Burren’s 10 years on the road to outstanding business success

Burren Balsamics, the developer and marketer of a unique range of natural fruit infused vinegars, relishes and jams, celebrated its 10 anniversary at a major food show in Great Britain last weekend

Based in Richhill, the small enterprise, started by London trained chef Susie Hamilton Stubber, was one of the few local companies at the big Farm Shop and Deli Show in Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre.  Susie met existing and potential customers there with Bob McDonald, Burren’s highly experienced and respected product development chef and director.

The only other Northern Ireland food company with an individual stand among over 1,000 exhibitors from around the world was Craigavon’s award-winning Forest Feast, a producer of luxury snacks from dried fruits and nuts.

The show attracts 25,000 buyers  from farmshops and delis keen to see and sample the latest produce and is among the most important food and drink shows in Europe. It’s an amalgam of shows that also include the National Convenience, Forecourt and Restaurant showcases.

Multi-award-winning Burren Balsamics, a Food NI member, started in a home kitchen and is now exporting vinegars successfully to global markets such as the US, parts of Europe and the Middle East from a modern processing unit.

 The company’s most recent export market is Mexico’s most influential department store. It is also one of the few local companies to be doing significant business with Harrods, the world’s most prestigious department stores and food halls. Other customers include onion jam for Aer Lingus on international flights.

The enterprising food business was born in 2014 when close friends Susie and Susan Robinson, both with a background in catering in London and Northern Ireland, decided to make balsamic vinegars and sell them to raise funds for Marie Curie cancer care charity.

The popularity of their initial range of balsamic vinegars at the Christmas charity fair in December 2013 encouraged them to set up Burren Balsamics, named after a townland close to where they both lived. Susan stepped away from the business for personal reasons.

Bob McDonald subsequently joined the company to provide his vast expertise and experience in new product and process innovation.

“It’s been quite a journey, a real rollercoaster of experiences,” says Susie. “Burren Balsamics is built on exploring business opportunities here, in Britain, the Republic of Ireland and increasingly further afield. Farm Shop and Deli in Birmingham is the most recent in a long line of marketing activities over the past decade. There really is no other way to grow a business than by getting out into the markets and selling hard.

“The shows in Birmingham bring together hundreds of speciality suppliers to celebrate the best of UK regional produce. As such it’s an unrivalled opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their products to buyers and key decision-makers across the industry. We’d certainly like to see smaller and artisan producers from Northern Ireland at the shows.

“Taking part in the shows also assists new product ideas for customers. We are a very market-led and customer-focused business. We now have an extensive pfrogramme of marketing activies in our most important markets especially in Great Brutain. You’’ll also find us at key food markets across Northern Ireland. It’a  market which is immensely important to our business,” continues Susie.

It’s an excellent example and great role of a kitchen table entrepreneurs bringing innovation to Northern Ireland’s dynamic artisan food and drink sector.

Burren Balsamics was formally established in February 2014 following the fund raising fair and from the successful testing of the products within a focus group of family and friends.

“We are now producing a range of fruit infused balsamic vinegars, relishes and jams which use as many locally grown ingredients with zesty flavours as possible.  These include Armagh (PGI) bramley apples and quality fruits from local farmers such as blackcurrants strawberries and blueberries,” says Susie..

“We found a gap in the market which  we can fill with our flavoured balsamics. These versatile bottles of flavour pack a punch and add endless possibilities to enhance salad dishes, stews and casseroles, marinades and soups.  They are also delicious to just dip bread into,” she adds.

“We’ve created a range of balsamic vinegars infused with blackberries, bramley apples, blueberries, strawberries and mint and raspberries. We believe the fruit vinegars are unique and are ideal for addng delicious flavours for adding to a host of dishes such as poultry, steak, game and salads. They are perfect for barbecues now that we are entering the season. They also enhance desserts,” she adds.

Burren Balsamics has also developed an impressive track record for innovation and new product development, the most recent being a vinegar matured in Bushmills whiskey casks.

This dedication to innovation has been extended process and products through an investment in waste elimination and recycling which has won Burren Balsamics widespread acclaim.