A major expansion being finalised at Corndale Farm in Limavady will enable the company to triple processing capability of its multi-award winning cured meats and create new employment opportunities in the area.
The farm-based company, a pioneer of chorizo, salami and other cured meats in Northern Ireland, has recently moved into and kitted out a new 3,000 sq ft factory close to its existing free-range pig farm in the Co Derry town.
Corndale Farm Charcuterie, founded by managing director Alastair Crown in 2012, has completed a significant investment in the latest processing, air drying, maturing, storage and vacuum packaging systems for its wide range of charcuterie in line with stringent food hygiene rules.
“We’ve been encouraged to invest in response to the strong growth in all products,” Alastair explains. “Our new maturing room for our charcuterie, for instance, is almost six times larger than our original facility in the town and will enable us to triple capacity for the growing demand for our hand crafted meats in Great Britain and especially in the Republic of Ireland, now our most important export market.”
The new equipment being installed includes high-speed automatic slicing and vacuum packaging machinery.
In addition to the investment in capability, Alastair has created a new branding to support its market growth plans. The progressive local enterprise was also recently awarded Platinum Innovator status by Innovate NI and the Department for the Economy after an assessment and decision by an expert panel of judges. The important award reflects the longstanding commitment of Alastair to innovative products since he decided to turn a passion for spicy chorizo and other cured meats into a small enterprise.
The company, which has hired six people and has won a string of awards including UK Great Taste and British Charcuterie Live recognition, was the first in Northern Ireland to launch chorizo and then salami.
The current portfolio also includes chorizo beer sticks, varieties of fennel, garlic and black pepper, and venison salami, as well as coppa, nduja, lomo and bresaola, usually associated with butchery businesses in France, Spain and Italy, as well air-dried Irish Dexter meat.
In addition, Alastair has invested in his existing free-range pig farm to ensure an increase in the supply of premium meat for the expanded processing operation.
“The farm is crucial to the success of the business,” Alastair continues. “Everything hinges on the quality and health of the animals, the pedigree Saddleback breed of pigs, in our short supply chain. Our pigs are reared free from antibiotics on the farm which adheres to the highest animal welfare and free-range sustainability standards.”
Corndale’s strategic investment in hygiene standards is well-ahead of export licensing rules particularly for the EU, reflecting the company’s focus on growing its existing business in Northern Ireland and especially outside the region.
“While we have a strong customer base among delis, farm shops, butchers, greengrocers and leading restaurants and hotels across Northern Ireland we are keen to grow this and to explore the substantial business opportunities now developing for our artisan products in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland,” Alastair says.
“Our business continued to grow during the coronavirus lockdown due to more shoppers seeking to experience different foods to cook at home. Many were also familiar with charcuterie from holidays in France, Italy and especially Spain. They looked to our cured meats as a way to relive experiences they were unable to repeat due to the lockdowns.
“We’ve a firm foothold in Britain and the Republic which we are keen to expand in both short and long terms. Our sales in these markets currently provide between 10-15% of turnover. There’s even regular business with an Irish bar in Paris! So, there’s clearly significant scope for growth in Britain and the Republic, and our expansion provides the additional capacity for us to upgrade our external marketing activities. Our new business growth strategy, furthermore, is sharply focused on sales outside Northern Ireland.”
Limavady native, Alastair first developed a taste for chorizo, the spicy Spanish sausage, while studying computing at university in Glasgow.
“I used to go with friends to a small pizza place near the university after lectures for a reasonably priced meal and it was there that I first tasted chunks of chorizo,” he remembers. “I loved the spicy and smoky flavour of the pork sausage and I ordered it regularly during my student days. I’ve also enjoyed chorizo on holiday in Europe over the years.”
What led him to start producing chorizo here was the difficulty he experienced in sourcing the cured meats on his return home. He subsequently launched a career in renewables and solar technology, combining this with a longstanding interest in pig farming and a passion for chorizo that led to the successful Corndale Farm Charcuterie.
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