Committing with gusto to the theme of ‘Flavours of the World’, this year’s Taste of Dublin was a riot of colour and feast of flavours as more than thirty chefs offered edible escapism serving up foreign delicacies.
Though in pride of place at the mouth of the main thoroughfares a wooden clad food trailer promoting one of the most Irish ingredients of them all, butter.
At the Improper Butter ‘food pod’ the two young Irish entrepreneurs behind the brand, Elaine Lavery and Hannah O’Reilly, could be seen enthusiastically engaging and passionately purveying their product to the festival revelers; a range of cooking butters that can make mealtimes magic in minutes.
Making the most of their investment the small start up ran a competition over the course of the three day festival inviting punters to ‘create our next butter’ – a genius ploy that attracted crowds like bees to eh, butter and surely went some way towards wooing the judges who awarded them 2nd place in the best dressed award category for their pod.
Competing with bigger brands, with much bigger marketing budgets, Elaine and Hannah launched their food pod this summer as a way to spread the word about Improper Butter, connecting with their fan base one festival at a time.
“We’ll be serving Grilled Cheese by Improper Butter at Castlepalooza, Electric Picnic and a few more music festivals later on in the summer.”
“We’re partnering up with renowned Irish suppliers to create some of the most sublime toasties, so keep an eye out,” says Elaine on their summer schedule.
The pod is the perfect vehicle to shout about their recent makeover, swapping from their original fun and funky, cow adorned packaging to a sleek and sophisticated pared back look, with a gilded gold foil enrobing the beautiful butter inside.
Elaine says the new design is more in line with what the company stands for and ties in with the launch of their new product ranges: clean-label, gourmet garlic bread and root veg mashes in flavours like potato and celeriac with nutmeg butter and sweet potato with chilli – striking a balance between wholesome and indulgent, these will soon be your mid week meal saviours and are the just the thing to jazz up your weekend feasts.
And she promises that those who didn’t get a sneaky sample at Taste of Dublin will soon be able to taste the new additions to the Improper Butter family at current stockists such as Fallon & Byrne, Donnybrook Fair, Avoca, Supervalu and other choice shopping locations where the new pared back packaging will fit right in.
While now both devoted to food, it was their love of music that brought Hannah, from Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, and Elaine, from Clonskeagh, Dublin, together while studying in UCD.
“We were both sopranos in the UCD Choral Scholars. I was a terrible sight reader, unlike Hannah. Twice a week we sat together at rehearsals and I used to listen to the notes over Hannah’s shoulder,” Elaine says laughing.
Quite quickly, they discovered another commonality, a shared love of good food. After taking a year out after college they went their separate ways but were reunited in 2013 by a mutual mission to start a food business.
The idea for a butter based business came naturally to Elaine, or at least from an aversion to the unnatural dairy spreads she saw dominating the dairy aisles.
“I never understood, and still don’t, why people would have dairy spreads in their fridges at home, when you could have real butter.”
A keen baker as a child, Irish butter was always a staple at home for her, but over the years as Elaine found love for the dairy product spreading into savoury dishes too.
“I grew to understand how important butter was for adding flavour to dishes too. Butter finishes a dish – whether it’s basting a fillet steak, or serving alongside a bowl of new season potatoes.”
While the business partners have gone on to see their product on the shelves of stores in the UK and Middle East too, it was the much-loved Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin that gave them their first route to market.
From there, Elaine and Hannah started developing recipes, selling to the public and perfecting their product.
A range that has developed to include at its core a number of garlic and herb cooking butters. “We have two year-round varieties and four seasonal limited varieties,” Elaine explains.
“Year round we supply butter with garlic, parsley and lemon zest and butter with garlic and chilli. The seasonal products include a harissa spiced butter for summer and a sage, rosemary and thyme butter for winter.”
Now after taking their first steps into the fresh prepared foods market the Improper Butter line up is now bigger and butter than ever.
Whatever the flavour, Improper Butter is always made with tlc. Using the best ingredients they can get their hands on, their butter is churned with prepared herbs and seasonings and then handwrapped.
“Our bread comes from France, and is prepared and packed with our garlic butter on the same site our butter is made. Our mashes contain only steamed vegetables, Irish butter and some light seasoning.”
“Our garlic breads and mashes are so fresh, they have a very limited shelf life. This can pose a challenge for stock management, but we’d prefer to do this than adding a huge amount of salt and preservatives to our products – something we would never do.”
Complementing each other just as well as their garlic, parsley and lemon butter and panfried langustines, a favourite of Elaine, the pair each have their own skill sets.
With Elaine overseeing “the more practical parts of the business”, such as sales, finances and supply chain; Hannah heads up the creative aspects, like insights, brand identity and marketing.
The dynamic duo has caught the attention of the media and food industry, competing in Richard Branson’s ‘Foodpreneur’ competition, named among The Sunday Business Post’s 100 Hot Start ups and Sunday Independant’s 30 under 30, and winning a number of Great Taste Awards.
So if a dollop of Improper Butter has made your meal, drop Elaine and Hannah a line and make their day.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.