Programme helping tea and coffee specialists brew up a storm

Ray Ryan finds tea and coffee specialists feature prominently among participants in the FoodService Academy programme. 

WHEN it comes to the cuppa, we Irish are in a class of our own — recent statistics show that as a country we are the second biggest tea drinkers in the world.

And the consumption of coffee is also becoming increasingly more popular.

It was no surprise then to discover that two of the 10 companies that recently joined the first FoodService Academy, run by Bord Bia and Musgrave MarketPlace, specialise respectively in tea and coffee.

What’s more, Lily’s Tea Shop in Termonfeckin, Co Louth, and Coffee House Lane in Waterford each has a proud heritage that adds to their business profiles and reflects their individual traditions.

The story behind Lily’s Tea Shop goes back to a mountain region in Fujian Province called Bohea in the south-east of China. It has a reputation for producing teas that are famous for their distinctive flavours and superior quality.

Lily Chen, originally from the Fujian province and settled in Termonfeckin, has access to the best tea farms in China and selects the finest tea leaves for her customers. The mission statement of her business, as outlined in her website, says it all; “A healthier generation on a greener planet sounds too big for such a small business like Lily’s Tea Shop. Yet, it is where our conscience lies.

“In Lily’s Tea Shop, we believe thousands of streams gather into an ocean; many a leaf fills up a forest.

“We strongly believe in the spirit of eco-friendly and fair trade products and thus select our suppliers strictly in accordance with these principles.”

Mark and Stephen Bergin, of Coffee House Lane, a father and son team in Waterford, had been in the coffee industry for several years as agents for imported brands.

But then they decided to develop a quality local offering of their own in the South-East. Now, they have a big reputation of their own for producing a broad range. Ponticelli, one of their brands, means little bridges and was named after a suburb of Naples visited on a family holiday many years before.

Coffee House Lane, another range, owes its name to a busy trading part of Waterford, which is believed to have been the location of Ireland’s first coffee house over 325 years ago.

The family, which has a strong reputation in coffee roasting in the South-East, has both retail and foodservice customers and a cornerstone business ethos of selecting only the finest quality coffee beans from all over the world.

Coffee House Lane and Lily’s Tea Shop are just two of the 10 companies involved in the first FoodService Academy, the new programme run by Bord Bia and Musgrave MarketPlace.

Blanco Nino, based in Clonmel, is Europe’s first producer of authentic corn tortillas and Nobo, the company behind a Wicklow made dairy free ice-cream, which is made without any refined sugar, gums or stabilisers, were set up as suppliers in advance of the programme starting.

Two of the academy companies are from Cork. Secret Recipe, based in Ballincollig, is the only producer of halal and gluten-free meal solutions to the foodservice industry in Ireland and Britain, while Susan Robbins Fehily’s artisan gluten free bakery, WildBerry, is located in Ballineen.

Another company that will benefit from the programme is Tipperary Kitchen, a family-run artisan bakery producing a range of handcrafted meringues, dessert sauces and chocolate biscuit cakes in Holycross.

Atlantis Seafood, a family seafood business based in Wexford, Maria Lucia Bakes, a Dublin producer of gourmet gluten, wheat and dairy-free granola cereals, and Kildare’s Outdoor Oinks, a range of Bord Bia approved pork and bacon products, are the other participants. The academy seeks to help small Irish food and drink companies develop their business in the foodservice market.

It also aims to help the companies achieve growth within Musgrave MarketPlace’s foodservice business, which works with over 6,000 customers each week ranging from hotels and restaurants to pubs and nursing homes.

Maureen Gahan, Bord Bia’s foodservice specialist, said it is looking to grow the sales of small businesses in the market.

“The foodservice market is delivering real growth and value for Irish food and drink companies, as is evidenced in our recent report. The ‘out of home’ market is now worth €6.37bn and this is forecasted to grow to almost €6.9bn by 2018 so this is an area we are encouraging companies to develop,” she said.

Sheena Forde, trading director, Musgrave MarketPlace, said the foodservice programme is a follow on from the success of a similar food academy programme with Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices.

“We are now looking forward to bringing a similar programme to Irish foodservice producers through MarketPlace. A number of participating companies are food academy graduates so we are proud to introduce their products to our foodservice customer base.

“As the largest and fastest growing wholesaler in Ireland, we are ideally placed to understand the needs of the foodservice market and, as an Irish family business, we are delighted to work with small Irish manufacturers, many of which are family-owned, to give them a head start in the market.

“The FoodService Academy programme offers a combination of commercial and marketing expertise and will provide invaluable consumer insight for the companies involved.

“We would like to acknowledge the excellent support of Bord Bia throughout the development of this programme. Their shared passion for supporting Irish food business has been evident throughout,” she said.

The four months programme, co-ordinated by Bord Bia, is comprised of workshops and mentoring with Musgrave MarketPlace personnel sharing with the companies their practical insights and experience in supplier set-up, food safety requirements, distribution, sales and marketing.


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