Business News

Food for thought

By Business & Finance
15 November 2015
food for thought

The inside track on Ireland’s booming food and beverage industry.


Margaret Jeffares has extensive experience in the agri-food and tourism businesses, having worked in the industry for over 25 years. In 2000, she established herself as a full-time tourism marketing and development consultant and created links with a number of consultancy firms. Over the years Jeffares has sat on numerous committees, held a number of board directorships and was appointed by government to the Tourism Strategy Implementation Group.

Margaret Jeffares

Margaret Jeffares, Good Food Ireland

Understanding the needs of agriculture and food production, together with her knowledge of the tourism industry, led Jeffares to develop a strong pioneering food tourism proposition for Ireland that would drive economic benefit for both sectors. In November 2006, she founded Good Food Ireland and today has over 600 agri-food and tourism businesses promoted through the brand.

Good Food Ireland has partnered with the Web Summit to deliver the Food Summit for the third year in a row. Over 300 artisan food and tourism hospitality businesses have showcased Ireland’s culinary cuisine and indigenous food produce to some 60,000 delegates from 100+ countries and over 3,000 worldwide media outlets.

“I have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the Web Summit and one of the personal highlights for me at last year’s Web Summit was meeting Eva Longoria and seeing her enjoy some of our fabulous Irish farmhouse cheese and tuck into our Irish beef. My proudest moment, though, was when the Taoiseach spent almost three hours at our Hall of Fame evening at the Web Summit and met with 250 food and tourism businesses and 2,500 international delegates,” Jeffares recalls.

“I hope Good Food Ireland will continue to grow, with its membership leading the way in enhancing Ireland’s culinary image to our tourists – which benefits the Irish artisan food industry and Irish agriculture generally,” she added.

Jeffares is planning to provide Good Food Ireland Tours early next year, where visitors can access Ireland’s premium food places and meet chefs, farmers, food producers and fishermen, giving insight and making personal connections. 

“Over the next 10 years I hope awareness of Good Food Ireland will soar and that GFI will become the overarching consumer platform for accessing quality food information and products for all food lovers, both those living on and those visiting this island.”


Patrick Shelley Kalak

A luxury Irish vodka has been created by new Irish drinks company Origin Spirits Ireland. Kalak Vodka is four times pot distilled from Irish malted barley, a process which is more commonly used in the production of Irish whiskey. The unique spirit uses 100% Irish ingredients and derives its name from the phonetic spelling of ‘An Cailleach’, the Irish Celtic goddess and queen of winter.

Tipperary man Patrick Shelley founded Origin Spirits Ireland in 2013 and Kalak Vodka is the company’s first product. Shelley previously worked in the international luxury goods market, holding senior positions with LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) across the world.

“Having worked for years in the international drinks industry, I was struck by the fact that vodka was often more about packaging than substance,” Shelley said. “I was not a vodka drinker until recently, as I found it in general to be odourless and tasteless. I wanted to create a vodka that I could enjoy, one with taste, character and depth as well as purity and smoothness. I was also keen to build on Ireland’s strong heritage and create a vodka using an inherently Irish distilling process, featuring the best of Irish ingredients.”


Maria Betts

Maria Betts has been celebrating after winning Best Cereal in Ireland for her Maria Lucia Bakes Cranberry, Coconut and Chia Seed granola at the Irish Food Quality Awards held in Dublin recently. Betts’ range of cereals are hand-baked, gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free.

The Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards, now in their third year, are open to all Irish retailers, producers and manufacturers across the island of Ireland.

“Winning such a prestigious award in the highly competitive cereal category against so many well established brands has given our small business a major boost of confidence,” said Betts. “This award will give both retailers and consumers alike the motivation to give our granola a try and I feel it will really help to grow our business.”


Slane WhiskeyA ground-breaking ceremony for the €44m Slane Distillery on the historic Slane Castle Estate in Co. Meath took place in October. The distillery, which will also include a visitor centre, is being built by leading US drinks firm Brown-Forman Corporation, the owners of Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort and Woodford Reserve, which bought all shares of Slane Irish Whiskey Company from the Conyngham family earlier this year. 

The Conynghams remain centrally involved in the development of the new distillery and new whiskey brands, which will be introduced in early 2017. When completed by the end of 2016, Slane Distillery will create 25 new full-time jobs, while the construction process will support approximately 80 jobs.

Above: Pictured signing the first cask that will be filled with whiskey from the distillery are Henry Conyngham, the eighth Marquess Conyngham; Lawson Whiting, executive vice president and chief brands and strategy officer at Brown-Forman; and Alex Conyngham, Earl of Mount Charles


Burren FoodieThe Burren has proved itself to be the top foodie destination for 2015 after the Restaurants Association of Ireland announced that the winner of Foodie Towns 2015 is The Burren.

After a rigorous few weeks of applications, town visits and 9,000 online votes, The Burren beat off stiff competition to be crowned Ireland’s top food destination. From bustling farmers’ markets to innovative strategies for growth and development, The Burren sets the benchmark for food tourism in Ireland, according to the association.

Above: Pictured receiving the award are Martin Waldron, Burren Escape; Tina O’Dwyer, The Burren Trail coordinator; Brid Fahy, Linnalla Pure Irish Ice Cream; Deborah Evers, Clareville House Kitchen Garden; Donal Monaghan, Gleninagh Burren Lamb


writers tearsWhat is set to be one of the largest independent whiskey distilleries in the country, the Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak in Co. Carlow, took a big step closer to being commissioned next January with the arrival of almost 30 tonnes of copper and steel whiskey distilling equipment.

The distillery will produce Walsh Whiskey’s critically acclaimed award-winning ultra-premium Irish whiskey brands The Irishman and Writer’s Tears. The distillery will be unique as the only distillery in Ireland to produce all three types of Irish whiskey in one still house, namely pot, malt and grain.


October 22nd was World Tapas Day, with celebrations taking place across the world. In Dublin, the Spanish Tourism Office teamed up with Taste City Fusion to offer a ‘taste of tapas’, where tapas lovers could avail of a free tapa plus a glass of Spanish wine when they bought a tapa from one of the participating tapas restaurants. Other events included master classes in Rioja wine presented by sommelier Kevin Ecock, and on jamón Ibérico by Mario Hiraldo.

The Spanish Secretary of State, the High Commissioner for brand España, visited Ireland and hosted a World Tapas Day presentation at the Instituto Cervantes followed by a tapas dinner with selected Rioja wines.

But tapas can be enjoyed all year round, and the Dublin Tapas Trail is a great way to sample top tapas restaurants during a
three-hour tour.