Feargal Quinn ‘surprised’ that celebrated sausages now outsourced to factory
Does the famed Superquinn sausage contain more myth than anything else?
Feargal Quinn introduced the sausages into Ireland in 1973, inspired by a supermarket in Germany which built a sausage factory next door and had long queues out the door every morning.
Fears that its renowned sausages would disappear with the Superquinn name provoked nearly as much angst among shoppers this week as the news that the stores would now be rebranded as SuperValu.
Pricey but high quality, the sausages were synonymous with Superquinn and the image of the upmarket supermarket chain.
They were introduced into Ireland in 1973 by retailer – now Senator – Feargal Quinn, because his sausage suppliers were frequently dumping superfluous product they couldn’t sell to other supermarkets on to Superquinn.
“We thought of three things,” recalled Senator Quinn.
“We thought of price, health and taste. We said we’ll go for taste because nobody who is into healthy eating goes for sausages anyway.”
He was inspired by a supermarket in Nuremberg in Germany which built a sausage factory next door and had long queues out the door every morning.
Senator Quinn recalled that Superquinn sausages were “by far the dearest sausage”, but rather than acting as a deterrent to shoppers, they were an assurance of quality.
“Every time we added an extra penny on to them, they sold more.”
Superquinn sausages were made in store and were an immediate success.
Senator Quinn, who sold Superquinn in 2005, said he was “surprised” to find that they were now being made by Larry Goodman-owned ABP Meats.
“I knew they didn’t make them in the shop anymore, but I thought they would have been made centrally by Superquinn,” he said.
“I’m sure the quality is still good, though I’m not a sausage-eater.
“Musgrave wouldn’t risk fiddling with the recipe.”
Sausages are made from pork, pork fat, rusk (a form of hardened bread) and seasoning, most notably salt, pepper, mace and nutmeg.
It is the seasoning that frequently differentiates one sausage from another and it is what lies behind Superquinn’s much vaunted “secret recipe”.
“They spent a lot of time developing the sausage,” said ex-Superquinn butcher David Lang, who now works for the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland.
“They wanted to develop a sausage that wasn’t too peppery or too bland, had a nice amount of meat and a suitable amount of fat to give it texture. They haven’t changed the recipe since.
“The fat, the meat and the spice, the rusk and the water draws the proteins out of the pork, which creates this emulsion that, in turn, gives you the mouth feel and the texture and the taste.”
All of Ireland’s 400 craft butchers make their own sausages according to their own recipes. Ireland’s undisputed king of the sausage is butcher Ernan McGettigan in Donegal town.
“I always held Superquinn’s sausages fairly high up there,” he said, “but they wouldn’t come near a traditional butcher’s sausage.”
Mr McGettigan maintains the significant difference between a mass-produced sausage and the butcher variety is the casings.
“We use natural casings from the gut of a sheep; they use mostly the collagen casings, which are man-made.”