When small gets big: artisan food firms that get the balance right

January 18th, 2016 7:20 AM

By Southern Star Team

Dominic Casey and Kevin Waugh of West Cork Brewing Company in the nano-brewery under Casey's in Baltimore

Share this article

Kate Ryan meets three start-ups that are keen to keep the personal touch when their successful businesses really start to grow

SETTING up a business is always hard work, but a food business requires an almost singular dedication that is particularly hard to maintain. So it’s no surprise that those behind small scale, artisan food production are so married to it.

 It’s a living, breathing thing that needs constant minding as you watch it grow from an idea to a functioning and sustainable business.

 But success inevitably changes a business from its humble beginnings.  So, how can it maintain artisan credentials as it starts to scale up? There’s no better way to find out than to ask those involved in the process.

Antoinette Moore – Forever Free Foods, Clonakilty

Antoinette has been creating delicious gluten, wheat and dairy free food for 15 years as a cottage industry at a time when access to great tasting free-from food was limited. Antoinette created Forever Free Foods to set about the process of taking her forward thinking food to mass market.  On the cusp of success, Antoinette was diagnosed with breast cancer and all plans to launch her business were put on hold.  

After eight years of recovery Antoinette re-launched Forever Free Foods and entered RTÉ’s Taste of Success 2015 with her coeliac-friendly meat lasagne reaching the semi-final of the Munster region. 

Antoinette is looking to secure a manufacturing partnership to scale up production of her original recipes for a wider audience.

Allison Roberts – Clonakilty Chocolate

Allison has been a chocolatier since she was 12 years old and in 2015 crowd-funded her way to becoming the third person making bean-to-bar chocolate in Ireland. 

An ever-growing number of stockists of her handmade chocolates and a burgeoning workforce where once it was just herself, means focus is now on balancing production and sales.  

Employing local people and passing on the skills of chocolate making is a core objective of her business.  She has also just become a mum for the first time too, making 2015 an eventful year.  

I’ve had to take a step back from production and let my lovely staff get on with their work without my nosing in all the time!’ she said.  ‘I’ve been really pushed to make my social enterprise not just ‘social’ but ‘enterprise’. As I grow I need to make sure the numbers add up so that we can keep doing what we do best - making chocolate.’

Clonakilty Chocolate was also featured by Rachel Allen for the RTE Christmas Special of Coastal Cooking and launched a range of hand crafted gifts under the banner of “Cocoa Husk Designs”.  Allison and her team continue to expand their product line in 2016 including raw cocoa nibs, whole roasted chocolate covered cocoa beans and nuts and tea made from the husk of the cocoa bean.

Dominic Casey, Henry Thornhill & Kevin Waugh – West Cork Brewing Company, Baltimore

They say the best ideas are generated over a pint with friends.  They also say some of the best products were born in a basement or garage. 

Imagine then an idea mooted over a pint of mass-market commercial beer in a local bar and later formed in the basement of that same local bar. 

In March this year, Dominic and Kevin were hard at work in their garage brewery under Casey’s Hotel in Baltimore. 

In April at the Franciscan Well Easter Brew Fest, four barrels flew out the door over a weekend. 

A few months later WCBC got a coveted tap in the Franciscan Well, the only other place to buy the beer other than in Baltimore.  

Fast forward again, and the lads are in the midst of building a bigger brewery bottling plant at a new site in Baltimore due to open later this year. 

They launched their third brew, a stout rich with roasted malts, at their first birthday party on 5th December last year.  

Increased production means a slight shift away from the literal hands-on approach to brewing, but brings the opportunity to present their beautiful small batch craft beer to a wider audience.  

Kate Ryan is a food blogger who can be found at

Share this article