Irish Black Butter

The Irish Black Butter Company was launched in October 2017. Alastair Bell,  who has a family background in farming, took time out from his events management and farm model customisation business to explore the potential for an exciting new business, and from there founded Irish Black Butter LTD.

We caught up with Alastair from Irish Black Butter to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview…

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How did it all start?

It all started through noticing black butters whilst on holidays over a number of years. In 2017 when starting out on a project to write a children’s story book, I took the plunge and began exploring the possibility of creating Irish Black Butter. Over the Summer the recipe was perfected and in early November 2017 the business was launched on a beach at Portrush. People came over and asked what it was and where they could get it and this lead to the first jar of Irish Black Butter being sold on the beach that day.

The story behind the name…

Black Butter is said to be of Medieval origin. Made with apples, it was a way of preserving fruit. Irish Black Butter is a modern interpretation using EU PGI status Armagh Bramley Apples, local cider, brandy, treacle, sugar and spices. Armagh is known as the ‘orchard county of Ireland.’ The heart of the product is Armagh Bramley Apples therefore it was fitting to call our product Irish Black Butter. With further research I established that people in times past had been making black butter locally so it was nice to bring something back albeit in a contemporary format.

Where are you based?

We are based at Portrush in County Antrim.

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What inspires you?

Spreading a little happiness and doing something positive. Central to the business is a desire to create something that people near and far can enjoy, that has an authenticity and provenance, which brings happiness and a smile to peoples faces. I took inspiration from a cassette tape in 1979 and it has stayed with me.

What is your creation process?

Using local, tapping into heritage and spreading a little happiness.

What makes you, your brand or products unique?

Irish Black Butter is a unique product in Ireland. Using the EU PGI status Armagh Bramley Apple taps into the rich heritage of apple growing in the Armagh area. The ‘butter’ isn’t actually a dairy butter – it is an apple butter which is a concept widely recognised in the USA, Canada and parts of Western Europe. This is a very inclusive product in that it is dairy and wheat free making it suitable for vegetarian and vegan uses.

What is your next project?

The next big project is really a continuation of what we are already doing and that is to tell people what Irish Black Butter is and how it can be used.

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What are your plans for the next 12 months?

To make our Irish Black Butter available to consumers, chefs, gift/hamper companies and food ingredients business across the UK, Ireland and overseas.

What is your biggest achievement?

There are a few. Three stars in the Great Taste Awards was awesome. Taking part in Dragon’s Den was a superb experience. James Martin using Irish Black Butter on national television was amazing. I could add the fact that different businesses are using Irish Black Butter as an ingredient and that is absolutely tremendous. In particular ALDI Ireland used Irish Black Butter as a glaze for their Christmas Hams and more recently Henderson Group in Northern Ireland have started using Irish Black Butter in their Chicken and Ham bakes as part of their highly successful ‘The Chef’ range.

What is your best-selling product/line?

Our biggest selling line is our 225g retail jar of Irish Black Butter.

Will this be your first Country Living Fair?

Yes, this will be my first Country Living Fair. I’m looking forward to being at a great event, meeting lots of people and hopefully introducing them  to the great taste of Irish Black Butter.

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What do you love about Country Living Fairs?

It’s the mix of people, traders and consumers that together create a nice atmosphere. Added to that I would say that after the  challenges of the pandemic it is especially nice to be out and about again at events.

Your three top tips for crafters and makers…

Tap into who you are and what you enjoy. Do your best. Persist.

Any advice for fledgling businesses…

It all starts at the beginning – you choose the when, the where the what and the why. Go forward knowing that you are doing something rather than look back regretting doing nothing.

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