Boyne Valley Flavour's Producer Profile: Hilary McGrath- A Bit on the Side

Published on: 19th November 2019 @ 4:09 PM

This month for our Producer Profile we meet with Hilary McGrath owner of A Bit On The Side, Gourmet Savoury Jellies which is based in Oldcastle, Co.Meath. 

Hilary founded her business in this year (2019) and launched it at Bloom in the Phoenix Park in June after much time spent in her kitchen experimenting with different flavours and developing techniques to create a delicious range of savoury jellies. Hilary makes a range of infused jellies (six in total) that can be used with crackers & cheese and hors d’oeuvres, as a condiment to be served with charcuterie, cooked meats and vegetables as well as a base for sauces, dressings and dips. Within the range, is  “Hot Bit on the Side”, “Tasty Bit on the Side” and “Boozy Bit on the Side”. 

Hilary started her business as what she describes as an ‘empty nest project’, her older children and emigrated and her youngest had started secondary school and she really needed a distraction and had to find someone to feed so she started this food business! Although her two eldest children live abroad they still play an active part in the business through working on branding and helping with business development. 

The product originated when Hilary took her and her family’s favourite flavours, pairing and balancing these before infusing them into a base of light-textured, melt-in the-mouth jelly that is set with vegan and vegetarian friendly pectin and carrageenan. 

She uses only top quality ingredients, no unnecessary fillers and absolutely no artificial ingredients creating a product that is gluten free, virtually salt and fat free.

Each gourmet jelly has a unique flavour profile that works with an array of dishes, turning the standard into the superb.

The past year has been a whirlwind for Hilary and her business she says “This time last year, I was making a few sample jellies and planning cold calls to prospective customers. Okay, so I love my product, but would anyone else?  Dear God, don’t let them be too cruel in their rejection! Twelve months later, there is an array of jars stocked in every farmhouse, outhouse, henhouse and doghouse awaiting delivery.  So, although there have been some rejections, the response has been really encouraging and business is growing at a steady pace”

The highlight of the year has been without a doubt winning Gold for their Red Jalapeno Jelly at the Blas na hÉireann awards in Dingle as well as winning Best in Meath, Best in Farmers’ Market and Best Start-Up Business, quite an achievement for a business established so recently.

Word of advice on establishing a food business from Hilary-

“I have found the food business to be much slower than anticipated…so prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. For example, I approached hamper companies in early November about using my jellies only to be told that they start their planning in February! Be tenacious.  Make sure that there are no barring orders issued against you, but keep calling on and reminding customers about you and your product. If you don’t naturally have a thick skin, either fake it or grow one. Ask as many questions as you need, no matter how ridiculous you think they may sound.”

Being a member of Boyne Valley Flavours has proved pivotal for Hilary and her business as she explains-

“Starting a business at home, on your own, can be very lonely and daunting. It’s just not feasible to hire staff early on, so you end up having to navigate these new waters alone…everything from legalities to practicalities. So, I jumped at the chance of joining The Boyne Valley Flavours and am delighted I did…other humans to turn to! To know that there is always someone within the group at the end of a phone call or email is really reassuring not to mention the expertise and support that Grainne is always eager to provide. It is an amazing way to network, meet people who have been running their own business for some time and gain great exposure for your business.There is no doubt that my business has benefited hugely from being part of this group.”

We are delighted to have Hilary as a member of Boyne Valley Flavours and we wish her the best of luck for 2020! We have no doubt it will bring further great opportunities for A Bit On The Side.

Hilary’s fabulous products are available to purchase on the website- and also in independent speciality shops. 

You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram under the handle @abitontheside. 

 Recipe Suggestion for Hilary's multi award winngin Jalapeno Jelly

Cheese Crackers with Jalapeno Jelly


2 Cups plain flour
1/2 Cup butter
Good pinch of salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp curry powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 Cups grated cheddar cheese
2-3 tbs water
A Bit on the Side green or red jalapeno jelly




  • Combine all dry ingredients (except cheese) in a food processor
  • Blitz until mixture resembles garden peas
  • Add cheese and blitz briefly
  • Add water a drop at a time until mixture comes together
  • Remove from processor and divide in two.  Place on cling film and roll into the shape of a log.
  • Chill for min 2 hours
  • Slice into 1/4 inch discs and bake at 160 c for 8-10mins
  • When cool, top with A Bit on the Side  Red or Green Jalapeno Jelly


Preparation time:  15 mins

Baking time: 8-10 mins

Makes: 80 Crackers


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