Connor’s Honest Food from Kilkeel doing healthy business with locals

Honest Food Company in Kilkeel, Co Down has launched restaurant quality and healthy ready meals from the freshest ingredients sourced from trusted local suppliers.

By Sam Butler
Monday, 29th March 2021, 6:00 am
Connor Morgan, director of Honest Food Company in Kilkeel
Connor Morgan, director of Honest Food Company in Kilkeel

Honest Food Company in Kilkeel Co Down has launched restaurant quality and healthy ready meals from the freshest ingredients sourced from trusted local suppliers.

Honest Food is a new business run by Connor Morgan, a director of Oh So Lean, a longstanding supplier of healthy foods which is also based in Kilkeel. The innovative meals have all been created by the small company without “hidden nasties” such as e-numbers, Connor explains.

The six meals in the initial range are all handmade in the company’s development kitchen and are high in protein and low in fat, calories, saturates and salt.

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Honest Food has already won business with Sainsbury’s and SPAR in Northern Ireland for the innovative convenience foods, sales which showcase the quality and rich flavours of the meals in the small enterprise’s developing range.

Connor, commenting on the new business and products, says: “Honest Food is essentially an extension of the pioneering work of Oh So Lean, the small business set up by Sean, my father, to meet the growing market trend towards healthier foods that are low in fat and salt. I’ve worked alongside him in developing and marketing Oh So Lean’s original products.

“What we’ve done at Honest Food is to carry this a stage further by creating a novel and exciting range of healthier ready meals influenced by demand from retailers and customers for popular dishes which are rice and pasta based such as chicken and black bean with rice and steamed vegetables, peppered chicken and saffron rice and Cajun chicken with pasta.

“Our meals are Honest by name and honest by nature,” adds Connor.

Honest Food was set up last year on the back of Oh So Lean’s outstanding success with retailers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with its foods. The new business, which will see the creation of five jobs, has been assisted by economic development agency Invest Northern Ireland.

Mark Bleakney, Invest NI’s Southern Regional manager, says: “We’ve worked with the team at Oh So Lean for many years and we’re delighted to be able to help them kick-start this new business venture.

“Capitalising on the growing demand for healthy ready meals, our support has helped the company to hit the ground running, with assistance to purchase new machinery.

“The new machinery has been invaluable in helping the company to meet the packaging, manufacturing and shelf life requirements of leading supermarket chains. We’re also supporting it to grow its team with five new staff, an important development for the local area,” he adds.

The six meals launched under Honest Food branding with support from Invest Northern Ireland are: Chicken and Black Bean with Rice and Steamed Vegetables; Chicken Curry; Creamy Peppered Chicken and Saffron Rice; Cajun Chicken with Tricolour Pasta; Chicken Noodles; and Pasta Bolognese with Wedges. All the meals are based on original recipes created by the team at Honest Food Company and produced and packaged there. The approach ensures the provenance and traceability of all the small company’s meals and the ingredients used in all the foods.

Oh So Lean was established by Sean Morgan, Connor’s father and an experienced local butcher in leading supermarkets in the area, in 2011. The company was set up to specialise on foods which are free from gluten, dairy, soya and with no added sugar, as well as being low in fat and sugar.

A low salt bacon has also been developed by Sean in his commitment to the creation of healthier foods. He dry-cures the bacon, rubs it by hand with salt and then uses a unique technique he has pioneered to remove the salt. The process produced bacon which was 50 percent lower in salt than the lowest then on the market.

As a result of its longstanding focus on premium low-fat products, Oh So Lean has won a series of awards in the all-Ireland Gluten-Free Awards. It’s also a member of the influential Gluten-Free Ireland organisation which has been campaigning to increase awareness of the health issues posed by allergens over many years.

Sean set up Oh So Lean with Connor to focus on developing low-fat meats, including steak, burgers and sausages, to help his son tackle a weight problem during his teenage years

The small business developed with the growing market demand for quality meals in line with trends towards healthier foods that were high in protein while being low in salt and fat.

The trend towards healthier food has developed strongly with shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns. Reacting to this strengthening trend led to the launch of Honest Food Company.

The two enterprises now employ around 10 people in a modern processing unit overlooking the harbour in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland’s main fishing centre.

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