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Article appeared in issue 4, 2021

New Roots

Prestige Foods' new plant-based range of desserts is tapping into evolving tastes

Prestige Foods was established in 2003 by chef John O’ Connor and employs close to 60 people at its 2,000m2 BRC grade A facility in Listowel, county Kerry. The company creates branded and own-label desserts for the likes of Dunnes Stores, Musgraves, Lidl, Aldi and BWG, as well as sweet and savoury canapés for the foodservice sector. Here, John shares how the business has grown its foodservice base at home and abroad, and discusses the launch of its new plant-based range of desserts.

“Foodservice was about 10% of our business up to six years ago. That’s when we made a conscious decision to develop that side. Our business was leaning towards desserts, and we now offer mini-desserts and party food into foodservice.”

“We have secured customers in the UK, France and Switzerland for our mini-desserts and bite-sized party food into foodservice, as well as customers here at home. We work with distributors in each country. In the UK, we have about 30 distributors, France is a growing market for us. We have consciously designed our recipes and flavours to appeal to consumers across a range of markets.”

The product isn’t a difficult sell, he says, due to the quality of the ingredients. “We have cream cheese from Tipperary and Donegal, fresh cream from county Kerry and Irish butter. Our food here in Ireland is a cut above, and we are very proud of that. We don’t have any trouble selling it, it sells for us! We follow a clean specification that is driven by the demand from our customers. Customers across retail and foodservice demand high standards nowadays. Over the last five years we’ve seen the use of artificial colours and flavours reducing, as well as reductions in salt and sugar. We use quality ingredients such as Belgian chocolate and Sicilian lemon, and you can taste them in our desserts, not simply sugar.”

The company has found state agencies to be a great help, offering not just resources but confidence. “The government agencies have been very good to us. We are members of Origin Green, Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), and Repak. I find Enterprise Ireland excellent, they nurture an idea and help you at every step.”

Membership of Origin Green, Ireland’s national food and drink sustainability programme, is one of the ways that the company is embedding sustainability for the long-term. “Sustainability is very challenging. It makes you think about your business, about where you are and where you want to go. It’s not a 12-month path, it’s a five or a 10-year path that you move along and do things better. It focuses you and it takes serious commitment.”

 

Evolving audiences

Mindful of new audiences, in 2019, Prestige Foods developed a vegan, plant-based range of chilled desserts, All & More. “Irish consumer tastes are evolving. According to Bord Bia, 4.1% of Irish adults are dietary vegans, that’s more than 146,000 people. A further 4.3% identify as vegetarians, while 10.6% of us include at least some plant-based alternatives as part of our diet. It’s a growing trend in the market – it’s been leading that way over the last five years. As a company, we have to keep evolving, to make sure we are relevant and we have the expertise to do it.

“We have huge experience making desserts and 16 months ago we decided to look at plant-based desserts. We wanted to create something really special. The plant world produces a vast, naturally occurring palette of flavours, textures and colour that bring all sorts of recipes to life. We launched All & More in the Irish market two months ago, in Dunnes Stores nationwide and SuperValu nationwide. There are great compliments about it on social media. It isn’t just the 25-45 age group, but beyond that, from 55 upwards, that are buying it. It gives us the confidence to go forward in international markets.”

He continues: “We are currently working with a company in France to get an understanding of the retail market there and we hope to meet buyers in late September of this year. We are also doing the same thing in the UK market. We understand the foodservice market in the UK, but we have started the journey to understand the expectations of the retailer, their promotion activities, the margin expectations, the route to market. We hope to have that completed by September or October of this year also.”

Consideration for the long-term impact on the planet was one of the major driving forces behind the range. “We use sustainable ingredients in the range. All & More has made us think about the sustainability of what we are doing. It generates an awareness across a team of people, not just one or two. We are trying to make things better for this planet.”

 

Awards

 

Great Taste Awards 2020

1 Star: Prestige Professional Irish Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tart

National Irish Food Awards

Blas na hEireann 2018 Gold: Dunnes Stores Decadent Belgian Chocolate Mousse Tortes

Blas na hEireann 2017 Bronze: Aryzta Pomegranate, Rosewater & Chocolate Mousse Dessert

 

The Irish Quality Food Awards 2017

WINNER Desserts & Puddings: Dunnes Stores Light & Zesty Sicilian Lemon Cheesecake

WINNER Biscuits & Cakes: Prestige Foods Mini Sicilian Lemon Tart/Aryzta

 

Great Taste awards 2016

1 Star: Aryzta Vanilla & Irish Mead Baked Cheesecake

 

National Irish Food Awards

Blas na hEireann 2014

SILVER Puddings & Desserts: Dunnes Stores Simply Better Handmade Raspberry Sherry Trifle

 

Irish Quality Food & Drink Awards 2014

WINNER Desserts & Puddings: SuperValu Signature Tastes Panna Cotta.

 

Great Taste Awards 2014

WINNER Savoury pies:

Supervalu Smoked Salmon Pie

WINNER Puddings & Desserts: Dunnes Stores Simply Better Handmade Raspberry Sherry Trifle

 

Irish Quality Food & Drink Awards 2013

WINNER Desserts & Puddings: SuperValu Kevin Dundon

Signature Sherry Trifle