Rosscarbery fitness enthusiast Maurice Allshire tells Emma Connolly what prompted him to further diversify the family’s farm products
THE award-winning Rosscarbery Biltong was born out of the frustration of its fitness enthusiast creator, at not being able to find a quality, high protein snack made from simple ingredients.
Maurice Allshire said he was sick and tired of ‘new protein bars coming on the market every other week, one as bad as the other.’
At a Crossfit competition in Dublin back in 2015, he came across Biltong, essentially a seasoned dried meat, and decided to look into adding it to his family’s repertoire of meat products and diversify their offerings.
And by 2017, at the age of 19, Maurice became the youngest ever winner of an award in Blas na hÉireann, taking silver for Rosscarbery Biltong, created entirely to suit his own lifestyle.
His parents, Avril and Willie are well known as being the dynamic duo behind Caherbeg Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes and Maurice says he’s pretty much always worked in the family business with older brother William.
‘As soon as we could help with even the smallest of tasks, both William and I were allowed to get involved whether looking after our herd of free range outdoor pigs or in the processing unit. When my dad developed new products, our opinion even as children, was taken seriously.
‘I became interested in nutrition as I saw how important it was to my physical health and wellbeing especially when I began to race quads and then began training in Crossfit. I completed my Leaving Certificate in Bandon Grammar School in 2016, but by that time I had already begun to develop Rosscarbery Recipes Biltong and turned down my college offer (Food Entrepreneurship and Marketing in UCC) and I joined my parents and William, in the family business full-time, immediately from the last exam. My parents encouraged me to work on my own ideas and they’re always at my back to support me.’
The journey from idea to development to getting the product on the shelf was pretty seamless for Maurice, who started by doing a two-day meat course in Gubbeen, which encouraged him to do further research.
‘I also applied to LEO – West Cork for a feasibility grant, which I received, to encourage me and help me to find what was already on the market in Ireland and the UK. I wanted a product with no hidden agenda and with an ingredient list a toddler can read, something that is exactly as it says on the tin.
‘Dad and I attended a trade show in UK where I saw many different Biltongs and was aware of the different packaging used. Like always, I used myself as a guinea pig – the packet had to be easy to carry so I worked with a local designer to create the graphic and from there with a packaging company.’
For the product itself, the meat is bought in from ABP in Bandon and is certified Irish Angus beef.
‘We did have a herd a few years ago, but sold them. But, to put it in context, you can only use a few cuts for Biltong and you would have to be making, say, a few tonne of burgers to use up the rest of the animal so it works better this way.’
In their factory, he cures the meat with sea salt, and adds raw organic cane sugar before it’s air dried. The entire process takes around a week.
Because many of the family’s products were already available in SuperValu and independent stores, he was able to introduce the Biltong relatively easily.
A meeting with a Circle K buyer also resulted it being available in all of their forecourt shops nationwide. The 50% protein snack retails for €2.50.
‘One thing that I did have to explain is that it is ambient, which is a new concept, as it is the only meat product being produced in county Cork which isn’t stored in the fridge or freezer.’
The feedback, he said, is positive: ‘I know there are children who take it to school in their lunchboxes; people use it as a snack when out for a walk or a day at the beach, etc as well as athletes.’
Most recently Biltong has become available in in a new venture in Cork, called Neighbourfood, which is essentially an online farmers’ market.
‘It’s very exciting. Customers can order and pay for their products online and collect at a designated time and place. I’m also always looking at expanding making new products and experimenting with new versions of Biltong,’ Maurice told us.
Watch this space.