For a relatively small country, Ireland really has a lot to be proud of and show for itself. From our music and literary culture, natural scenery, our history and festivals and our food. We’ve always had a rich food culture and good restaurants but now moreso than ever it’s hard to even pass through a country village without finding an artisan food producer or high quality cafe – which is a great thing! More and more people are taking the plunge to set up their own food businesses either because they have found themselves out of work during the recession or because they just want a job in something that they’re passionate about. At the same time as some people are just starting out, more established Irish food businesses are investing a lot of time and effort into social media campaigns and competing with leading brands in international markets. I think that both these approaches are very inspiring for anyone and therefore for my brunch I chose to work with a variety of local and national producers to showcase a small selection of what is on offer from Irish based producers today.
Not that anybody actually needed a reason or any convincing to dig into the brunch display but just to make sure that we earned it, we started off the day with a specially designed workout from Geoffrey Sheridan, owner of the Training Ground Gym in Barna. A proud Mayo man, and very successful GAA player until recurring knee problems forced him to take a step back, Geoffrey graduated from IT Tralee in 2014 after completing his internship with Pat Divilly of Pat Divilly Fitness. When Pat decided to close his gym to focus on online programmes, Geoffrey was presented with the opportunity to buy the gym and set up his own. At the age of 22 this would be daunting for anyone, but Geoffrey took the opportunity and for the last few months has been growing his own businesses which has gone from strength to strength. He focuses on delivering group fitness classes and personal training and for anyone looking to start I would highly recommend him (I’ve trained with him for nearly two years and love his approach and attitude to coaching. His classes cater to all ages and fitness levels so if you are thinking of joining for September book in now).
Following our workout we were first treated to some hot savoury crepes, gluten and dairy free pancakes and coffee from Mr Waffle (who even very thoughtfully supplied lactose free and almond milk). Mr. Waffle, whose flagship shop is located in Galway was set up by Kevin Nugent in 2010. Apart from serving deliciously sinful crepes and waffles they also have have healthy crepes, sandwiches and wraps as well as salads and a new gluten free range.
Tea drinkers were in for a treat as Solaris Botanicals provided us with a range of teas from organic Irish breakfast tea to the more exotic Jasmine Green Tea, Chunmee Green Tea, Green Tea Chai and Rooibos Cacao Chai (my favourite and it’s naturally caffeine free so is perfect for before bed). The couple behind Solaris Tea are Jorg and Karin Mueller who both have B.Sc. degrees in Medical Herbalism. They blend their award winning organic teas right here in Galway. After starting out in their 20’s blending teas in their kitchen they know have their own brewery and export their products all over the world. Tea is renowned for its health benefits, especially its antioxidant properties and by brewing their teas organically, with no additives and in silken, biodegradable tea bags, the health benefits are increased immensely. If anybody wants to get their hands on some you can buy it online here but you’ll also spot them in lots of coffee shops and cafes in their distinctive packaging.
For the next course there was granola from another Galway based producer Bowl-a-Granola. Bowl-a-Granola was set up by Siobhan Joyce who, when she found herself out of work, started to sell her homemade granola at local markets. She now stocks it all over Ireland as the demand for it has grown due her use of organically grown Irish oats and the fact that unlike most mass produced granolas hers contains no refined sugar and is sweetened using honey. All of our lucky particpants got a full sized sample in their goodie bags to try out at home.
To accompany this we had Greek Style Natural Yogurt from Glenisk. Anyone who follows my page knows how much I love granola and yogurt and these two pair so well together to make a healthy breakfast, elevenses or just a snack as Greek style yogurt is high in protein which fills you up but low in sugar. Glenisk are a family run business from Offaly who even after gaining huge success have still stayed true to their roots and ideals of keeping all their products organic. They supplied all the participants with workout tops, coolbags and no less than seven full sized samples of the new Glenisk high protein natural yogurts (which contain 10g of protein per 100g and only 4g of sugar – which comes from naturally occurring lactose). The high protein yogurts also come in a range of flavours from rhubarb (my boyfriends favourite), mango and passionfruit, blueberry, vanilla, coconut (my favourite), strawberry and raspberry which are delicious – which contain a bit more sugar than the natural variety but are delicious as a treat.
Linwoods, another very successful family run Irish business who are based in Armagh supplied the brunch table with a mix of milled flaxseed, milled flaxseed and goji berry and milled flaxseed, almond, Brazil nut, walnut and Co-enzyme Q10 which were delicious mixed into yogurt or as a pancake topping. They also supplied some goodie bag samples which are great used as a porridge topping, blended into smoothies or as an ingredient in clean baking (it makes a great healthy cheesecake base). Flaxseed is a great source of omega fatty acids and vitamins and minerals needed for healthy skin, hair and nails and the Linwoods variety is sold Ireland, the UK, Europe and the USA.
Another brand Irish brand making a name for itself on an international scene is The Foods of Athenry, a family bakery, run by the Lawless family in Athenry, Co. Galway. They produce a range of baked products from crackers, cereals, grab and go bars, cakes, cookies and bread. A huge selling point is that they also make gluten-free products in a dedicated second bakery. For anyone who is coeliac or gluten-intolerant, you’ll know how difficult it can be to find “regular” tasting gluten-free versions but these are almost even better. After a fire burned down the bakery in 2011 the family came back even stronger and now are supplying the likes of Dunnes, Tesco (UK and Ireland), Harrods and even Aer Lingus! For a small Irish family businesses to come back from such a catastrophe and reach this level of success is inspiring. For the brunch we were treated to vaious products from their gluten-free range including granola bars, flapjacks and mini cookies as well as their flavoured cracker toasts which went perfectly with the range of hummous’s supplied by local Westport producer, Harvest Moon Foods.
Harvest Moon Foods from Westport, Co. Mayo is run by Angela Carney. She is a qualified Nutritional Therapist who makes all her produce from scratch, by hand. None of her products contain sugar, wheat, salt or dairy (except pesto). Her products include hummous, nut butters, pesto, soups, salads and tapenades. The hummous, which is delicious, comes in a variety of unique flavours such as sweet potato and coriander, carrot and oregano, basil, roasted red pepper and natural flavour. Everything she puts in them are cooked by her from scratch and even the chickpeas are bought dried and soaked overnight.
To finish off our brunch on a sweet note we were treated to the most delicious and very popular raw caramel slices from Galway based healthy bakery Bliss Bites Bakery. They currently supply McCambridges, The Lighthouse Cafe, Food for Thought, Chi and Quay Street Kithchen in Galway, as well as taking custom orders. For anyone who likes clean desserts but isn’t the best baker here is the answer to your prayers!
To keep us hydrated we had water from none other than Galway Water who when they opened on Friday the 13th in 1962 were one of five other bottling companies in Galway. In 2015 they are the only bottling company in the West of Ireland. For anyone who doesn’t know (as I didn’t until we went out to collect the water) they also have three huge cold storage rooms full of fruit that is open to the general public and where you can buy a lot of fresh fruit and veg for unbelievable value. If you live in Galway check it out.
We also had juices and smoothies from Wild Orchard, a small factory set up in Limerick after one of the owners, who used to work for Pepsi, decided that he wanted to move into healthier drink production. All their smoothies and juices are made from fresh fruit with no additives and artifical flavours. They now supply their products all over Ireland (try out the beetroot smoothie – it’s so good and great before exercise).
I also had a number of other Irish companies get on board and supply samples for the goodie bags which were in high demand.
One of these was O’Egg who, apart from producing free range whole eggs, also make bottled liquid eggs. Anyone who is into fitness, cooks a lot of vegetarian meals or just uses eggs a lot will love these. They have bottled liquid egg whites (which I find great as I often would just like to use the white but feel too guilty about throwing away the yolk) as well as whole eggs. The bottles are really handy as there is no mess, no shells and they are also freezable. Each bottle contains either 10 whole eggs of 15 egg whites so take up less fridge space too. O’Egg is based in Cavan and Meath and is family run after establishing the brand in 2009 the family have worked hard to reach out to new markets which I admire. They were kind enough to supply each of our participants with a bottle of each liquid eggs which I’ve already used to make egg white muffins and egg white oats.
Another very successful company that got on board was Wyldsson, a food company set up by Dubliner Dave McGeady after he found himself out of work during the recesssion. He was interested in creating a healthy snack that wasn’t full of sugar and sweetners but which still tasted good. Their ProMix tubes are a mix of fruits and nuts (and not just any fruits – think Guayan mango, Californian pomegranate, barberries, goldenberries and mulberries). They are hugely popular among athletes, in particular golfers like Rory McIlroy as they provide a steady release of energy (with no subsequent blood sugar crash) and the handy packaging means that no oil gets on your hands. Over the last few years the company has turned from a side project into fully fledged business. You can use the code “superfit” at checkout to get 15% of you order.
Iswari are another company whose products I regularly use (check out my recipes here and here). Based in Kinsale in Cork they produce organic superfoods. My favourite products are their superfood breakfast mixes, maccacino powder and raw vegan chocolate bars, of which our participants were lucky enough to get samples of.
Market 57, a local shop with outlets in Westport and Clifden and online store www.kitchencookware.ie supplied participants with lots of unique little kitchen gadgets. This shop as well as the online shop is full of the most innovative and useful kitchen gadgets and is well worth a browse. They are also a great example of a small Irish business who made the successful move into online retailing.
Evergreen Health Shops based in Galway are another great example of local shops that have moved into online retailing as well as keeping there physical stores. They’re are also one of my favourite shops to browse around as there’s always some new product to discover, and they supplied our goodie bags with a sample of these.
As you can see a lot of Irish companies got on board with my idea which was great! They are all brands that I know and use myself so would have no problems recommending them to anybody. Be sure to check out their websites (links can be found throughout the blog post) and if you’re connecting with them on social media make sure to let them know how you found them!
You can follow my social media accounts (Instagram – @the_superfit_foodie), Twitter (@aisling_harris), Facebook (Facebook/thesuperfitfoodie) and Snapchat (superfitfoodie) to see how I use all the products. You can also read my full blog post on the actual event itself here.
If you are a company that would like to get involved in my next event then drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To read my blog post on the actual event itself to find out what it’s all about click here.
Thanks for reading!