UK silver award a real treat for enterprising Portrush baker

Sam Swart, the enterprising baker at Causeway Cookie Company in Portrush, describes winning a silver award in the influential Free From Food Awards (FFFA) in Britain as “an absolute honour”.
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Sam had entered her own ‘Paint Your Own Cookies’ in the major UK competition “to see how they would go down with the panel of expert judges” and was delighted when they loved them and gave her a first ever award there.

Her silver award-winning cookies were free from eggs, dairy and gluten.

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The UK’s most important challenge for companies developing tasty products for people with food intolerances and allergies, FFFA attracts entries from across the UK from businesses both large and small.

It’s a widely respected competition that has grown in importance in line with the strengthening focus on potentially harmful allergens in food. Winning an award at the event, therefore, is an impressive achievement especially for a micro business like Causeway Cookie.

Sam was successful in the Child and Teen Friendly category against many bigger food processing companies.

“I was up against some really big brands in the category and came away with the second most important award in what was an intensely competitive category. It’s really a marvellous boost for my small business as I look at opportunities for future growth,” she adds.

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In addition to her range of delicious cakes and cookies, Sam has developed a unique edible dough especially for the growing number of home cooks in Northern Ireland and further afield that’s gluten-free, fully plant-based and ideal for vegans and those with other food intolerances.

Sam Swart is creating award-winning free-from treats in Portrush under the Causeway Cookie Company brandSam Swart is creating award-winning free-from treats in Portrush under the Causeway Cookie Company brand
Sam Swart is creating award-winning free-from treats in Portrush under the Causeway Cookie Company brand

Sam, originally from Durban in South Africa, has owned the successful Causeway Cookie bakery in Portrush since 2016. It specialises in hand decorated and bespoke cookies and cakes. She bakes, ices and decorates cookies by hand to recipes she has developed which are all free from gluten, wheat and preservative but don’t compromise on taste or quality.

Causeway Cookie now offers a wide variety of decorated cookies and snack pots of edible cookie dough in a range of flavours including Velvety Vanilla, Rich Chocolate and Irish Black Butter. All are gluten, egg and dairy free.

“When I started making decorated cookies, I was acutely aware that there wasn’t then a dedicated gluten-free producer in Northern Ireland. I also knew that such a specialised market would be quite small, and so developing a recipe that would be loved by everyone whilst filling the gap in gluten-free products was important,” Sam explains.

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Her first step was to engage with customers at the various Naturally North Coast and Glens artisan markets for some consumer feedback. This showed her that there was growing concern about other allergens such as egg and dairy to be addressed. These contacts also showed that more people were keen on baking at home and ready to try different recipes.

Sam Swart is creating award-winning free-from treats in Portrush under the Causeway Cookie Company brandSam Swart is creating award-winning free-from treats in Portrush under the Causeway Cookie Company brand
Sam Swart is creating award-winning free-from treats in Portrush under the Causeway Cookie Company brand

She took her idea for cookies and cakes that were free from gluten and other allergens to the Foodovation Centre at the North West Regional College (NWRC) in Londonderry, which has helped dozens of smaller food companies develop innovative products.

This led to a project to develop an edible cookie dough. NWRC Food Technology technical consultant, Karen Marran provided upskilling in product development, recipe enhancement, ingredient sourcing for integrity and local provenance, extension of the product into new concepts, and packaging sourcing to match the ethical credentials of the product.

Sam had decided to focus on edible dough cookies due to the coronavirus pandemic pausing demand for her unique cookie cakes as centre pieces for large celebrations and gatherings.

“I had to respond to the challenges to keep my artisan bakery going at a particularly difficult time. So, I decided to expand my retail range of cookies,” she adds.

Causeway Cookie Company in Portrush has pioneered edible doughCauseway Cookie Company in Portrush has pioneered edible dough
Causeway Cookie Company in Portrush has pioneered edible dough

Sam, an architectural designer set up home in Portrush with husband Tim, a landscape photographer, in 2007. It was a radical career move that subsequently included posts with local companies.

She has sold her cookies through her Facebook page and also at various artisan food markets around the Causeway Coast and Glens area. She’s taken part at markets organised in the past by Naturally North Coast and Glens and is also a member of Taste Causeway marketing and promotional collaboration of smaller traders throughout the area.