18 Nov 2015 | 10.12 am
Gourmet Pies Put Airam On Compass Map
You don’t have to be based in Connemara to use Connemara branding.
18 Nov 2015 | 10.12 am
If you run a pub, hotel, deli, café or cater for events, then Airam Foods in Clarinbridge in Galway is worth checking out. The company makes a range of pies, gastronome trays and boxties that are sold frozen and have a shelf life of up to a year. Heating up the food requires no culinary skill and the waste factor is minimal.
The founders have the experience to know what they’re doing. Co-founder Shane Francis [55, pictured] has worked in the food/restaurant business throughout his career, while business partner Ross Quinn is owner and head chef of Vasco Restaurant in Fanore in Co. Clare. Also in the venture is Liam McGreal, a director with Keelings who was MD of Kepak Group for 15 years until 2000.
Airam Foods styles itself as a ‘gourmet food producer’.
No additives, preservatives, colouring, hydrogenated fats, MSG or GMO ingredients are used in the food preparation and the production kitchen is HACCP certified. The 200g pies are sold in boxes of 12 and come in eight varieties, ranging from chicken, gubeen chorizo and roasted red peppers, to duck, juniper and pear cider. For the 2.5 kilo gastronome trays, there are five options, ranging from a standard beef lasagne to a chicken, leek and cheddar pasta bake.
Airam has been financed thus far primarily through founders’ funding of some €116,000, along with additional assistance from Enterprise Ireland. Says Francis: “Startup finance, particularly in the current environment, has been a huge challenge. We were fortunate to secure assistance from our Local Enterprise Office to launch the business.”
An important endorsement for Airam Foods’ endeavours came recently from Compass Group. The food service giant ran a competition for Irish ready-food producers and Airam Foods was one of the overall winners. The company’s reward is expert input from Compass Group on refining the product range, with the possibility of Compass taking on some of the products to offer to its hundreds of customers around the country.
“Working within the parameters of such a large company will be a huge learning as well as a business opportunity for us,” says Francis. “Everybody at Airam Foods is fully committed to the challenge of working with such a dynamic company.”
Though it’s a long drive from Clarinbridge to Roundstone, Airam brands its pies as ‘Connemara Gourmet Pies’, partly with the aim of attracting the attention of French and German consumers. “Connemara’ evokes all that is good about our natural food products and our range is perceived to be high quality, natural and artisan and rustic,” says Francis.
His advice for would-be entrepreneurs is to prepare thoroughly. “A strong research and development programme with a good project team are vital for the success of any startup company,” he says. “It’s very important to have a strong interaction with your customers about size, price, packaging and distribution. You need to know at a very early stage that real buying customers want your product.”