Could you tell us a bit about the history of Carbery Cracker?
Carbery Cracker cheese is proud to be a product of West Cork, produced by Carbery Group in Ballineen. Carbery Cracker is a mature cheddar – available in both red and white variants, it the perfect snacking cheese. Carbery Cracker White was launched in 2017 and took the cheese world by storm, winning numerous prestigious awards, including Gold in the World Cheese Awards. We then added Carbery Cracker Red to the family in 2019. We decided to rebrand in 2020 and the fun, eye-catching new packaging reflects the burst of taste that only West Cork dairy can produce.
Why is using Irish ingredients important to your company?
Carbery Group who produce Carbery Cracker are a Cooperative organisation made up of the four West Cork Co-ops Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird. The milk used to produce Carbery Cracker is supplied by over 1,200 dairy farmers, all located within a 40-mile radius of our production facility. Carbery Cracker accredit their famous taste to the great quality milk our farmer shareholders produce. We are very much a product of our place, and our mild, temperate climate means that we have year-round production on our site.
We believe that Irish farmers and Irish cows and grass produce the best milk. What makes our cheese that bit extra special is our starter cultures. The term ‘starter culture’ is used to describe bacteria specially grown to ‘start’ the transformation of milk into cheese. We have been growing our own starter cultures inhouse for over 50 years. A lot of cheese producers would buy in frozen starter cultures, but in Carbery our cheese makers and R & D team continue to develop these in house making our cheese very unique.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a food producer in Ireland?
The last 12 months have been a very challenging time for all food producers. As a small island, we are constantly looking for new markets overseas for our products. Carbery have diversified our product range and started producing mozzarella in 2020. We have a strong domestic and international business and continue to look towards the future while prioritising the safety of our employees in line with government guidelines. As a major exporter of cheese to the UK, Brexit has also been a challenge for us, though hopefully we are seeing some clarity emerge there.
What new trends do you see that are emerging in your industry?
Snacking and healthy snacking is a major trend is continuing to emerge. Eating habits have changed with the demands of today’s busy world; we have become more snackers than set mealtime eaters. Research we undertook told us that Irish people love to snack, with 58% of Irish consumers surveyed saying they snack two to three times a day. Cheese is perfect for giving snackers enough fuel to keep working and is a healthier snack than biscuits or chocolate, so it is no surprise that 68% of those surveyed said they planned to use cheese for snacking.
Experimentation is another trend emerging – especially over the past 12 months with people staying at home due to Covid -19, people are experimenting more with food. Cheese is being used in a range of different dishes and different cuisines.
Provenance - consumers want to know where their food is coming from more and more - and buying Irish has become one of the main decision factors in shopping. Our research showed 72% of consumers surveyed would prefer to buy Irish cheese.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your industry?
Fully recyclable cheese packaging! Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do but cheese packaging is currently not fully recyclable. There is constant work being done on this as an industry and some amazing progress has been achieved. Our new Carbery Cracker packaging has reduced the microns in its film packaging which means 15% less plastic goes into landfill.
Who are some other Irish foodie brands you draw inspiration from?
There are so many amazing Irish food brands, it’s too hard to pick a few. There are some amazing local brands showing casing amazing West Cork produce! One of our favourite Irish brands is Rebel Chilli, we have actually collaborated with them on our Christmas gift pack for the past two years.
What’s next for the company?
More exciting plans on the way for Carbery Cracker – we are hoping to expand the range over the next few years, there will definitely be something there for everyone…watch this ‘snacking’ space!
Find out more about Carbery Cracker at carberycracker.com