ireland whipping up a storm in the kitchen.
While Gem are probably most associated with their vast range of sugar to suit all baking needs, they began life importing dried fruit from overseas, bringing raisins, sultanas and currants to Ireland in 1967. This was just a starting point and over the years, Gem has developed to become a household name in Irish baking. In 1993, they launched the 1kg Gem Granulated Sugar, which has been a mainstay in Irish homes ever since. Today, Gem is proud to service both the retail and foodservice industries with premium ingredients.
Amid uncertainty and restrictions, home baking in Ireland has begun to witness a resurgence. While foodservice sales at Gem slowed down, the Gem retail baking range, which includes sugars, dried fruits and nuts as well as baking powders and bread soda is up 150 per cent since the beginning of March compared to the same period last year. Right from the beginning of this pandemic in Ireland, Gem has sought to navigate the increased demand for its entire range while also ensuring that all health and safety standards are adhered to.
With foodservice orders beginning to return as of the first week of June, Gem has taken every precaution possible to ensuring the 100+ employees at the Damastown factory in Dublin are safe and healthy. While the supply chain flows, temperature checks, protective perspex in-between workstations, staggered break times and social distancing has become a part of life.
The business of brunch
While the country has turned to home baking, consumers also set about recreating traditional social experiences at home, with sales of brunch favourites bacon and eggs up over 33 per cent in the height of lockdown, while the good weather and restaurant closures have led to a sales increase of 44 per cent in BBQ meats, Kantar Worldpanel reports.
Clonakilty Food Company is home to Ireland’s favourite black pudding, first crafted in the 1880s in Edward Twomey’s butcher shop in Clonakilty, West Cork. When Colette and her late husband Edward took over the business and inherited its secret spice recipe which is safeguarded to this day, they did the hard yards. With extraordinary foresight, which Colette credits Edward with, they grew the business with the core principles of quality, ongoing innovation, loyalty to local suppliers and staying true to their traditions or roots remaining rock solid to this day.
In the early years, with special orders being transported by CIE bus to consumers that would order by letter, to packing up a delivery van and heading off in the morning for a day of cold calling to grocers and shops with strict instructions to come back empty, the family prioritised product quality and customer service.
Under Colette’s leadership, the business has grown and scaled. Clonakilty is now performing successfully across the UK, Australian and UAE markets, helped in no short measure by the Irish diaspora eager for a taste of home but finding a ready welcome in new markets with a burgeoning appreciation for ethnic, speciality and premium food produce.
Clonakilty are keen product innovators, monitoring food trends and consumer behaviour in seeking out new healthy ways to support a balanced diet. Over the years, their extensive product range has expanded to include Clonakilty Whitepudding, Clonakilty Sausages, Clonakilty Blackpudding Sausages, Clonakilty Rashers and Clonakilty Bacon Joints, as well as a full range of gluten free options and most recently, a Clonakilty Veggie Pudding. The unique #CookwithClonakilty campaign has resulted in hugely innovative recipe and meal creations for any mealtime that takes your fancy.
Clonakilty is Ireland’s most recommended brand of pudding, performing strongly at 85 per cent brand awareness, according to the Bord Bia Brand Health Check Study 2020. Clonakilty Food Company is currently working on its upcoming product development pipeline with a focus on quality and a loyalty to local suppliers and will be launching their new Visitor Centre in August 2020.