In our new Meet the Maker series, we're shining the light on the many gifted producers behind some of Ireland's best food and drink brands. Today, we chat to Maebh O' Malley of Achill Island Sea Salt
Could you tell us a bit about the history of Achill Island Sea Salt?
Achill Island Sea Salt was established by the O’Malley Family in 2013. The business was inspired by the age old tradition of sea salt production on Achill Island. Salt was harvested on Achill Island up until the 1800s, however we believe it died out due to the importation of cheaper salt. We also knew that the sea salt industry was being revived in many parts of the world including the UK. We thought if they can do it all over the world why can’t we do it in Achill.
In 2013 we gathered water from the Keel beach and began boiling it on our hob and created our first batch of sea salt.
Achill Island Sea Salt is an Irish sea salt, hand harvested off the coast of Achill Island, Co. Mayo. It is a naturally, soft, flaky sea salt for culinary use. The characteristics of Achill Island Sea Salt are directly linked to the high mineral content of the grade A wild Atlantic waters that surround Achill Island creating distinctive tasting and textured sea salt flakes. The characteristics of Achill Island Sea Salt are directly linked to the grade A sea water with its high mineral content and the slow method of evaporation. Our unique process allows us to create a soft flaky sea salt flake with a sweet salty taste that melts perfectly over food, instantly enhancing the flavour.
In 2016 moved into a custom modified facility on Achill Island where we have a visitor center, gift shop and outdoor coffee truck. Our aim is to develop a sustainable food business on Achill Island, while promoting entrepreneurship and food tourism.
Why is using Irish ingredients important to your company?
We use Connemara seaweed in our seaweed salt product, and has proven extremely popular. Sourcing an Irish seaweed was very important to us as the quality is next to none. Irish producers are so passionate about what they do so we love working with and supporting businesses who take pride in producing the highest quality products.
We also partnered with Mella’s fudge in March to produce our new Sea salted caramel fudge. Mella uses the best of Irish ingredients and her products are all hand made, and this really comes through in the products.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a food producer in Ireland?
Food businesses face many unique challenges. For Achill Island Sea Salt, one of our main initial challenges was developing the sea salt production process, as there was no blue print for this. Through trial and advice from local knowledge we were able to perfect the process, which was especially important as we began to upscale.
Competition with imported salts and sea salt can be a challenge. We continually focus on growing our brand so that we can differentiate ourselves and highlight the quality and unique taste of our sea salt.
What new trends do you see that are emerging in your industry?
We see more and more people moving away from processed table salt as these are often highly refined. People are more interested in artisan salts and what they can do to enhance the flavour of food. Blended and flavoured sea salts with herbs or spices are becoming quite popular too.
COVID-19 has shifted the way many people shop, we especially saw a big increase in our online sales over the past few months and we expect the trend of buying our sea salt online to continue.
What has running your own business taught you?
How to be resilient and adaptable to changing consumer demands and markets.
Who are some other Irish foodie brands you draw inspiration from?
There are so many great Irish food brands out there, it’s great to see! Velvet Cloud are a great Mayo business and was inspiring to see them pivot so quickly due to COVID-19, offering home delivery all over Ireland. They really highlighted the resilience of Irish businesses and we love their products!
What’s next for the company?
We are focusing a lot in driving our online shop and looking at new products to add to the site. We are also working on developing a larger refill pack size in the coming months to allow our consumers to buy in bulk.
Find out more about Achill Island Sea Salt here!