Popularity of Irish food in the United States has never been higher
Americans, even non-Irish ones, can’t get enough of items such as butter, chocolate and cheese made in Ireland
The popularity of Irish food products in the U.S. has never been higher. Americans, even non-Irish ones, can’t get enough of items such as butter, chocolate and cheese made in Ireland. MOLLY MULDOON reports.
On McLean Avenue in Yonkers, the shelves of a local deli are crammed with Irish produce. Playing up to the Irish population in the neighborhood a sign reads, “Special: Irish potato soup, 99 cents.” The local population in the Irish enclaves of Woodlawn and Yonkers guarantees a steady demand for the Irish necessities.
It all comes down to brand recognition according to Patrick Coleman, the owner of Food Ireland, an Irish food wholesaler and mail order company based in Westchester County, New York.
“People who are buying the products have been exposed to the brands either when they were living in Ireland or when they visited,” he told the Irish Voice.
Coleman, who has been in the industry for over 20 years, says that many American tourists who visit Ireland look for Irish products when they arrive home.
“It could be after eating brown bread or oatmeal in a bed and breakfast, tourists will seek these things out upon their return,” he said.
Launched in 1998, the Food Ireland website offers consumers over 1,200 products, ranging from chocolates and shepherd’s pie mix to Irish bread.
Apart from a dip in 2009, business has grown by double digits every year, Coleman says.
“There are four people packing boxes eight hours a day,” he said. The company distributes packages everywhere from the U.S. to Australia. His biggest sellers are traditional rashers, sausages, tea bags and bread.
“More and more people are getting interested in Irish food. The online community means people spread the word,” Coleman said.
The company’s biggest selling non-food item is peat turf, which is shipped from Co. Clare.
“It’s surprising as we sell more in the summer,“ Coleman said. “People burn it (turf) in their outdoor fire pits.”
Often taking requests from consumers for new products, when one customer asked the company to import some Flash floor cleaner, Coleman was not enthused.
“Initially I didn’t want to get involved with non-food items,” Coleman explained.
“I asked her why she wanted me to import Flash when at Costco a gallon of something similar costs one-tenth of the price,” he said. “She explained, ‘When I wash my kitchen floor it smells likes home.’”
Coleman added, “There is an emotional value to everything that we sell, the stronger the brand, the stronger the value.”
It is this brand recognition that drives demand for such Irish products abroad, but such specialty products make up just a small proportion of Irish exports.
“Most of the Irish products that are driving forward are targeting mainstream consumers,” says Karen Coyle, North America market manager with Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.
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