Foul weather inspires a happy change of plan
When the dark storm clouds gathered back in 2012 — with a long spell of foul weather and a major price war — vegetable farmers Sandra Burns and her husband Joe felt it was time to change direction and diversify.
The Killeagh, Co Cork, couple decided to give their vegetables added value — and Joe’s Farm Crisps was born. The couple started production, making carrot, parsnip and beetroot crisps for their local Farmers Markets in early 2014 — their first haul of 70 bags sold out in under an hour.
“We knew we’d tapped into something,” recalls Sandra, adding that soon afterwards, the Castlemartyr Resort started using the crisps as its choice of garnish with sandwiches.
The company joined the SuperValu Food Academy, and its products are now on sale in several SuperValu outlets as well as 80 independent stores around the country. Last November, the couple launched a mixed potato crisp — and just a few months ago, Joe’s Farm Crisps was selected to participate in the ‘ In. gredients’ programme run by Bord Bia partnering with KSG Catering.
It’s been an eye-opener, says Sandra, who says that under the programme, she got to meet chefs who introduced her to the idea of a potentially lucrative new customer base.
From conversations with chefs, she says, they realised upwardly mobile young professionals, as well as third-level students and airport travellers, would be very open to the idea of her mouth-watering vegetable crisps.
“We got invaluable information through meeting with the chefs, who are very passionate about the foods they use and who gave us great insights into who their customers are.”
Not only, she discovered were many head chefs open to the idea of somebody like Sandra making contact with them to suggest new and different foods, but through her meetings with them, she learned about the existence of a potentially new group of customers for Joe’s Farm Crisps — a demographic she had not previously thought about:
“We have a loyal customer base at our Farmer’s Market, and we have now, identified through the programme another type of customer — young, trendy upwardly mobile; someone who likes to experiment with different foods.”
Such customers, she realised were to be found in airports, IT companies and even college campuses. Up to the time she started meeting with the chefs, she says, the company targeted its products very generally at the retail sector.
“We have learned to be more focused and adopt a targeted approach to potential new customers.
“The programme gave us access to a lot of valuabl e information about the kind of people who enjoy our product and why — you could never get that information by simply selling your product over the counter at a farmer’s market,” said Sandra.
When I phoned, Arun Kapil was, of course in India — where else — meeting with the farmers who produce the aromatic spices used in Green Saffron’s popular range of foods.
The spices travel from that exotic continent to the company’s base in Midleton, Co Cork, making the trip from source to sauce in just eight weeks.
Anybody who enjoys making their own curries from scratch will be familiar with the brightly coloured Green Saffron spice mixes — as well as the aromatic sauces and chutneys produced by this multi- award winning company, which was formally launched a decade ago.
In the years since then the popular Midleton, Co Cork, company has been steadily carving out an unparalleled reputation for the superb range of spices which form the foundation of its range — spices sourced by family members in Moradabad, India.
Now employing 10 people, Green Saffron is not resting on its laurels. It is currently, says Brand Director and Customer Relations manager Olive Kapil, planning an exciting ‘brand refresh’ to be launched next month.
Green Saffron started life in the Farmers’ Markets of Cork and Limerick — and the company still runs regular stalls at MahonPoint, Ballyseedy and Limerick, because it believes there’s no better feedback than what you get face- to- face from a customer at the counter”
Although the Irish market is its main focus — its aim is to become the leading spice provider here — Green Saffron also exports to France and England, and has a broad customer base in America, Australia and across Europe.
Joining the In. gredients programme four months ago, says Olive, has turned into a great opportunity:
“KSG is keen on our spice blends and our sauces and we hope to join the company as one of its suppliers,” she says, adding that, thanks to the programme, the company is getting a better insight into the requirements of food companies in terms of the logistics of the supply chain and, for example, packing requirements.
“We are gaining insights into the food service ingredients division which allows us to grow and build volume into our raw material supply chain.
“I f we can meet the requirements of KSG as a food service company, then we will hopefully join their group of suppliers, which makes our spices accessible to so many people around the country, and we will grow volume in Ireland.”
“For us the quality of our product is paramount, and staying true to our product and not wavering form the standard we have set ourselves is our Number One priority,” Olive declares.
Sandra Burns of Joe’s Farm vegetable crisps — grown and cooked on the couple’s farm in East Cork.
Arun Kapil from Green Saffron, a Cork-based family business producing spice blends, sauces and chutneys from spices sourced in India; Green Saffron is one of seven Irish food and drink companies to have joined the ‘In.gredients’ programme with Bord Bia and KSG Catering to help smaller companies get their product ranges listed in the foodservice market. KSG has 110 outlets around the country.