When Fortnum and Mason, the luxury food emporium in London’s Piccadilly, wanted deliciously different flavours of handmade butter, they quickly turned to Abernethy Butter at Dromara in Co Down for help.
The invitation from the top store to create three new butters is a measure of the respect in which Will and Allison Abernethy are held within Fortnum and Mason, long synonymous with the finest UK produce.
Abernethy Butter has become the first artisan producer in Northern Ireland to be commissioned for products under the iconic Fortnum and Mason brand in the store’s exceptionally popular and unique food hall. Food is what Fortnum and Mason is all about and has been for over 300 years.
“We were approached by the product development team at F&M to use our expertise and skills in creating the three unique butter flavours about 18 months ago,” Allison explains. “We were thrilled to be invited to produce these as well as salted and non-salted butters for such a respected and successful brand as F&M.
“We’ve been doing business with F&M for seven years now and have developed a tremendously important business relationship. As a result, F&M has become an immensely valued customer and a great company with which to do business.
“We’ve worked very closely with them over the past year in the development of the new flavours,” adds Allison.
The three new flavours under the Fortnum and Mason brand are: Smoky Chipotle, Date and Rum and, Miso and Seaweed along with traditional salted and non-salted butters.
“The new flavours are a very exciting development for us and, of course, for Draynes Farms in Lisburn, our long-time supplier of grass-fed cream. They demonstrate just how natural, versatile and, of course, healthy butter really is,” Allison continues.
Will, the butter maker, and Allison sought advice and assistance from award winning chef Paul Clarke on the development of the unique flavourings. He’s the managing director of En-Place Foods in Cookstown, a specialist in new product development who has helped a host of smaller companies here turn smart ideas into original foods. He also assisted Abernethy is the creation of the award winning Black Garlic Butter, now on the shelves at Fortnum and Mason.
The new Miso and Seaweed for F&M, in particular, is an extension of the company’s focus on health from its launch of a Dulse and Seasalt Butter, another award winner. Abernethy Butter was among the first artisan companies to harness the rich resource of seaweeds, now seen as an immensely healthy food that’s rich in vitamins A, D, E and K and essential minerals such as manganese, chromium, iodine, zinc, copper and selenium.
As well as the significant new business with F&M, Abernethy is now supplying handmade butter to Whole Food stores throughout London.
“We are now reaping the business benefits of the strategic focus on developing relationships with high-end retailers, chefs and major hotels in London and other parts of Britain,” Allison says.
Abernethy Butter, a Food NI member company, has won a string of UK Great Taste and other awards and been acclaimed by influential chefs and food specialists including Heston Blumenthal, Nigella Lawson, Xanthe Clay and Marcus Wareing. The butters also feature regularly in Fortnum and Mason cookbooks.
The company has gained a richly deserved reputation as the small Northern Ireland business which has contributed hugely to the revival of interest- and sales - of traditional handcrafted butter. Fortnum and Mason is a business which is focused on the very best fresh food and on constantly seeking new tastes and propositions for its discerning customers.
Management there recognises that the litmus test of a good food retailer is the quality of its fresh food offer especially products with incredible quality, integrity, traceability, and provenance.
Will and Allison have an impressive catalogue of achievements in food. For instance, the couple’s own Dulse and Seaweed Butter was chosen by Michelin star chef Clare Smyth, originally from Bushmills for a sauce to be served during one of the dishes at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The handcrafted butter, in fact, was the only food from Northern Ireland to feature on the menu at the wedding.
Will, an experienced farmer, and former nurse Allison have been crafting by hand award-winning butter since 2005. Food industry plaudits, especially UK Great Taste Awards, have also followed. It’s a business which has raised Northern Ireland standing in gourmet food circles in Britain.