Barry Walsh casts his eye on Donegal’s prowess at producing high quality food and drinks products.
Nestled on the north-west coast of Ireland, the county of Donegal is famed for its geographic beauty but also its heritage and culture. Donegal has a population of 167,000 people and key towns include Donegal Town, Balybofey, Carndonagh, Lifford, Bundoran and Letterkenny.
Because of its breath-taking scenery and natural beauty in the form of beautiful mountains and beaches, the county is a popular tourism destination. A key facet of this is its hospitality, its music and of course, its food.
Here are 10 Donegal food businesses doing amazing things:
Atlantic Treasures recently partnered with chef Neven Maguire and Brian McDermott to launch the Dunnes Stores Simply Better Seafood Gift Box
Located in Killybegs, Atlantic Treasures is a family-run seafood business with over 35 years of experience. Founded in 1986 by Mick O’Donnell, the company has always focused on providing value to customers and expanding its reach globally, serving markets such as UAE, China, Africa, mainland Europe, and Japan. In 1996, it expanded its production facility to meet growing demand and embraced sustainable processes ahead of its time, reflecting Mick’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
In 2007, the company initiated green initiatives like recycling, energy conservation, and hydroelectric power generation from a nearby stream. In 2010, Mick’s son Michael joined the team, bringing innovation and entrepreneurship. This led to the creation of the award-winning Atlantic Treasures range, featuring unique flavours like Smoked Mackerel with Ginger, Chilli and Lime Glaze, and Hot Smoked Herring with Orange & Rosemary, available in supermarkets and international markets. Island Seafoods and Atlantic Treasures were early members of Bord Bia’s Green Initiative in 2012, receiving recognition and awards for their commitment to sustainability.
Atlantic Treasures range is expanding with the upcoming launch of the new Atlantic Treasures Frozen Range and Whiskey-infused Smoked Salmon. The adoption will include Frozen Mackerel Fillets and Frozen Salmon Darnes in easy-cook bags and a Taste of Donegal with our Silkie Whiskey infused Smoked Salmon.
The company has won awards for its sustainability, previously winning Green Business of the Year and Blas Na hEireann Awards, Chef’s Choice Award, Best Product in Co. Donegal and represented Donegal in the Small Firms Association National Awards
The locally-owned and operated company is known for crafting 100% pure cold-pressed rapeseed oil. Their location, marked by unique soil, wild Atlantic winds, and challenging weather conditions, lends a distinctive flavour of their Donegal Rapeseed Oil. As they say themselves: “The colder climate, which delays seed maturation, contributes to a fuller and one-of-a-kind taste in each bottle. We meticulously harvest and press the seeds daily at our facility to preserve elevated levels of Omega 3, 6, and Vitamin E. Our cold-pressed oil is entirely free of additives or preservatives, ensuring that the natural essence of Donegal shines through in your culinary creations.”
The company now has 20 people employed in the processing and marketing of the full range of oils in a plant that is operating to the highest standard of BRC Standard Grade A+.
It won awards such as Chefs Choice award at the Blas Na hEireann Awards and it took the top prize at the Great Taste Awards in London and McKenna Guide Best in Ireland
The company was created in 1963 by Father James Mc Dwyer to “create local employment, stave off emigration and help protect the future of an area of unique heritage within the Donegal Gaeltacht – our native Irish-speaking community…Initially, the company processed vegetables grown by the local community… the company soon became the cornerstone of the community. Today, many of these employees and fishermen are third generation families – Errigal now is a thriving living tradition.”
Starting out with just 16 full-time staff in 1962, today Errigal Bay employs more than 200 staff and exports its products worldwide. The company has changed ownership a number of times over its long history. Errigal Bay’s current owners have been on board since 2007. As part of its program for expansion and development, the company acquired Kilmore Seafood Wexford in 2013, adding complementary products to its range. Since then, a significant investment program has been implemented to modernise facilities and procedures and to ensure the company meets the most stringent international standards, including BRC Global Standards Certification.”
Their products include lobsters, prawns and crabs to name a few, and the company has won prizes for sustainability, ethical fishing and awards for its food brands around the world.
In 1997 Filligans began producing handmade preserves with quality ingredients in small batches, using traditional recipes handed down from family and friends. From as early as 2002 when the newly produced Fiery Pepper Relish achieved gold status at the prestigious Great Taste Awards through to the more recent Chilli Jam success, numerous Filligans products have been recognised with Great Taste awards as well as Blas na hÉireann recognition.
In addition, Filligans was recognised nationally as National Winner (preserves) at the Irish Breakfast Awards 2020 (Georgina Campbell) In 2019 as Donegal Food Coast Overall Winner As well as our old favourites, Filligans are constantly developing new products to respond to changing consumer tastes.
Susan McLaughlin started making dessert sauces in 2021 and has thrived ever since. Driven by her lifelong passion for food, particularly baking and cooking, she established her business upon returning to Donegal from Dublin.
Situated in the Inishowen Peninsula near Malin Head, the northernmost point in Ireland, Susan emphasises the use of all-natural, high-quality ingredients in her sauces and offers gluten-free options as well. She’s committed to sustainability, employing 100% recyclable packaging.
Susan’s participation in the Supervalu Food Academy Programme has provided invaluable knowledge and support, helping her bring her product to market successfully. The Academy prioritises entrepreneur success, fostering growth for both the individual and their product.
The company now has caramel and salted caramel with chocolate sauces available from selected SuperValu stores and on the website
Love A Little won three Blas na hEireann awards, two bronze awards in 2021 and 2021 and a Great Taste award in 2023.
In the early 1900s when Philip McClenaghann started farming potatoes on land in rural Donegal, he began to experiment with his potatoes and started investigating what alcoholic drinks he could make with the crop.
Having begun giving away his drinks to locals going to dinner dances Philip then started selling his products and began a family love-affair with harvesting, and fermenting the potato into different drinks.
His granddaughter Laura Bonner now continues his storied tradition of making a product born of the land and crafted by hand. Her ambition is to make sure The Muff Liquor Company is a testament to the hardworking values of Philip McClenaghan and his image now rightfully adorns the label of our bottle.”
The company now has a range of whiskey, vodka and gin drinks available, together with everything you need to make certain drinks such as Muff cosmopolitans, Muff flutters or Meme’s Roses drinks.Celebrities Ed Sheeran, Russell Crowe, Jimmy Carr and Ronan Keating have invested in Muff Liquor. The Muff Liquor Company has already won many prestigious awards for family crafted gin and vodka
Derek and Anna Walker are the founders of NatNoot – The Natural Nutrition Co., a business dedicated to producing natural, chemical-free, and additive-free cold-pressed juice products, primarily focusing on wheatgrass. Derek’s personal journey, from being diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease and losing his eyesight to starting the business, is a testament to his determination and passion for nature’s healing power.
NatNoot began in 2014 when Derek, inspired by the benefits of wheatgrass juice for his own health, decided to make it more accessible by creating ready-made wheatgrass juice shots. With the support of the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance scheme, he started trading. The business took off, and within six months, NatNoot products were being supplied to shops, starting with Kelly’s Centra Mountain Top Letterkenny.
The positive feedback from customers motivated Derek and Anna to expand their product range. In 2018, they joined Supervalu’s food academy program, leading to the creation of two new products: “Believe” and “Achieve,” cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juice drinks. “Believe” is a blend of celery, apple, kale, and organic wheatgrass, while “Achieve” includes carrot, orange, ginger, and turmeric root.
In 2023, NatNoot successfully secured a listing with Musgraves, marking a significant milestone in their journey. Derek and Anna express their gratitude to everyone who has supported them along the way and emphasise the importance of believing in oneself to achieve great things.
The Shack began in 2011 as a coffee kiosk and quickly gained popularity among both locals and tourists. In 2017, they expanded to include a roastery, focusing on crafting products aligned with their creative vision, flavour expertise, and unique roasting techniques. Over time, they cultivated a strong and supportive customer base, keeping them busy in recent years. The Shack is situated on Marblehill Beach near Dunfanaghy, a picturesque seaside village on the Wild Atlantic Way.
With nearly 40 years of experience between them, owners Min and Tom comes from the hospitality and barista background. Their commitment revolves around sourcing top-quality specialty grade coffee beans, sourced from reputable companies in coffee-producing nations. They prioritise ethical and sustainable practices, actively seeking partnerships with coffee producers and suppliers that align with their values. Membership in the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) underscores their dedication to the highest quality and standards. They also embrace certifications such as Rainforest Alliance, organic, fair trade, and direct trade, promoting transparency in the coffee supply chain.
With coffees from South America and Central Africa The Shack is known for its ethical sourcing of their coffee along with its great taste. This led the team to win silver in the 2020 Blas Na hEireann Awards
Sliabh Liag Distillers is a distilling company with a strong commitment to authenticity, transparency, and the spirit of Donegal. Founded by James and Moira Doherty, it represents the first legal distilling company in Donegal in 175 years.
Their mission includes valuing authenticity and transparency, emphasising the importance of being genuine and forthright in their approach to distilling and spirits. Taking joy in the creative process, exploring new techniques, and crafting delicious drinks that capture special moments. Appreciating local stories and the strong connection to their roots. showcasing the distinct characteristics of their region and have assembled a team to achieve this. Combining the influence of their local terroir with an international perspective, resulting from their emigrant experience and continuing to have a community focus in all of their current and future locations that values its team, while providing strong leaderships from the management and board
Now available in more than 40 countries throughout the world, their products include whiskey, gin, and Vodka. In addition to accessories such as classes and having tours of the distillery available too.
Originally from Manchester, but now based in Letterkenny, County Donegal, founder Sia moved to Donegal with her husband to raise her children there. After hearing about Aldi’s Grow with Aldi Programme she decided that her background of running a restaurant with her parents in Greece, this could be her chance to enter with her curry pastes for years with fresh ingredients and freezing them into portions.
Having originally imagined them as frozen products, Sia sent her products into the competition and got feedback that they liked the tastes but needed to work on her product development and packaging side of the business. Sia spent the next 10 months, entering Local Enterprise Programmes, food growing programmes and creating her own business plan
Sia began selling her products in local farmers markets, before entering the SuperValu Food Academy and having her products stocked on their shelves. Sia has since expanded into different local supermarkets and shops and she recently won the Irish Quality Food Award for their Green Thai Paste Pot.