Jenna makes ‘Buy local this Christmas’ campaign cool and on trend
Founder of www.bitetosavour.com Jenna Stevenson, 30, from Kilkeel, is the passionate young campaigner behind the growing ‘Support #artisanNI producers’ movement here in Northern Ireland. Time spent working with artisan food producers in Australia during a round the world trip with her husband Stuart in 2009 grew a passion for locally produced artisan food. Upon returning to Northern Ireland she started importing Australian olive oil and whilst working the markets here discovered a group of artisan producers with great products struggling to bring them to market.
“And that’s where I guess my obsession began!” explains Jenna. “Here in Northern Ireland people generally, and genuinely, want to buy locally produced food. They like to hear the stories of how it is made and nowadays the provenance of where the food is from is more important than ever before. But the problem is that they don’t know where to get it from. It wasn’t available online or sold in the big supermarkets. Sadly less people go to our Farmers Markets nowadays where many of our artisan producers rent stalls, standing in the cold and wet, often not selling enough to cover the cost of being there. There had to be a better way. So I launched BITETOSAVOUR and we recently brought N.Irish artisan food online. We’re offline too, located in Studio Souk in Ann Street in Belfast. And for those who think ‘Buy local’ is run by out-of-touch hippies, we’ve developed an on-trend range of gift boxes such as the Gluten Free Box, the Wee Taste of Home box and the #girlsnightin box, all very cool and within budget – so there is no excuse not to buy local!”.
And with over 100 artisan producers now in Northern Ireland, with a good percentage of Great Taste Awards spread amongst the sector, the NI artisan food sector, although small, estimated at less than £10million, clearly punches above its weight. Yet with an artisan food market in the South now worth a reported €700 million [Mintel] from around 300 producers and growing annually, there is clearly room for improvement in the North.
Jenna continues “In the South local artisan food is readily available, online and offline. The public demand it and as a result their artisan food sector is strong. In the North it is time to give it a push. We have recently published articles about the amazing chocolate, oils & balsamics, craft brewers and Gluten Free sectors we have in NI in a bid to educate the public about what is available to them. Why buy from overseas when you can get better quality, often cheaper, from just around the corner? We opened a Christmas pop-up in Castlecourt Belfast and hope to open more pop-ups around NI in 2017 to bring artisan food into local high streets. Uniquely bitetosavour.com is one of the first websites to have a ‘Chef-in-Residence’ who creates recipes so we can show the public how to use the products. And we’re slamming our fist on the table in a noisy digital way with the ‘Buy local this Christmas’ campaign to get people to open their eyes to what is #madeinMOIRA, #madeinFERMANAGH, #madeinBALLYCASTLE… to see if we can get more to change their habits this Christmas. Buying local should be become more of a habit and less of a choice”.
The top 10 N.Irish Christmas favourites for 2016:
- Gin & Tonic marmalade (#madeinFERMANAGH)
- Chilli, strawberry & prosecco preserve (#madeinMOIRA)
- Plum Pud (#madeinKILKEEL)
- Mulled wine made easy (#madeinBANGOR)
- Handcrafted chocolates (#madeinHOLYWOOD)
- Winter spiced chutney (#madeinBELFAST)
- Chilli & Lime for the cheese (#madeinFERMANAGH)
- Spiced Citrus Suki Tea (#madeinBELFAST)
- AGA-made sea-salted caramel (#madeinBALLINDERRY)
- Cranberry & White Chocolate Fudge (#madeinBELFAST)