Spice burgers back on the menu due to popular demand

 

THE HUMBLE spice burger, one of Ireland’s few original contributions to world cuisine, has been saved.

After an extraordinary outpouring of support for Walsh Family Foods, the sole manufacturers of the product, it started making spice burgers again yesterday, just a fortnight after the Finglas-based firm closed with the loss of 50 jobs.

Its demise provoked a huge show of sympathy from disappointed fans after the news was revealed in The Irish Timeslast month. Newspapers and Facebook groups campaigned to “save our spice burger”, while internet forums were filled with nostalgic recollections of the product’s unique place in Irish food history.

The publicity also stoked the interest of catering distributors and retailers, who have placed sufficient orders with the company to justify a resumption in production.

“The level of interest has been extraordinary,” said Reg Power, finance director of Walsh Family Foods. “Mothers have called to say how disappointed they were that they couldn’t get spice burgers anymore for their kids in the local chipper. Three of the multiples have been on to place orders. Well-known companies have said they’re interested in the brand.”

For now, receiver Kieran Wallace of KPMG is allowing production for just two days a week and 20 workers have been re-employed.

“We’ve got to walk again before we can run,” said Mr Power, “but if we can pull this off, we have other products we’d like to bring out.”

Spice burgers, invented in the early 1950s, were the first product manufactured by Walsh Family Foods. Its founder, pork butcher Maurice Walsh, developed the product at his shop in Glasnevin and production later moved to Poppintree industrial estate.

From modest beginnings, the firm expanded into burgers, garlic mushrooms and onion rings.

It patented the recipe for spice burgers, which it describes as “a delicious blend of Irish beef, onions, cereals, herbs and spices coated with traditional outer crumb”.

Takeaways report that even those who normally preferred vegetarian food were sometimes tempted.

The Walsh family sold the company to a management buy-in team in 2000 and production and exports grew for some years. Recently, however, the firm sustained heavy losses caused by the weakness of sterling against the euro and tough competition from UK rivals.

Enterprise Ireland offered financial support but the company was unable to find the required matching private equity and had to go into receivership, according to Mr Power.

Now that it has been given a second change, he wants everyone to know about the spice burger: “It’s a beautiful product that has stood the test of time and hasn’t changed over time. There’s nothing like it.”