Agribusines Feature, Mon Jan 23, Ray Ryan
A recipe for success is a much used cliche, but in the case of Ballymaloe Foods it is a reality rather than an aspiration.
Ivan Allen started growing tomatoes on his East Cork farm away back in the 1930s, but people did not know what they were when he tried to sell them at the local markets.
This left his wife, Myrtle, with a glut of tomatoes which she used them to make relish that became a popular and much loved part of all family meals.
Years later, their daughter, Yasmin Hyde, started using this same recipe to make Ballymaloe Country Relish for local shops and restaurants.
She is the founder and managing director of Ballymaloe Foods, a brand member of Love Irish Food, which aims to help shoppers make informed choices about buying Irish manufactured food and drinks.
Love Irish Food was founded in 2009 a group of Irish brands with the overall aim to safeguard the future of food and drink manufacturing in Ireland.
Yasmin started production in 1990 with one product, Ballymaloe Country Relish, and a belief that there was market potential for the product.
“As time moved on we added new products to the production line and therefore changed our name to Ballymaloe Foods.
“Our intention is to produce foods as natural, without artificial additives, and as close to homemade style as possible,” she said.
Myrtle Allen first opened her celebrated restaurant in Ballmaloe House when Yasmin was eight years of age.
“From then on we were all employed, never a dull moment. I had the benefit of watching a business grow up around me. Something had to rub off,” she said.
Ballymaloe Country Relish, based in Little Island in East Cork since 1995, currently employs 25 people.
“It is an excellent location being close to the Jack Lynch Tunnel and with all the business services around us.
“When you start a small business you have to do everything and the few staff you employ have to do everything too. As you grow, one can then start to segment areas.
“As we are in food manufacturing, we have cooks, warehouse staff, marketing and administration teams and an engineer,” she said.
Yasmin accepts that Ballymaloe Foods has been fortunate that the business has been sustained and has grown.
“It as been able to offer consistent employment for many years. Some of our staff have been with us for 8, 15, 20 and 25 years.
“We use local firms for engineering purposes, marketing, transport and so. Where there is employment, there is always a spin off for the wider community
“Over the years we have made substantial investment in machinery and premises. Growing a business is a balancing act, figuring out what priorities to spend money on. The availability of finance is always a problem,” she said..
Ballymaloe Original Relish remains its flagship and bestselling product. It also has a jalapeno pepper relish, cranberry sauce, salad dressings and pasta sauces. The latest product is pickled diced beetroot.
“We have kept strictly to traditional recipes and cooking methods which we feel have enabled us to maintain the original and homemade flavour of our sauces. We avoid using artificial additives, nor do we pasteurise. The products are authentic and natural.
“Our principal markets are Ireland and Northern Ireland. We also export to Germany and Holland. Tesco in the UK and Woolworths in Australia stock Ballymaloe Original Relish.
“We have smaller orders going to USA and The Emirates. Building up a business in a new foreign market is not easy and requires a lot of effort and finance. Therefore, we are limited in what we can do,” she said.
Ballymaloe Foods is a member of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme which annually audits and certifies complying companies whose efforts in business contribute to sustainability. “I am all for making every effort, where ever we can, to work towards a more sustainable world. We intend to keep growing once there is a demand for our products,” she said. Accepting that Brexit is very serious for Irish agriculture, she said Ballymaloe Foods is fortunately not over dependant on UK sales. “Currently our sales to the north of Ireland are growing and our products are on sale both sides of the border,” she said.
Yasmin believes that having the Love Irish Food logo on the company’s labels brings awareness and attention to products manufactured in Ireland and highights how consumer support of these brands can create employment. “It is important to buy Irish and it is important that shops provide us with this choice. Buying Irish provides a huge amount of direct and indirect employment and a more sustainability future,” she said.
Yasmin’s work takes her all around the factory. It may be in production, or weighing out spices. She also work in the office. Some days she deliveries product. If necessary, she can load and unload lorries. “The variety of work is good. As far as I am aware, we are the first company in Ireland to grow, cook and pack beetroot on a commercial scale. “This is a new product for us and has required a substantial investment in machinery and trial and error. It is very early days yet, but I hope it will become a major product for the future.
“When you start your own business you become responsible to your sponsors, the people who are behind you, your family, your bank, the local enterprise board.
“You will be automatically driven not to let them or yourself down. Achievement in business is only to this day. We don’t know what’s around the corner. New challenges always lie ahead,” she said.