Tell us a bit about Great Northern Larder-
Great Northern Larder makes “Condiments for Cooks”. A condiment is a sauce or any item that is used to add flavour to food. It is a very broad term and at the moment we are sticking with sauces and spice rubs. Cooks are people who cook! That might sound like a silly statement to make, but it is important for us. We don’t really make sauce for fast food outlets, to pour over microwave meals, or to have with chips. You can if you want, but our sauces are really for use in kitchens or restaurants where experimentation and meal making is happening.
Can you tell us when Great Northern Larder was established what were the reasons or circumstances that led you to start up?
Great Northern Larder was started in 2016 by a burnt-out software developer and a pharmacist who was tired of being sneezed on 87 times a day. We got together and decided that with our software development and community healthcare skills the perfect business for us to start would be an online pharmacy. So, the very next day we started a condiments company, which was probably the furthest away we could possibly get from an online pharmacy.
The Great Northern Larder products
We have a few products, but two main ranges. Our spice rubs are made for cooking with and are designed to be used with specific cuts of meat or vegetables. So we have a “Carolina Rib Rub” for pork ribs, a “Texas Rib Rub” for Beef Ribs, “Chuck Rub” for Chicken, and our biggest selling “Wedge Rub” for roast vegetables.
Our main range is our sauces. “Scotch BBQ” is the big hitter for us, accounting for probably 80% of our sales by volume. It is a silky-smooth whiskey smoked BBQ sauce that is thin enough for mopping. Mopping, in case you are not a BBQ buff, is pretty much basting, except you use a mop! In Texas they literally use kitchen mops on big sides of beef!
Our own favourite sauce is “Brown”. It is a spicy sweet brown sauce that loves cheese and eggs. It is a sauce that shouldn’t work, and to be fair many people think it doesn’t work! It has lots and lots of spices and lots of ingredients that defy logic. Chinese spices, Irish apples, Indian tamarind, Middle Eastern dates, and a British heritage. We love it.
Any positives from the past year?
We made a decision to pull out of supermarkets at the start of the year. It was a scary move and counter to everything we were advised. It ended up being a highlight. We will go back into that channel someday, but on our terms and in a way that works for us. Just to be contrary with my own words, working with Aldi on a one-off was another highlight of the year. They were amazing to deal with and paid promptly! In general, over the past year we have grown slowly but steadily, and we are making less mistakes and building better relationships with our customers. We really hope to see big growth in 2020 and for the first time both of us will be full-time employees of the company.
What about the negatives involved in owning a food business?
It’s hard. The money is hard won, everyone wants local and Irish but they mostly want it at the same price as the cheap imported stuff. Some of the bigger retailers pay lip service to local, sustainable, and Irish – but they don’t really do what is required to support it. Others do though to be fair!
What does being a member of Boyne Valley Flavours means for you and your business?
Boyne Valley Flavours have been like another employee for us over the last 12 months and for a lot of reasons our membership is a big positive in the business. We have been promoted, supported, and educated by BVF and especially by Grainne. We have also built some serious relationships and even friendships with producers who a few years ago were like gods to us mere foodies. We have been tipsy (not plastered, honest) on Listoke Gin with Listoke Gin – to me that is like having a rake of pints with Arthur Guinness. Don’t tell them we said that.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
When you think of the best of Irish food, look North. We don’t have the sheer volumes and massive organisational presence of Cork up here in Louth and Meath, but we have amazing producers and much nicer accents.
Finally have you any words of wisdom for other food businesses?
Yeah – row your own boat and don’t take advice from anyone. Make friends, not contacts. Buy our sauce online at www.gnl.ie.
A huge thank you to Laura and Ruairi for taking the time to talk to us and we are delighted to be able to mention that since our interview the Great Northern Larder range is now available in Avoca Stores!To learn more about Great Northern Larder or to buy some of these delicious products head over to https://greatnorthernlarder.com/ where you will also find delicious recipe ideas!