This year Focus Friday is teaming up with the SuperValu Food Academy to bring you the best new Irish food producers, and tell you all about their products. Today, we chat to Declan Rafferty of Rafferty Fine Foods.
Can you tell us a bit about your product?
We at Rafferty’s Fine Foods produce a range of high quality artisan products. We produce flavoured sea salt flakes, marinades and infused oils. Our range is 100% natural and gluten free with no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives. All our products are hand blended which guarantees a quality product with an authentic taste.
Our flavoured sea salt flakes are the perfect larder ingredient to have on hand to enhance your home cooked meals. They can be used during cooking and also as a finishing salt. Our range of salts will add both restaurant quality flavour and memorable texture to all your foods. Our initial range of sea salt flakes came in a range of four different flavours – Lemon & Lime, Garlic, Rosemary & Mint and Garlic & Chilli. We are excited to announce that this week we have expanded our range and launched two new flavours establishing us as Irish market leaders in this category. Our new flavours are Red Wine Flavoured Sea Salt Flakes and Sriracha Flavoured Sea Salt Flakes which are already sold in SuperValu stores in Sutton, Firhouse, Palmerstown, Killiney and Kells and will soon be available in more stores.
Our Garlic & Chilli Oil is an olive oil based product, rich and warm in colour with flakes of garlic and chilli adding an exciting crunch to your meals. This product is so versatile and has many uses – in cooking of poultry, meats, game and seafood, adding heat and sizzle to your prawn dishes, or simply drizzled on your bruschetta. It’s also delicious as a dipping oil with crispy bread, ideal as a dressing for salads and brings your mashed potatoes to life. Our stir-fry marinade is another versatile product perfect for marinating chicken, beef, pork, prawns or duck prior to stir-frying to ensure your stir-fry has that essential oriental flavour. It’s also perfect for marinating your meats now that summer and barbeque season are just around the corner. Our marinade could be your best friend when entertaining in the garden this summer.
What inspired you to create your product?
As a chef with my own restaurant I was already making the products and using them as ingredients for my menus. The restaurant is based in a golf club which has seasonal business. As the winter months tend to be quieter and also due to seasonal spend I have always produced puddings, mince pies and cranberry sauce for the Christmas market. When customer requests began to come in to purchase my other “menu only products” I saw a business opportunity and seized it. Initially, we started out attending some small local craft fairs and markets. We then entered two products in the Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards and were delighted when we won gold with both products. This endorsed the confidence we had in our products and inspired us to develop our business idea. The SuperValu Food Academy has been very helpful in implementing this idea. We are passionate about high quality and fine flavours and this passion transfers to all products produced by us.
How has your product evolved since it has launched?
Initially, our business was involved in producing jams, chutneys and relishes, infused oils and marinade with the flavoured salts being our newest product to the range. We then got an opportunity to participate in the Food Academy Programme which is a joint initiative between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office Network. This programme gives small producers the opportunity to sell their products in SuperValu stores and helps them grow their business and scale up when ready to supply into more SuperValus. During this programme we had the opportunity to examine our business model and in doing so we decided that our flavoured sea salt flakes and our infused oils were the best products to move our business forward. We continue to supply our other products into small independent retailers. Feedback from consumers to our products has been fantastic.
Who is your customer?
Our customer is someone who likes cooking and seeks quality products for entertaining. They are interested in trying new flavours, new products and enhancing their cooking experience. Our products also appeal to families who like to cook quality meals from scratch and for whom mealtime is important. Our customers seek simplistic and convenient ways of adding fine flavours to their home cooked meals. Like SuperValu our customers are conscientious and like to support locally produced Irish products.
What tips would you give to someone who is starting out and wants to launch a food-related product/business?
First of all, it’s important to investigate the market to establish if there is a place for your product. Identify your unique selling point and what differentiates your product from similar products on the market. Approach the SuperValu Food Academy and your Local Enterprise Office as they have supports in place to help you. Get your costings right from the beginning and revisit periodically. Also make contact with your Environmental Health Officer who is there to support and advise you regarding food legislation etc. Operating a food business demands a lot of time and energy. It is a 24 hours 7 days a week commitment so try to be sure from the start where you want your business to go.
Where can you buy this product and how much will it cost?
We are available in the Food Academy section of SuperValu stores in counties Louth, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Dublin and Wicklow with a plan to expand. The retail price for Flavoured Sea Salt Flakes is €3.50 for 70g and our Infused Oil and Marinade are €4.50 for 250ml. You can also find us in some independent retailers and craft butchers in Louth. Occasionally, we trade at food fairs and festivals.
What does the future hold for your business?
We are very excited about our future as we continue to grow our business with the support of the SuperValu Food Academy. We are hugely fortunate to have been chosen by SuperValu as one of 30 high potential companies to progress to the Food Academy Advance programme. This programme further demonstrates SuperValu’s commitment to supporting small Irish producers. Through the programme we have access to expertise in branding, market research, business development and distribution which allows us to expand and secure regional listings and aim for national listings with SuperValu. We hope to take on staff in the coming weeks as we will expand our production. Next year we plan to examine international markets. Our journey to date has been an exciting one and we are extremely thankful to the SuperValu Academy, Bord Bia and our LEO for their support of local producers.