Shera’s Asian fusion foods now on the menu for Irish retail giant

Shera McAlorum’s fledgling food business has recently received a massive boost from one of the giants of grocery retailing in Ireland.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 5:08 pm
Shera McAlorum has created unique Asian fusion dishes which have attracted Aldi Ireland

Shera McAlorum’s fledgling food business has recently received a massive boost from one of the giants of grocery retailing in Ireland.

Shera, who owns Karri Kitchen in Portadown with husband Chris, has won her first sales to Aldi Ireland, her very business with a major supermarket chain in Ireland.

Karri Kitchen is supplying Asian fusion ready meals to the German-owned food retailer for a trial period as part of its ‘Grow with Aldi’, a novel scheme which gives new and smaller food processors a golden opportunity to reach out to thousands of shoppers in almost 150 supermarkets across the Republic of Ireland.

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Shoppers in the Republic - Aldi doesn’t have any stores in Northern Ireland – will be able to enjoy Shera’s unique, fresh and healthy chow mein noodles and mango chicken curry created using recipes from her childhood in Indonesia.

Originally from Jakarta, the nation’s capital, Shera (33) later moved to Sydney in Australia for her education and earned a degree in business management and marketing at the respected Australian Pacific College (APC).

Shera worked in hospitality during her time at APC.

“I had a number of student jobs including training as a barista and enjoyed working in hospitality,” she remembers. “I had always been interested in running my own small business and had no hesitation about a career in hospitality on graduation. Hospitality and clean, healthy eating have always been part of my life. It’s how I’ve been raised, my work experience, and our lifestyle.”

Overall, Shera lived and worked in Sydney for 12 years.

She believes in “intuitive eating; trusting our inner body image to make choices around fresh and nutritious food”.

She met husband Chris, who has a successful garage in Portadown, during a visit to Australia and they subsequently married. The couple, who now have a three-year old son, choose to set up home in his home town. Shera pursued her career in management but was then encouraged to think seriously about food preparation by family and friends who loved the distinctive Indonesian and other Asian themes and flavours of her meals.

“I grew up cooking alongside my mother in the kitchen at home on traditional dishes that are rich in flavours, colourful and depend on fresh vegetables, meats, rice and a variety of fruits. My passion for good food is firmly rooted in those days,” Shera explains. “I’ve carried this focus on fresh and local ingredients into the dishes within the Karri Kitchen portfolio.”

The feedback encouraged Shera to explore the business potential of a range of Asian ready meals and to see what support would be available for such a venture.

Encouraged by husband Chris and family, Shera decided to push ahead and began developing recipes for a range of meals and arranging to start up the small business. Suitable premises were found and kitted out in the town.

“Setting up the business, kitting out the factory and shaping the products was a very exciting and challenging time for us. I was determined in particular to ensure that our operations respected the precious local environment. So, all packaging is compostable and as many ingredients as practicable are locally sourced to limit food miles. This is a focus that is traceable back to my upbringing in Indonesia and subsequently in Australia,” she explains.

Local suppliers include Lynas Foods in Coleraine; M&W Meats; and Gilfresh, both Portadown.

Shera opened the shutters on Karri Kitchen – the name is a play on the Indonesian for curry - in October 2018 and began producing an attractive and authentic range of ready meals such as mango chicken curry, chicken chow mein noodles, black pepper beef, and spicy coconut chicken curry for local food stores. There are now seven nourishing bowls, two salad bowls, here overnight oats for breakfast, and seasonal specials planned too.

“All of the food is healthy and perfect for those who want to eat a balanced diet,” adds Shera.

A major marketing drive has helped the small enterprise, which employs around four people, reach out to over 50 stores, mostly around county Armagh. New customers are being added regularly, and Shera is currently planning to expand to Belfast and further afield. Encouraged by the Aldi deal, the talented and ambitious entrepreneur is planning to scale up production and move to bigger premises.

“Aldi is such a massive confidence boost and a tremendous endorsement of the taste and quality of our products, “ adds Shera.

Other local companies on ‘Grow with Aldi’ are: Pomeroy’s Woodlab Distillery - home of Symphonia Spirits - Irish Black Butter Peanut Spread from Portrush; Antrim’s Green Fingers Family Granolas; Hilden Brewery, Dunmurry; Ballylisk Dairies, Portadown, Hellbent Boerewors, Belfast and The Letterbox Larder spices, Richhill.

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