POPULAR Donegal products have comfortably nestled themselves on supermarket shelves across the county, and in recent years it has become more common to see Donegal based businesses appearing on shelves beyond our hallowed hills.
This significant increase in product development coming out of Donegal is because of important investment within the food and drink sector which has been funded by the EU Cohesion Policy.
Atlantic Technological University’s catering college is at the heart of this drive.
Dr Elizabeth McKenzie is a lecturer in Culinary Arts at the university’s Killybegs campus, her PhD in food business offers her a unique insight into the growing market.
Elizabeth spoke with the Donegal News about the county’s expanding food scene and the supports the university offer to keen “foodie” entrepreneurs.
The university is in the middle of running its first cohort of an online course for food business owners and managers, called ‘Food Business and Product Innovation’.
“There has been a great uptake. Some of the products they are developing are fantastic and I am starting to see them on the supermarket shelves outside of the county.
“Donegal is really starting to creep out of its own borders,” she said proudly.
“But it’s not just the product, it is the people,” she added.
Elizabeth explained how within the county the collaboration between local businesses has been a fantastic asset. It has become a familiar sight to see restaurant menus across the county promoting what local producers they use.
Elizabeth used The Lemon Tree in Letterkenny as an example. They have a large display on their restaurant wall outlining who their suppliers are, this tells the story of their food and where it has come from.
The Michelin restaurant in the heart of Letterkenny proudly states how supporting local producers is fundamental to their business.
“We are committed to sourcing ingredients as close to home as possible and showcasing the world class produce available on our Donegal doorstep.”
Elizabeth said that this co-operative approach is brilliant, “because it makes the whole industry tick”.
ATU is currently recruiting for the Food Business & Product Innovation course which empowers food producer professionals to sustainably develop their business.
The course includes funding from Taste4Success Skillnet, a business network for companies of all sizes in the food and drink sector. Contact ATU for more information.
This story is part of the YOUTHopia campaign, a journalistic project shedding new lights on the EU Cohesion Policy. YOUTHopia is funded by the European Commission.