A Co. Armagh start-up business specialising in gourmet food has secured orders from Fortnum & Mason, one of London’s top luxury stores, just two months after opening.
Portadown-based O’Chatten Smokery, Northern Ireland’s only commercial smokery, is also developing a range of products with a well-established Northern Ireland food processor which will be marketed to leading UK food retailers.
The company’s focus is on artisan, bespoke foods such as smoked Lough Neagh Eels, pastrami, pancetta and smoked duck breast fillets. Turnover in its first full year of trading is on target to be in excess of £250,000.
Owner Andrew Chatten said: “After months of behind-the-scenes development, O’Chatten Smokery has secured its first customers and is planning to have a luxury product range on the shelves of high-end stores this Christmas.
“Previously, local food producers have had to send their products as far away as Holland to be smoked, but as Northern Ireland’s only commercial smokery we’ve plugged that gap in the market.
“Northern Ireland has a fantastic reputation for great quality food and nowhere more so than our local area where we’ve teamed up with Lough Neagh Eels to offer a product which is already securing regular orders from Fortnum & Mason.
“Feedback has been excellent and we’re currently developing a new luxury charcuterie range which will be offered to retailers such as Harrods, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.”
The idea for the business was inspired by a holiday to Cornwall and some locally smoked Cornish chicken. Back in Northern Ireland Andrew couldn’t source any similar products and he purchased his own smoker from Canada for personal use.
After conversations with local contacts in the agri-food sector and a chance meeting with the Lough Neagh eel fishery the personal passion for smoked products was converted into a commercial venture.
Mr Chatten said: “It’s strange to think that something as inconsequential as trying some new food on holiday could dramatically change your life. I never expected to become an artisan food producer or be in the process of planning to hire five staff to cope with demand.
“There’s quite a cluster of food producers in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area and we’ve received great advice from them and the Council which is running the Food Heartland initiative. With their help we’re already looking to the future and are progressing plans to work alongside other local meat producers to offer them a new way to add value to their existing products.”