Protein is the hot ticket at the moment, perfect for post workout snacks and for an energy boost to get you through the work day. That’s where versatile product, Irish Biltong, comes in.
Irish Biltong is a “prep free product and a source of natural protein and minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B-12”.
Perfectly fitting in the sports nutrition market, founder Noreen describes the product, which comes in two flavours, as “an air-dried, 100% Irish beef, slightly spiced and thinly cut nutritious beef snack, with a 69% protein content, low in sugar (3%) and fat (3.9%). Produced from our own grass fed Irish beef. It comes in 2 flavors – Plain Beef, and Mild Chilli.”
The snacks are produced by the Irish Biltong Company, which was created in 2015 by Noreen Doyle and her husband John, both of whom come from farming backgrounds and understand the importance of high quality produce:
The Irish Biltong Company was established in late 2015. We produce it ourselves in-house in our fully licensed premises in Naas through our wholesale meat business. The meat industry has been part of our heritage, both from farming background and livestock supply.
Speaking about the meat they use for their product, she explained: “The meat we use to produce the Irish Biltong is from the very finest of local Irish farms, including our own. Coming from a farming and prize-cattle breeding background, we have a life-long history connected with the beef and dairy sector.”
Describing the creation process for the beef, she says: “Irish Biltong is marinated, spiced and hung in special containers to dry at the company headquarters in Naas. With over 80 per cent of the moisture extracted during this process, what is left is a highly nutritious condensed strip of beef. This is then finely sliced, and packed in shelf-ready bags.”
The daughter of a dairy farmer in North Cork, Noreen has a background in sales and marketing, both of which are essential when running a company. Her husband, John, is a qualified butcher and specialist in the meat growing and buying area:
“John was already established in the beef industry when I met him in 2000. A one man and his van back then, John was happily running a small business. His knowledge of the meat industry is vast and he has an excellent reputation in the wholesale meat environment, for both quality and professionalism in business. We started developing the business as soon as we were married.”
Their Irish Biltong produce is most popular among health conscious 18-45 year old men and women, many of whom have a keen interest in sport and maintaining an active lifestyle:
“As we all know, we need protein on a daily basis to build, repair and maintain muscle. The awareness had started to grow on the need for good and convenient protein in the diet of sports people.
“We discovered the product at a farmers market a number of years ago and realised that some athletes in this country were using it, but they were importing it. We had been looking for something innovative at the time and this seemed like a gap in the Irish market we could try and attack.”
Deciding to bring this product to the Irish market, Noreen and John used their knowledge and experience to create a product that was both full of benefits and flavour:
“Our expertise in the beef industry and the fact that we grew our own grass fed Irish beef led us to research the nutritional content of the product. Once we realised how good it was, we proceeded to do more research and developments on it with the UCC Food & Research Dept for two years until we came up with the product we are now very proud of.”
As it grew in popularity, the Irish Biltong Company began to work with a number of sporting individuals and are now the official supplier to the Connacht rugby team, something that modern social media played a huge part in:
“As a small company with limited resources for marketing, we relied heavily on the free formats available to us, with social media being our main marketing tool. We made contact with a number of the top rugby players in Ireland and the UK, asking them to sample the product. They all came back with very positive comments and off the back of this, we asked them to spread the word on social media and it all grew from there.”
A few of the players in Connacht started buying the product and loved it, so it was an no brainer for us to start working with the club. We also supply and support Munster and have now become a sponsor to Bristol Rugby.
While the Biltong can be eaten as a snack straight from the packet when you’re on the go, it can also be used as part of a number of recipes. Noreen’s own children are fans of eating the chilli flavour on their eggs.
Head Chef at Viewmount House, Gary O’Hanlon, has been working with the Irish Biltong Company to develop a number of recipes with the product, all of which are available on the Irish Biltong Company’s website.
Describing their relationship with Gary, Noreen said: “Gary was kind enough to comment on our product saying how much he liked it on social media. I approached him and asked if he had any ideas for recipes. He came up with loads of ideas and they are all posted on our website and will be available on ebook form to download soon.”
Noreen has had a number of amazing experiences since setting up, from being stocked in over 700 food outlets to securing private investment, however she cites her experience on Dragons’ Den as “invaluable” learning and brilliant source of exposure. Another highlight was winning a Quality Food Award for Savoury Snack Food in November 2017, with Noreen exclaiming:
This was a huge achievement for us as we were up against the multiples. Our product received huge compliments from the judges, which we were really delighted with.
Now that they’re in a thriving business, Noreen couldn’t imagine doing anything else with her life: “I have worked in a varied number of business over the years, marketing being my first love, then health and food.
“This business I have grown from scratch has encapsulated everything I love to do. This doesn’t seem like a job to me, I love what I do!”
With it only growing in popularity, Noreen has no plans to slow down, and the future looks bright: “We are currently moving into our new premises following our upscaling. We have increased our product capacity enormously to meet the ever growing demand for our product. We are working on a number of new lines which we hope to launch over the next 12 months.”
For more information about the Irish Biltong Company or to buy their products, visit irishbiltong.ie.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
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