Abernethy Butter, a UK and Ireland leader in handmade and hand rolled butters, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its formation by artisan innovators Allison and Will Abernethy.
Based in rural Dromara, county Down, Abernethy Butter now counts the iconic London grocer Fortnum and Mason (F&M), The Ritz Hotel, also in London, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and renowned food stylist Nigella Lawson among its high profile UK customers.
Other celebrity chefs in Britain such as James Martin and Marcus Wareing use the pure creamy butter. A host of major awards have also acclaimed the rich flavours of the company’s butters, all hand crafted by Will, originally a farmer, from fresh milk from grass-fed dairy cows.
The Abernethys, widely respected entrepreneurs, are understandably proud of all that has been achieved in the UK and on the island of Ireland over the period. “The years have really flown by so quickly,” Allison says. “I guess this is because we’ve enjoyed every minute creating the product, building the business and developing such prestigious customers for our range of handcrafted butters. It’s taken great dedication and enterprise over the years. There’s really no magic bullet for success in artisan food production and, as every small food producer knows, there’s no alternative for hard work,” she adds.
While the business is celebrating its 10th anniversary, the couple had been developing and shaping the idea for a number of years.
The innovation on which the business was founded continues to underpin its approach. The original butter has been joined by smoked, seaweed and sea salt, and black garlic flavours. The small business, in addition, produces a UK Great Taste award winning butter fudge.
Great Britain, Allison continues, accounted for around 60 percent of sales before the virus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns. “The challenge facing us now is on recovering and then continuing to grow business there, in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.
“Our sales to high-end restaurants and upmarket hotels were halted by the lockdowns in hospitality and many of the delis we also supplied were only open for limited periods,” adds Allison. “We appreciate greatly the tremendous support from delis here and further afield over the past decade and especially during the lockdown,” she says.
Allison describes the orders from Heston Blumenthal, chef/owner of the acclaimed Fat Duck restaurant in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and from famed F&M food hall in London’s Piccadilly as “game changers” in the early stages of the company’s development. “These orders really put our artisan butter on the map and raised our profile significantly in Britain,” she adds.
The butters have become such a success that F&M includes them in its globally renowned hampers and commissioned the Northern Ireland company to develop own label products for the store.
“We were approached by the F&M product development team o use our expertise and skills in creating three unique butter flavours for the store,” Allison explains. “We were thrilled to be invited to produce these as well as salted and non-salted butters for such a respected and successful brand.
“We’ve been doing business with F&M for many years now and have developed a tremendously important business relationship. As a result, F&M has become an immensely valued customer and a great company with which to do business.
The small business has experienced the same difficulties over doing business during the lockdown as others throughout the UK and Ireland. “It’s been a very difficult time,” Allison continues. “We had, of course, to cut back on all costs to ensure we are in a position to hit the ground running when business resumes.”