The Dunnes Stores Simply Better range has a well-deserved reputation for award-winning food and drink. Behind the scenes it also champions small Irish producers, helping them to grow while doing what they do best.
This month we caught up with Yvonne Waldron of Waldron Meats which is based in Co Roscommon. A true family business, they have been producing top quality meat products for over 30 years. “We started our business here back in 1989,” Yvonne explains. “It was very small - we had a little cooker and we cooked hams and cut up bacon to sell locally. It literally started in our garage, that was our little factory.”
It may have been small but the fledgling Waldron Meats was soon supplying all the local shops in the surrounding area. Things really took off when the family took more control of the process and started to buy in the pork, rather than pork products, and developed its own cure for the meat. The growing success saw the Waldrons investing in a purpose-built factory, located at the back of the house. “To this day that’s where we are, out in the middle of the country,” Yvonne says, with some pride.
“We were local and traditional and we still are. When I look out the window here, I’m looking at green fields and stone walls. We’ve no intention of moving into town or to an industrial estate.” Quality is at the heart of what Yvonne and the team produce and as a brand Waldron Meats has picked up a whole host of awards for its products over the years. “Winning awards is great but to win them consistently is the important thing,” she explains.
In late 2020, the Dunnes Stores Simply Better Collection team reached out to the Waldrons about working on a range of meats for the Simply Better brand. The conversation began properly in February 2021 but, as Yvonne explains, Covid restrictions had an impact. “You could only have so many people working at a time and we are really hands on here,” she explains. “Nothing is outsourced and everything is hand cut and hand cured so that held us back a bit.”
The Simply Better team were very supportive, however, and the range launched in Easter of this year with three sliced ham products and two bacon products. The new range has been very well received - and some products have already won awards. The Simply Better Hand Cut Unsmoked Irish Ham won a 3 Star Great Taste Award and the Simply Better Rack of Bacon won a 2 Star award. It’s an indication of the quality that infuses everything the Waldrons do. The products are made with 100 per cent Bord Bia quality assured pork and the team takes the time to allow the meat to cure slowly and to rest for the best possible taste. “This is a job that can’t be rushed,” Yvonne says.
The Waldrons have been doing what they do for a long time and, as Yvonne notes, the Simply Better team allows them to just get on with it while offering key supports around things like packaging and branding. And of course the partnership with Dunnes Stores means the Waldrons can now get their award-winning products into stores all across Ireland. Consumers have been able to buy and try the products since April so Yvonne and the team are expecting the next few weeks to be busy ones as Irish households start making plans for their Christmas dining.
It’s clear the collaboration is a successful one and Yvonne loves working with the Simply Better team. “They are absolutely brilliant to work with,” she says. “They were prepared to work at our pace and they have the same values where the provenance and quality of the product are number one.
That would be our attitude as well. “They’re very supportive and with the five products available now nationwide. it’s given us more exposure. To get around the country for a small business like us is hard. We can’t be everywhere - and it just wouldn’t be practical to be driving all the way to Kerry with a ham!”
Brought to you in partnership with Dunnes Stores Simply Better