In 2000, Sean Kelly of Kelly’s Butchers in Newport built a 2,000sqft factory to produce black and white pudding as well as sausages. It was constructed on the back of stricter legislation around food safety. By then, the brand was well-established having won numerous awards since the late 1980s when the family began entering the products into competitions.
By 2002, the realisation that a newer, more modern larger factory would need to be built to facilitate the level of demand for the products was a reminder of how well-respected and high-quality they were.
Today, the factory extends to 6,000sq ft. In 2002, 1t of product a week was a hair-raising benchmark for their business. This turnover of product has grown by 10-15% each year since, without exception. The Kelly’s brand incorporates a butchers, an abattoir, a shop and a restaurant all in Newport. The majority of their food is locally sourced and they now employ 26 people.
What is obvious in Newport is the link between the local suppliers, ie the farmers, the processors and restaurants such as Kelly’s and the retailers as being a vital source of rural job creation. However, Newport has one major accelerator.
The impact of the Wild Atlantic Way along the western seaboard has re-invigorated many aspects of the area and Kelly is under no illusions as to its importance.
“Newport is a small town. If you went there a few years ago and wanted to get a cup of coffee, you wouldn’t get it. Now there are about six or seven places you could get one,” Kelly explained.
“The impact of the Greenway for the area has been unbelievable. Last year, 250,000 people went on that Greenway. If each one of those spent €1 in your business, that is a lot of money. That is money in the town that businesses would never have gotten before. The hardest thing is getting people in the door of your business. That is what the Wild Atlantic Way does,” he said.
The once-quiet town of Newport is now flourishing and Kelly, his fellow businesspeople and those they employ in the town are reaping the benefits. For the tourists, the locally sourced food championed by the likes of Kelly’s has become a focal point of their trip.
As a result, jobs are being created. In 2012, soon after the Greenway was opened in Mayo, Kelly’s re-opened the restaurant they closed in the early 1990s. Five years ago, 11 people worked in the business overall. Today this figure has more than doubled.
The butcher shop is part of the furniture of west Mayo now. Opened by his father Dominick in the 1930s, it has been run by Sean and his brother Seamus since the 1980s. Today, Sean’s children, Kenneth, Cormac and Shauna all run various parts of the company.
Kelly’s have become renowned for their black pudding in the past, but in truth their white pudding and flavoured sausages have become just as popular over the last number of years. This is as a result of mainstreaming into the bigger supermarkets. The products are supplied to Musgraves and Dunnes with the aim of getting onto the shelves of Tesco, Lidl and Aldi in the near future.
The road to mass production wasn’t straight forward. Sean Kelly’s path since he started working in the shop full-time in 1975 had its fair share of learning curves.
“The first time I made sausages, I made it in a machine that could only make 20lbs of it. We sold 2lbs, we ate 1lb of it ourselves and we dumped the rest,” he lamented.
“When you start off in manufacturing, you have to learn from your mistakes and listen to customers.”
And there are certain aspects of the business that Kelly won’t comprise on. Buying Irish is one. “If we were to buy Spanish pork for our products, we would save about €600/t, but we don’t do that. We will never do that as long as Sean Kelly is involved in the business,” he explains defiantly.
The Wild Atlantic Way has ensured that producers and suppliers have reaped the benefits of the extra numbers circling around the area.
All the while, tourists can experience the culinary aspect of the region. The knock-on effects can be seen in jobs.
About Kelly’s: Sean Kelly, his brother Seamus and his children Kenneth, Cormac and Shauna run Kelly’s Butchers in Newport. They also run an abattoir, a restaurant and a manufacturing plant as well as an 80-acre farm keeping Angus cross stock that Kelly buys in over 350kg. He also buys in lambs. Sean Kelly is one of our speakers at the Agri Careers Expo on 14 February 2019.
The Wild Atlantic Way has brought in 1.2m tourists across the western seaboard and there will be a panel discussion at the Agri Careers Expo this year. Over the next number of months, we will preview some of the personnel on this panel, their personal stories and how the Wild Atlantic Way has converted the food that farmers in the region produce into jobs.