It’s funny how among all the economic strife and uncertainty the Irish people have pulled together to keep our indigenous independent companies in business. As each euro becomes more and more scrutinised, we’re more careful and more thoughtful about where we spend it and what value we get in return.
In the difficult years that have followed the credit crunch, there has been an explosion of small artisan food and drink companies springing up all over the country. From handcrafted beer (Dungarvan Brewery), cider and fruit wines, to farmhouse cheese (check out the English Market in Cork), organic smoked salmon (Ummera Smoked Products) and a renewed demand for higher welfare, better quality meat (James Whelan Butchers).
You can tell I’m no economist, but on ground level I’m getting a sense that more people are making a bigger effort with food and wine at home. Perhaps because there is the option to stay at home and cook a cracking meal instead of spending it out on the town. I also think more people are happy to spend a little extra to get good ingredients and a slightly better bottle of wine.
The release of December trading figures from the big UK retailers is quite telling, and small businesses are now expected to make up the difference. Those who don’t have a job are now looking at other opportunities, probably part of the reason a lot of these artisan food producers are popping up. We’ve all had to work harder at grinding out a niche and as a result it’s brought innovation and opened new markets.
Speaking at Bord Bia’s Small Business Open Day this week Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia, commented “Small food and drink businesses are important contributors to the recovery and future prosperity of the Irish economy. Their survival and growth does not only bring investment returns for individual businesses, it also underpins the wider local community and the image of Ireland as a provider of high quality, innovative and sustainable food excellence.”
As I always preach, and will continue to preach, support indigenous Irish businesses where you can. By doing this you’re directly aiding the recovery of this economy as well as encouraging more choice for us all as consumers. If everyone relied purely on supermarkets, we’d be open only to commercial, mass produced food and drink with zero choice and poor quality.
Variety is the spice of life, and eating well and drinking well is one of the great joys of life. Accept nothing less.