Following a devastating fire in September that nearly ruined the entire business, Ballymaloe Foods has recovered just in time for Christmas.
Ballymaloe Foods, which was founded in 1990 by Yasmin Hyde – a daughter of the late Myrtle Allen – is known for its sauces, dresses and much-loved relish, which has become a staple in Irish households. However, due to an electrical fire in the production kitchen in September which wiped out the entire production area, its future was in doubt.
Ahead of the busy Christmas period, this could have been a catastrophe. But production manager Maxine Hyde said that the team was determined to keep production going.
"October is our busiest month because that's when we make most of our Christmas products, so to have an unplanned stop of four weeks was huge," she told FOOD AND WINE. "We decided to reopen in a smaller space on October 20 to try to get everything done."
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The busiest period of the year
Ballymaloe's products are a staple in many homes around Christmas – relish on turkey sandwiches, ham glaze for the big day and pasta sauces to fill the gap on those in-between days – so it was upsetting, to say the least, for the staff to imagine empty shelves in supermarkets around the country. This, they decided, could not happen, so everyone piled in together to rescue the situation.
"We are awfully grateful to our staff for what they've done, everyone rolled up their sleeves to do a huge amount of work. They worked late and over weekends to clean everything so that we could reopen and get straight back to work," said Maxine Hyde.
"We managed to fulfil most of our orders, even if some of them were a little late. Ballymaloe relish was the most difficult for us in terms of volume as it's a staple at Christmas and people even get it abroad, so we knew we had to make quite a lot of it. We had so much work to do, but we were determined to get everything in order and we did."
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On 20th September 2019, we had a fire caused by electrics. The speedy response of Cork and Midleton Fire Brigade prevented the fire from spreading throughout the building, however, the damage that was done to our warehouse and electrics caused production to cease for a few weeks and several challenges re-installing the electrical system & replacing the roof. Luckily and with thanks to the endless extra hours and can-do attitude of our brilliant staff over the last few months, we have been able to finally secure enough product to ensure that we are stocked on shelves across Ireland for Christmas. It’s hard to express our gratitude for the efforts that the entire team here put into getting our Christmas orders of Relish, Cranberry Sauce and Ham Glaze out as well as the support of our local service providers who gave up evenings and weekends to ensure our stock got to shop shelves. We look forward to the Christmas break, which was definitely earned this year.
What's next for Ballymaloe Foods
To ensure that supply isn't interrupted in the new year, the Ballymaloe team will be straight back to it come January.
"We closed on December 20 and I think everyone probably collapsed from tiredness! By the end of January, we should be back to a bigger space; our insurance company has said that most places close for a while when this happens but it would be more damaging for our business to be closed," said Maxine.
"It's so important for us to be able to employ locally and we really wanted to keep everyone in their jobs, it was our primary goal. We were so busy that we actually had to hire more people just to get through the Christmas period."
As stressful as it was, the fire has brought the team closer together.
"We've learned what we can do when push comes to shove. We all had to chip in and we learned how to do things better," Maxine says. "Team spirit has never been higher and we're all stronger because of it. Everyone in the business has had their focus taken by the fire. We’ve aged a bit in the last few months, but you have to take a moment to appreciate what we've achieved."
Thanks to the team's great work, Ballymaloe Foods products are available in stores nationwide, click here to find your nearest stockist.