The Foods of Athenry

Paul & Siobhan Lawless - Foods of AthenryWhen former dairy farmers Paul and Siobhan Lawless started their farmhouse bakery, “The Foods of Athenry” in 2000, a converted bicycle shed on their Co Galway farm was the unlikely setting for the new business.

Basing their philosophy on the simple concept that they wouldn’t put anything into their products that they weren’t happy to give to their own family, their mission statement from the outset was to make “quality real food for food lovers, the food conscious and the dietary challenged, produced with integrity and mindful of the environment”.

They soon built up such a reputation for their healthily delicious home bakes with no additives (including salt, yeast, preservatives and hydrogenated fats), that growing demand led to moving the bakery into the old milking parlour and the business steadily grew.

As the business developed, they expressed their philosophy in many ways – they joined Good Food Ireland, for example; devised an innovative range of biodegradable packaging; and, with the help of Irish Seedsavers in Co Clare, planted an organic orchard of native variety of apple trees with almost-forgotten names like ‘Mother of Household’, ‘Lady Sudley’, and ‘Cavan Rose’ - and then established a colony of bees to pollinate the apples.

Foods of Athenry - ProductsBut the core is their impressive range of products, all produced by hand and using ingredients that are carefully selected to give the best balance of taste and nutrition. ‘Deliciously wholesome’ is the claim and it’s one they live up to, in their many popular ranges – scones, breads (including their own in-house bread mixes), cakes, pies, tarts and slices, seasonal specialities – and a specific range of ‘healthy options’ that includes a sugar-free tea brack and spelt breads. Whether or not a special diet is essential to your wellbeing, it’s great to find products that are so thoughtfully produced to be healthy yet without sacrificing flavour or texture.

Paul and Siobhan’s enthusiasm is infectious – I’ve met them at several events over the last few months, including the 2011 Blas na hEireann /Irish Food Awards in Dingle, where they took Gold for their Very Berry High Omega Granola (one of the many awards their products have won) and at Bloom last June, where they introduced me to their new gluten-free brack (predictably delicious!), little knowing that, by the end of the month, their precious bakery would be gutted by fire.

Yet, with typical courage and determination, they were back in business within 10 weeks after the fire – and, following a 2-star success for their gluten-free Christmas pudding in Britain’s Great Taste Awards, have since confounded even the most optimistic expectations by landing a deal to supply to Harrods of London. A pretty good year end by any standards, and they’re now back up to full production.

The Foods of Athenry products are widely available in the West of Ireland, including McCambridges, Mortons and Joyce’s of Knocknacarra, Galway; also Dunnes Stores in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Distribution will no doubt widen as demand grows – check for current retail outlets.

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