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Artisan Food in Ireland

The production of speciality food in Ireland accounts for approx. €500m pa from a base of 300 producers. Of these almost 50 are farmhouse cheese producers compared to Holland which is the size of Munster and has over 100 cheese producers or indeed New Zealand with over 2,000 speciality food producers. So clearly it would seem that the market is far from saturated. But what drives our food producers? Is it the lure of the euro? clearly one hopes and expects to make money from any business venture but for our food producers it is much more, it is about the passion of producing top quality hand made food and not the mass produced, processed and often flavourless varieties that are thrown in front of us day after day.

The growth of farmer’s markets in Ireland over the past decade has been quite extraordinary and with the assistance of local enterprise boards and leader groups this now result’s in a turnover in excess of €10m pa., and reflects the diversity of products, our changing lifestyles and agricultural environment.

But when we buy ‘artisan’ what exactly do we get?

A product labeled or categorized as ‘Artisan’ has no set-in-stone definition because essentially it is down to who you ask. Artisan for me in descriptive of a food that is unique, usually hand made with a distinctive taste and flavour and with it’s own ‘persona’ which can cover a range of products such as breads, meats, cheeses, preserves and produce.

Irish food writer John McKenna eloquently describes Artisan food as a test of 4P’s, ‘it is a synthesis of the Personality of the producer, the Place it come from, the Product itself and Passion in the manner it is produced’

Zingerman’s speciality food describe it as ‘traditional or traditionally made, mostly in batch sizes using hand-done techniques which encompasses flavour, tradition and the integrity of the producer.