Innovation boost for enterprise in Magherafelt


Anahorish Preserves, based near Magherafelt, is developing a portfolio of innovative artisan foods, with assistance from Invest Northern Ireland.

The small company, formed in November 2009 by Malachy Gribbin, has used an Invest NI Innovation Voucher to create 16 new, handmade chutney and relish recipes. Several of the products, developed with technical advice and assistance from staff at Loughry Campus, Cookstown, of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, are already on the shelves of leading retailers including JC Stewart in Magherafelt.

In addition to an initial range of relishes and chutneys, the company plans to add jams and basting sauce to its portfolio of artisan foods. The company already has an opportunity to supply a substantial quantity of homemade jams to a leading local supermarket and is currently exploring export potential.

Claire Herron, Manager of Invest NI’s Innovation Vouchers programme, said: “The achievements of Anahorish are an excellent example of the positive impact that our programme can have in helping rural enterprises invest in innovative products for growth.

“This company has used the scheme very effectively to work with technical experts at Loughry in the development of a range of artisan products which could, in time, have significant export potential.

“Innovation Vouchers offer smaller companies funding to link up with universities and colleges, including Loughry, to test and develop new ideas for products or processes that will help the business to develop. The scheme is making an important contribution to the promotion of enterprise within strategically important industries such as food and drink. This is why a special call for applications from small food companies has been opened until 9 October.”

Mr Gribbin, who has extensive experience in rural economic development, said: “The Innovation Voucher enabled me to turn a lifelong interest in food products such as relishes, chutneys and jams into a small business. My ambition is to develop a wide ranging portfolio of artisan products that could include farmhouse cheese and ice cream from local dairy farms.

“I had been making chutney as a hobby for many years and giving the products to friends, one of whom suggested that I should consider producing it on a regular basis. This led me to sign up for the Exploring Enterprise programme and then the Go for it programme. Both were extremely beneficial and helped me plot a course for the start up business.

“I was also encouraged to push ahead with the idea by local businessmen including Robert Ditty of Ditty’s award winning bakery in Castledawson and Paul Stewart, the managing director of JC Stewart’s supermarket in Magherafelt.

“The Innovation Voucher was excellent in that it enabled me to take guidance from the technical team at Loughry. Approximately 50 recipes were prepared and following maturing and taste testing 16 new recipes have been selected to be introduced to the market over the next year.”