French Artisan Launches Chutneys With Celtic Twist In Northern Ireland

A novel range of handmade chutneys has been created in Northern Ireland by Grá Bia, a start-up artisan enterprise.

Behind the five-strong range of flavoured chutneys is Benoit le Houerou, a native of Brittany who trained as a chef before working in hotel management in St Helier, Jersey for seven years.

The chutneys were developed following Mr le Houerou’ssubsequent move to Northern Ireland with his then wife, originally from Newcastle in county Down. He set up the artisan business at Bryansford, near Newcastle, to realise a longstanding dream of running his own food enterprise.

The five chutneys feature different flavour blends and are: Beetroot and Mint; Mango and Green Chilli; Pineapple, Cranberry and Black Pepper; Rhubarb, Date and Ginger; and Tomato and Black Onion Seed.

“I’ve always loved experimenting with different flavour blends from my training as a chef in Brittany,” he explains. “I am particularly keen on making chutneys, combining fresh fruits, vegetables and a blend of spices to create wonderful flavours. Chutneys are so versatile and can be served with just about anything, from curries, charcuterie and cheese boards to BBQs,” he adds.

He saw a business opportunity from the growth in handmade meal accompaniments especially relishes and chutneys which are now popular in the UK and Ireland. “What I set out to do was to create chutneys with different and tasty flavour blends,” he says. “I came up with several samples for friendsto taste and they proved very popular. Several suggested I should start making them commercially. And so this is what I’ve done,” he adds.

He heard about Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher scheme which helps start-ups and smaller companies to link up with a third level institution in developing new products or processes.

He tabled his plan to create the novel chutneys to Invest NI and gained support in the shape of a £5,000 grant to enable him to seek practical support from expert staff at the Food Innovation Centre on the Loughry Campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise in Cookstown, countyTyrone.

“The Innovation Voucher scheme and the Loughry team were excellent. It helped me to refine the chutneys and prepare to bring them to market. I wouldn’t be where I am now without this fantastic support,” adds the affable Frenchman.

Grá Bia, the distinctive branding he has chosen for the small business, reflects his passion for great food and cooking with a ‘Celtic’ twist. “‘Grá means ‘love’. ‘Bia’ means ‘food’. Producing delicious chutneys is all about sharing love and passion for fine foods,” he explains.

He’s very keen “to work closely with local businesses and suppliers from Northern Ireland”. He continues: “Most of the fruits and vegetables are locally sourced. This means I have total control of the ingredients and know where they all comefrom,” he adds.

The chutneys are already on sale at a number of outlets across Northern Ireland and from the small company’s recently launched website (