Food Academy is a joint initiative between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office Network which gives small producers a big chance. Since its inception in 2014, has supported over 600 small producers across Ireland – one of which is The Galway Food Company. We caught up with Clare Colohan find out more .
Can you tell us about your product?
The Galway Food Company launched its first product range in November 2015 – our family recipe All Butter Shortbread with varieties including Connemara Seaweed, Galway Bay Lavender, Rich Chocolate and Irish Classic.
Having our homemade biscuits as the cornerstone of our range has set the precedent for the quality and standards we set for everything we do.
Our classic recipe is the flavour most people are looking for when they bite into a shortbread biscuit. One of the advantages of living in a small island in the middle of the Atlantic is the lush green pasture which has earned us the title of “The Emerald Isle”. Our cows feed off the best and richest grass and as a result, the milk and butter are unsurpassed. So as with creamy Irish butter as its key ingredient, this all time classic has many fans! Why not try our Strawberry Shortcake with fresh strawberries and cream for an indulgent treat!
While we are on the dairy theme, our chocolate shortbread is full of chocolate decadence, which we often source from local suppliers. How to add even more sparkle to a classic? Combine the buttery goodness with an indulgent treat and the answer is a chocoholic’s dream, little nuggets of delicious rich chocolate embedded in the biscuits themselves. They are seriously addictive! Just right with a latte or cappuccino!
With the wild Atlantic on our doorstep, we looked to the sea for further inspiration. Foodies and health conscious the world over are aware of the high health benefits of Seaweed – it is a recognised super food. Our Connemara Seaweed is harvested in Rossaveal, off the pristine shores of the Wild Atlantic Way. We were keen to give our classic a savoury twist and in so doing create a beautiful seaweed shortbread that combines beautifully with our locally produced cheeses. The tangy saltiness of the seaweed with the hint of sweetness in the shortbread is a marriage made in food heaven. We love to eat ours with some Irish smoked salmon, Irish cheese and a seafood chowder.
Galway Bay Lavender
Our Lavender variety has proved to be a best-seller! The lavender is grown in Maree, Oranmore on the Galway Bay Lavender Farm, in fields that roll down to Galway Bay. Adding the lavender flowers has created a beautiful fragrant biscuit which evokes all the senses! We love it with homemade lemon curd and greek yoghurt as a dessert. A worthy member of our flagship range.
What inspired you to create your product?
We come from a family of home bakers and I wanted to pass on the tradition to all of my own children. We are always amazed by the quality of the local ingredients that are available in Galway. I started thinking about ways to incorporate these ingredients into a business in 2015 and identified a gap in the market for a food brand associated with Galway. The Galway Food Company was created by myself and the kids in the summer of 2015. My brother is also part of the business and everyone in the family is involved – from recipes to packaging and from design to delivery!
What sets your product apart from similar products?
We are innovative in our use of local ingredients – currently we produce the only Connemara Seaweed and Galway Bay Lavender Shortbread in the country!
How has your product evolved since you launched it?
We joined the Supervalu/Bord Bia Food Academy Programme in Galway in September 2015 with a business name and a vision!
To take a new product from concept through to sitting on the shelf in a store takes a huge amount of knowledge, time and effort. The Food Academy Programme offered insight and gave a structured focus to this effort and helped to guide the process.
Since graduating from the Programme in December, we are now stocked in over 60 Supervalu stores around the country and we are growing week on week.
We are also evolving in the Artisan Food/Tourist and Gifting sectors and now have over 150 Accounts in this sector nationally.
Where can you buy your product and how much does it cost?
We are stocked on the Food Academy shelves in Supervalu stores nationally. We are also found in most of the Artisan food/deli stores and tourist outlets nationally. We also export to the UK.
We retail at €4.95 per 180g box.
What does the future hold for your business?
We are launching a catering option for the Food Service industry and then plan to expand our biscuit range with new savoury and gluten free options. Then we will introduce other food products using locally sourced Galway ingredients under The Galway Food Company brand.
Our marketing strategy involves exhibiting in a number of local and international Food Fairs including Taste of Donegal, the National Ploughing Championships and The Speciality Food Fair with Bord Bia in London in September 2016
The vision is to establish The Galway Food Company as a nationally and internationally recognised brand of quality food products using locally sourced ingredients from Galway.
I started this business with a thought – an idea -that grew into a concept and a plan. I have always had a very clear vision of where The Galway Food Company is going. I think it is important to have that vision. The vision for the company complements my vision for my family – to create a family business that will offer each of them the opportunity to grow the dream and in turn create a network of family working together.
What advice would you give to small food business start ups?
I would advise any small food business startups to research your idea and then research it some more! I come from a Business and marketing background. My degree involved a lot of Market Research and I was still amazed by the amount of research we had to do before bringing our idea to the next level. I don’t think you can ever do enough research and it is should be something which rolls out constantly.
Talk to people in the sector you are interested in – local store managers, producers in your chosen area. Aim to be as well educated as you possibly can in the area you have chosen
Apply for the Bord Bia/ Supervalu Food Academy programme which is delivered locally by the Local Enterprise Offices around the country. The programme is a structured and very focused series of workshops spread over three months which covers all aspects of bringing a food product to market. Areas such as research, production, food safety, packaging, distribution, pricing, selling and marketing are all covered in interactive roundtable discussions. You will also get a chance to go out and talk to local Supervalu managers which is invaluable learning
Above all, enjoy the journey! Chances are that you have started a small business because of your passion for good food. It’s a fabulous area to start a business in and we have met some amazing characters along our journey! It is a great time to be in the food business in Ireland!