Well, here ye are now
Food On Fire
What's the Story?
For a company born in 2016 we have been through a lot.
Our founder, Laura McMenamy wanted to work with food and nutrition. She is an eager baker who has trained in Dublin Bakery School and Ballymaloe Cookery School. By trade she is a pharmacist so working in the most scientific area of cookery was an obvious path for her to take. In 2016 she formed Great Northern Larder as a vehicle to explore and work with foods local to the Dundalk area. The name is a nod to the Great Northern Railway, a company based in Dundalk but with roots across the Northeast of Ireland. Laura entered the Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and during that process she realised that the commercial appeal of baking full time was limited. It also didn’t give her the flexibility she craved so much from her work.
Enter the second founder (and Laura’s husband) Ruairi Browne. A software developer and lecturer by trade, Ruairi has a passion for food. He floated the idea of making sauce from high quality local ingredients. Shortly afterwards in June 2017 Ruairi & Laura launched a range of local artisan sauces at the Vantastival festival in Drogheda. The range included “Gullion’s Fury”, “Browne’s Sauce”, and “Ketchup”. There followed a few years of developing new sauces, getting into supermarkets, and building a brand. However, to be frank, it wasn’t what we wanted either. Supermarkets were not fun to deal with, making sauce was a pain in the ass, and it seemed like everyone had the same idea at the same time. The market was saturated, getting paid was difficult, and at the end of the day we cared that people loved our product, but we had no interest in seeing it on shelves in a Dutch supermarket. It wasn’t why we started this business.
We rumbled on for a while, and in 2020 Covid lockdowns hit hard. Great Northern Larder pivoted fast and became a food box company doing home deliveries. We still made sauce, but we stopped chasing up supermarkets and trying to take over the world. Instead, we drove around eerily empty roads delivering beautiful local produce from around the Boyne Valley to isolating and locked down food lovers across Leinster. It was very hard work, and the reward was vastly increased recognition for our company.
Around this time, we became even more obsessed with barbeque and live fire cooking. Like many people we spent our spare time cooking in the back garden. But unlike a lot of people, it became a bit obsessive for us. We tried different smoke flavours, we experimented with different techniques, and we hounded our Boyne Valley suppliers for different produce that we could try smoking and grilling. By the time the next wave of lockdowns arrived in 2021 we had pivoted again from a food box company to a barbeque supply company. We landed on a giant wave and that first year we sold an endless stream of Kamado BBQs, about 20 pallets of charcoal, and crates of our own Scotch BBQ sauce.
As I write this in 2022, we have been selling barbeque supplies for over a year now. The wave has receded a little and the economy is not in a good place. The consumer obsession with barbeque has faded and there is war in Europe. The outlook for any small business is cloudy at best, but we are now in a place where we feel our passion and our energy has a home.
We are working with live fire which we both love so much, we are making spice rubs and sauces but at a scale that is fun, and we are selling great products – local and otherwise – to people who share our passions. The only thing we are not comfortable with is the name.
Great Northern Larder
Great Northern Larder no longer has the meaning it once had. It ties us to a place and an idea that are no longer as relevant to the company. We are still based in Dundalk, but unlike the Great Northern Railway we don’t need a HQ to park our trains in at night. We are not tied by rails to our hometown. Our expansion does not have to be radial.
We are also no longer a Larder. As a matter of fact, we are every part of the kitchen other than the larder.
And if Great means big, solid, and a player in industry well then, we are not even ambitious to be that anymore. We would much rather be great with a small g.
Food on Fire
So today, 4th July 2022 we are losing the name Great Northern Larder and we are launching Food On Fire. Will it be our Independence Day?
The name Food On Fire says what we do, it is who we are, and hopefully it will see us through at least another 6 years.