Celebrating being shortlisted in the 2013 Arthur Guinness Projects awards this year, the Tipperary Food Producers held an intimate long table lunch in The Coachman, Clonmel recently.
The group were among 700 entries to the Arthur Guinness Projects, an initiative set up to reward new Irish talent and creativity, across four categories - music, sport, arts and food.
With a â‚¬50,000 bursary up for grabs, to have been selected as winners of the food category would have been a great achievement for the group, comprising 30 food businesses from across Tipperary, with a cumulative turnover of â‚¬24m .
But they have bigger fish to fry, according the Tipperary Food Producers chairperson Pat Whelan. Spurred on by their successful May trip to Brussels, showcasing the best of Tipperary produce at a special long table dinner with MEPs and food bloggers from Europe, Mr Whelan and his colleagues are very excited about the future and potential opportunities available.
â€œWe are working towards developing an export brand for Tipperary food production,â€ he explained.
â€œTravelling to Brussels helped us showcase our products to the EU and the long table dinner created an awareness of Tipperary as a place of artisan food production. We got a very positive response from Brussels,â€ he said.
â€œTipperary itself is a brand and we feel there is value in that word, which is instantly recognisable from the song, and consmers connect with that word, it is very emotive.
Businesses strive to create a brand that is internationally recognisable, it is easy to understand why Tipperary is worth promoting - in every way, especially with a consumer audience of 400 million on our EU doorstep. Instead of trying to fit into an Irish brand, Mr Whelan and Tipperary Food Producers want Tipperary to be a brand in its own right. â€œWe want to develop Tipperary as a food region in Ireland, like Champagne is in France,â€ said Mr Whelan.
Currently the Tipperary Food Producers are working on a strategy document with the County Council, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, and other relevant agencies to investigate this possibility, which Mr Whelan admits, is a mammoth task to achieve. But very possible. They are also working with the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), and the development of the collegeâ€™s existing food division. The future looks bright, and with a menu of delights such as those served at last weekâ€™s lunch, sounds divine.
Catered by Barbara Russell, the meal consisted of: a starter of Cashel Blue cheese, with pears from The Apple Farm, wrapped in bacon; a choice of Pat Whelanâ€™s dry aged beef or Croweâ€™s ham, served with seasonal vegetables; and a dessert plate of Lough Derg Chocolates, Cookie Jar chocolate brownie and Boulaban Farm Ice Cream. This was washed down by delicious PÃ³naire coffee. It was attended by Minister of State Tom Hayes, Mayor of Clonmel Cllr Pat English, and a number of special guests.
â€œThe whole purpose of the long table events has been about networking, bringing all stakeholders together around the table, to influence those who can make a change and negotiate over the table - all connected by food. It is about place, people, product, passion,â€ said Mr Whelan.
Geraldine Shanahan, who has owned The Coachman with husband Gerry for the past 27 years, said they were delighted to have been selected as the venue to host theâ€¨Tipperary Food Producersâ€™ event.â€¨â€œWe feel that through our involvement with the Tipperary Food Producers, we can help showcase other businesses, but also promote our own business too.â€ The Shanahans are investing significantly in their business in the coming months, and beleieve that their vision for generating business and contributing to the local economy, is in line the the Tipperary Food Producersâ€™ also.