Dunnes Stores Simply Better collection features a slew of Irish artisan producers located all across the country. From beef farmers to artisan chocolatiers, the Simply Better brand takes from the cream of the crop; ensuring products that are superior in taste and quality, as well as championing the local producers who put their heart and soul into their work.
Last year, for Irish Country Living’s Carpool in the Country series, Anne O’Donoghue visited Pauline Dunne at Killowen Farm in Courtnacuddy, Co Wexford. The Dunne Family use milk from their farm to make deliciously creamy Simply Better yoghurt with fruit compote. Read on about two other Leinster-based food producers who supply the collection.
New Ross, Co Wexford
When Tom and Laura Sinnott took on the family business in 2008, they would never have envisioned supplying every Dunnes Stores in Ireland, but that’s exactly what happened after they met the Simply Better team at the International Food Exhibition in London.
“We make everything by hand, so we thought we wouldn’t be able to do the volumes needed to supply Dunnes Stores nationwide,” Laura says. “But they said, ‘We love the way you do things and how you use Irish ingredients; we’d really like to give this a go’. So by 2013 we had moved into our new production kitchen and started making our preserves for Dunnes Stores Simply Better Collection.”
“Our red onions are grown locally, we get Irish chilies and garlic from Taylors of Lusk and, actually, our neighbours grow local Wexford tomatoes, so we’re using those as well,” Laura says. “It’s great that we’re able to use Irish ingredients, and to me that’s what Simply Better is all about. Especially at this time, it’s so important to support local – we do our best to support the local growers around us and Simply Better supports the local artisan producers in the same way.”
The locally sourced vegetables will be put to good use with the launch of Wexford Home Preserves new line of chutneys for the Simply Better Collection. They will be available for purchase from next month, alongside their existing range of products.
“This new Simply Better range couldn’t have come at a better time because we expanded our production kitchen last year, with the help of Leader,” Laura says. “We find that Dunnes are so easy to work with, we work to develop new products with them all the time. We supply preserves, fruit coulis and now the chutneys and relishes, as well as our Christmas line of handmade brandy butter and cranberry sauce.”
“It’s a lovely brand to be involved with, because they really do care about artisan producers and Irish ingredients – which is the same ethos as ourselves.”
Castlebellingham, Co Louth
Patrick and Carol Rooney have been supplying rapeseed oil and related products, like their honey and mustard dressing, to the Dunnes Stores Simply Better collection since 2015. Patrick says he was, at first, reluctant to get involved with supplying a major supermarket, but changed his mind when he spoke to other Simply Better suppliers who reported their positive experiences.
“I was reassured that working with Simply Better wasn’t like working with other supermarkets,” he says.
“Dealing with Simply Better is an incredible experience and one that I can highly recommend. Having that distribution outlet – we’re so happy with our relationship with Dunnes.”
The Rooneys starting growing oilseed rape 11 years ago and made their product debut at Bloom in 2010. Originally trained as an engineer, Patrick’s skillset has come in handy, as they not only grow the oilseed rape themselves – they process and bottle their product on the farm as well, ensuring their high standards and full traceability.
This approach has led to them winning prestigious food awards in addition to their involvement in the Simply Better Collection.
“We sow in August, it will grow through the winter and go into its yellow colour in April and May, and then the following July we harvest,” Patrick explains. “Then we clean, dry and press the seeds for the following year. We have total traceability on our product – I can show you the field where it was grown. We’re not certified organic but we’ve learned a lot of lessons from organic farmers. We minimise sprays and go for a very low input.”
Derrycamma Farm uses low-impact farming methods to grow their crops. They avoid ploughing and instead use an eco-till method, which ensures the nutrients in the soil stay put and minimises the need for artificial fertilisers.
It’s grown in popularity and certainly with this whole COVID-19 experience – the volume of oil that’s gone out over the past three months has been incredible
The health benefits of rapeseed oil have been widely touted over the years – it contains half the saturated fat and up to ten times the amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids than your average olive oil. Patrick says there’s one person in particular who stands out, for him, as a champion for Irish rapeseed oil – Neven Maguire.
“Even before he was associated with Simply Better, he was promoting Irish rapeseed oil,” he says. “It’s grown in popularity and certainly with this whole COVID-19 experience – the volume of oil that’s gone out over the past three months has been incredible.”
Neven has been making excellent use of Patrick and Carol’s Simply Better Irish Rapeseed Oil in his online video tutorials, which you can find on both his and the Simply Better social media streams. Irish Country Living asks Patrick what you should look for in a good-quality rapeseed oil.
“I don’t like to smell any strong smells from a rapeseed oil,” he explains. “It should smell as neutral as possible and should have a nutty, light flavour. What we’ve learned is that the devil is in the details – we take extreme care with each step of the process.”