Crossmaglen bakery wins first export business

Gourmet patisserie baker Old Tarts, which is based in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, has secured its first retail sales with help from Invest Northern Ireland.

The small artisan bakery is supplying its handcrafted tartlets and desserts to all five upmarket supermarkets in Dublin run by Fresh, The Good Food Market. Discerning Dublin shoppers are now able to enjoy the bakery’s unique and popular pecan pies, pear and almond, key lime pie, apricot frangipane tart and a host of other savoury treats.

Old Tarts has been assisted by Invest NI through its programme of ‘Meet the Buyer’ events organised by its trade advisor in the Republic of Ireland. These have helped the bakery to pinpoint and line-up a niche retailer for its extensive range of fresh patisseries that blend a traditional Parisian-style with contemporary designs, using only the best natural ingredients.

Old Tarts was formed in February 2007 by Sarah-Jane McGrath. She quit her job as a business consultant to start her own small company and exploit a market niche she had identified based on her longstanding enthusiasm for baking. She brought to the new business, vast experience gained in food management with Kerry Group and Dunnes.

“Winning orders from Fresh is a substantial step forward because it establishes us with an ambitious and dynamic food retailer focused on premium quality Irish products. Fresh was impressed by the quality and variety of our patisseries and desserts and also by our ability to develop fresh products to their specific requirements,” she says.

The company’s tartlets and desserts are based on Sarah-Jane’s recipes and were trialed at fresh produce markets in Dublin and Belfast. “We used the stalls for essential market research and the feedback helped us finalise the recipes. The markets, especially St George’s in Belfast, were tremendously supportive and beneficial,” she adds.

Orders were then secured from coffee shops and delis in both Dublin and Belfast. The next step was to identify a retailer seeking fresh and distinctive patisserie products.

Fresh was an obvious target for the company. The first Fresh supermarket opened in Dublin’s Smithfield Village in January 2006. Supermarkets have since opened in Grand Canal Square, South Docks, Northern Cross at Malachite, Lower Camden Street and at IFSC.

“The challenge now is to build on this important business with Fresh and to increase consumer awareness throughout Ireland. I believe we can achieve this by continuing to supply consistently high quality premium products. Invest NI’s advice and practical support has been extremely important in our marketing activities,” she says.

Welcoming the company’s breakthrough into the retail sector, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, says: “This is a very encouraging development for this ambitious company. It has been achieving impressive growth since its formation last year because of its commitment to quality, innovation and its willingness to respond quickly and effectively to constructive feedback from customers.

“This customer focus and the flexibility which also underpins the business will enable it to prosper in the retail niche for premium products that it has targeted for faster growth.”

Old Tarts currently employs three full time and three part time employees at its Crossable bakery in Crossmaglen.