Italian chef Gaetano Bonora has set up a fresh pasta business, La Dolce Vita, in Northern Ireland making a range of authentic Italian pastas and sauces. The new business, which is based in Portstewart in county Derry, is already supplying pasta to delis and restaurants in Northern Ireland and aims to expand to other markets. Bonora, from Puglia in southern Italy, launched the business earlier in the year because he saw a gap in the market for fresh, authentic Italian pasta while studying English at the Ulster University campus in Coleraine.

He has worked as a chef in Puglia and Florence. “While I studied English at the Ulster University in Coleraine I spotted an opportunity to provide authentic pasta and sauces working part time in a local restaurant,” says Gaetano. “There’s a world of difference especially in taste between fresh pasta and the pre-packed varieties here. I was also approached by local people interested in Italian pasta.” Gaetano’s journey to pasta production began when he was asked to help a small group of local people to improve their Italian!

Italian chef Gaetano Bonora
Italian chef Gaetano Bonora

Helping Gaetano (31) in La Dolce Vita, the small business he decided to start earlier in the year, is an experienced and successful Australian businesswoman, Clíodhna Rae, who had come home to her native Portstewart to care for a family member. Gaetano’s response was to use food to teach the students Italian. “I focused on Italian ingredients and dishes and how best to prepare classic meals from my country.

They learned Italian from recipe books I brought with me. We then made the meals. I showed the class how to make fresh and authentic Italian pasta and a range of classic dishes that we then enjoyed over a glass of good Italian wine,” he says. It was during these dinner sessions that the idea of a fresh pasta business was raised. Gaetano was encouraged to test market a range of traditional Italian pasta products he had prepared. “I drew on my experience working as a chef in my home region of Puglia and later in Florence,” he continues.

“I had grown up helping my father Giuseppe on the family’s fruit and vegetable farm in Puglia, which is in south of the country and away from the established tourism centres. Puglia’s ‘cucina povera’ is about as rustic as Italian cuisine gets. It is deeply steeped in agricultural traditions and an instinct for self-sufficiency and is not unlike Northern Ireland in terms of the close links between small farms and processors.

“I’ve also learned that heritage and provenance are great features of food production here,” he adds. "And it's our intention to use locally sourced ingredients, such as herbs and vegetables, whenever possible in the products. We hope, for instance, to use locally harvested seaweed in the products. Another important selling point is that our products are very low in sugar, less than 0.3 per cent.” Gaetano and Clíodhna decided to set up the business at the turn of the year. Gaetano produces the fresh pasta, dishes like lasagne and Italian sauces such as Tomato and Basil and Puttanesca, a unique blend of tomatoes, chilli, black peppers, anchovies, capers, onions, celery and garlic. Clíodhna’s role is to provide essential management and marketing expertise. “We’ve lots of ideas about products including gluten-free varieties and a vegetarian lasagne,” adds Gaetano. “We’re both hugely excited about the business and the opportunities for the products and customer service that we can provide.”

A Deli Academy has been established to help delis in Northern Ireland develop skills in areas such as new product development that will enhance their services to customers.

The new academy is the brainchild of Montgomery Food Consulting which offers a broad range of professional training, skills development and business growth services to delis as well as butchers businesses and independent retailers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The academy is an initiative in response to the growth in delis in both parts of Ireland as many consumers have been taking greater interest in the source of products and ingredients in food.

A mouthwatering display at the Deli Acacemy
A mouthwatering display at the Deli Acacemy

Rhonda Montgomery, the founder and chief executive of Montgomery Consulting, says: “In addition to an expansion of delis across Northern Ireland, especially those specialising in locally sourced food and drink, we are increasingly seeing established butchery businesses developing their own branded products and selling those from other local producers. 

“Many butchers are now producing everything from steak to lasagne and convenience meals that have long been the speciality of the supermarkets. 

“The developing interest in food from local sources gives them an opportunity to strengthen their competitiveness and win more business. We’ve developed five modules within the Deli Academy scheme during which our experts work with individual butchers and delis covering areas such as butchery, cooking, and product presentation skills.

“We also work with them in developing new products, revamping their counters to improve presentation for shoppers, and how best to price their products,” she adds. “We provide training for staff on how to sell the products effectively on building relationships with customers. Essential requirements such as health and safety, hygiene and consumer rights are key elements of the training programme,”

The training modules are delivered on the participating retailer’s premises and  lead to a recognised qualification. The company, based at Aughnacloy in county Tyrone, is registered to deliver SALSA, HACCP and quality and food safety management training.

Mrs Montgomery, an expert in food quality management with vast experience in meat processing, formed the business in 2010. She now runs the business with Sean Owens, one of Northern Ireland’s most respected chefs and restaurant consultants, the managing director.



Around Noon, the Northern Ireland specialist in premium sandwiches and snacks, has linked up with Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, another local artisan business, to develop an innovative breakfast ‘on the go’ product for clients in the Republic of Ireland.

The new product, part of Around Noon’s quirky ‘A Bit on the Side’ portfolio of quality snacks has already won significant business with a leading café chain in the Republic, features Clandeboye Greek Style Yoghurt with layers of nut free granola and a rich fruit compote developed by the Newry business, now a leader Irish innovator in quality convenience and snack foods. The compote is currently available in mango and strawberry flavours in a handy tub.

Meeting the suppliers, left, David Graham, Around Noon’s executive head chef, with Bryan Boggs, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt’s general manager
Meeting the suppliers, left, David Graham, Around Noon’s executive head chef, with Bryan Boggs, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt’s general manager

Both companies are based in county Down - Around Noon in Newry iand Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt in Bangor.

David Graham, Around Noon’s Executive Head Chef, commenting on the new yoghurt granola product, says: “We saw a gap in the market for a top quality and richly flavoured snack product for breakfast and other times in the day. 

“Flavour was key as far as we were concerned. All the components had to be excellent especially the yoghurt. This focus on product quality and taste underpins our approach to all our products. We opted for Clandeboye Greek Style because it’s a strained yoghurt which provides a thick and creamy taste. 

“We were also keen to work with another local company, another important consideration in our business approach. Most of our products now use ingredients and other supplies from other Northern Ireland companies.

“Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt works exceptionally well with the other quality ingredients to provide a delicious snack at breakfast or indeed any time of the day or night. It’s proving to be extremely popular with our customers in the Republic. Our objective now is to grow sales in Britain using the quality and taste of the snack pot and other products,” he continues.

“We are operating in a very fast moving sector that’s driven by the demands and preferences of consumers who look to our customers for deliciously different taste experiences. 

“One of our great strengths is that all our snacks are still handmade. This gives us the flexibility to be able to respond quickly to the requirements of our customers seeking to attract more consumers by offering them different taste,” he adds.

Bryan Boggs, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt’s general manager, says: “We were delighted to work in partnership with Around Noon in helping to create the new snack pots featuring our think and creamy Greek style yoghurt.”

Around Noon, a family-owned and managed business has been growing strongly particularly in the Republic of Ireland, where it achieved 40 per cent growth last year. Overall, sales to all markets have grown by an average of 35 per cent year-on-year over the past three years. 

Formed by husband and wife team Francis and Sheila Chambers in 1989 as a kitchen table enterprise, Around Noon has developed into one of Ireland’s most enterprising food businesses. It operates from a 27,000 sq ft state-of-the-art production complex outside Newry. 

The company now employs 230 people and has a portfolio of 600 products including sandwiches, wraps and paninis along with salads, smoothies, juices and desserts.


Around Noon SandwichesUnit 24A Rampart road  
Green Bank Industrial Estate 
Co Down 

Tel +44 (0)28 3026 2333
Fax +44 (0)28 3026 1185
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Around Noon Sandwiches

Sam Butler looks at the Northern Ireland companies listed in the Top 50 Foods by the influential UK Guild of Fine Food.

Our food doesn’t get any better than this

An unprecedented 20 per cent of the Top 50 foods in the United Kingdom and Ireland recently listed by the UK Guild of Fine Food were from Northern Ireland artisan suppliers. The Guild of Fine Food launched the Top 50 Foods last year as part of the Great Taste Awards.

While Northern Ireland fared extremely well in the Great Taste Awards – 70 companies gained around 320 gold stars for food and drink judged by a panel of experts – winning a listing in the Top 50 is a coveted achievement, an endorsement of a product’s supreme quality and taste.

This year Northern Ireland came out ahead of every other region. Hannan Meats, the Moira-based butchery business excelled, winning listings for five steaks – an all-time record by one company.  This means that 10 per cent of the Top 50 came from Hannan.

Deli Lites Ireland has secured a new contract with one of Ireland’s leading retailers. The company has been awarded the new contract to provide Boots Ireland with a local ‘food to go’ solution across a network of its stores.  

Based in Warrenpoint in County Down, Deli Lites Ireland was awarded its first business from Boots Ireland in a competitive tender. It has already started supplying a broad range of products including gourmet sandwiches, flatbreads, wraps, filled rolls, packaged salads and fresh fruit pots. Boots currently has 80 stores in the Republic of Ireland.

A sandwich bite view of, left, Brian Reid, Managing Director of Deli Lites Ireland in Warrenpoint, and Gavin Rooney, Commercial Manager, Boots Ireland.
A sandwich bite view of, left, Brian Reid, Managing Director of Deli Lites Ireland in Warrenpoint, and Gavin Rooney, Commercial Manager, Boots Ireland.

Brian Reid, managing director of Deli Lites Ireland, the market leading food business for cafes and convenience outlets throughout the island of Ireland he formed in 1999, says: “We are delighted to have won this contract from one of the most important retailers in Ireland. 

“The new contract is a marvellous endorsement of both the quality of our products and of the customer-led service that has become our hallmark over 20 years in business.

“What’s also important is the boost for our sales outside Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, for instance, contributes over 60 per cent of our business. It’s hugely important and offers significant growth potential. 

“We secured the business because of our established and successful track record in the Republic for the supply of consistently high quality products, our sharp focus on developing innovative food with our customers and the efficiency of our delivery services using our 35-strong vehicle fleet. 

“Customers also appreciate the benefits in terms of fresh and tasty breads that we are able to supply from our own bakery here in Warrenpoint,” he adds.

Commenting on the contract for Deli Lites Ireland, Gavin Rooney, commercial manager, Boots Ireland, says: “The bid from Deli Lites Ireland was compelling. The company demonstrated a willingness to work as closely as possible with our food team in developing a comprehensive range of products that will appeal to our customers and also enhance our ‘food-to-go’ offering

“In addition, Deli LItes Ireland has the logistical capability to deliver consistently high quality products to our stores every day across the country,” he adds.

As well as its main production and new product development operations at Warrenpoint, located close to major motorway networks, Deli Lites has depots in Dublin and Cork. The company employs 185 people in Warrenpoint and has other high profile food solution clients in the Republic including the Costa chain of cafes and Applegreen’s network of fuel forecourts.


Keen Nutrition, the Northern Irish manufacturer of almond and other nut butter spreads, has signed with Glasgow-based Green City Whole Foods  which will see its eight-strong range of natural products offered to over 800 outlets in Scotland.

The deal with Green City is the most significant breakthrough in Britain by the nut processor which is based at Bangor in county Down and owned by Canadian-born Aimee Beimers, a trained nutritionist, who has lived in Northern Ireland for eight years.

The distribution agreement follows a major rebranding of the packaging to ensure the butters stand out on the shelves.

Sam Butler talked to Luca Montorio of PEPPUP in Newtownards about the small company's innovative table sauces.

Luca Montorio has brought his love of delicious sauces from his native Turin to Northern Ireland. He grew up in the Piedmont region of northern Italy that's famed for its peppers and tomatoes used as ingredients in tasty dishes as well as wines-making. Turin is also the home of slow food and Terre Madre.

PEPPUP, the small business he formed in 2013 to create innovative table sauces, recently secured its first sales in Britain for its distinctive product, a deal which has encouraged Luca to step up its marketing and new product development operations. 

Luca Montorio of PEPPUP
Luca Montorio of PEPPUP

PEPPUP table sauces use natural ingredients roasted peppers and tomatoes. Last year he gained endorsement from the influential UK Guild of Fine Food in the shape of a Great Taste Award.

"The business with Booths is a very exciting development for us in a market we've been targeting for some months. It gives us an important foothold in Britain. 

"What sets our table sauces apart is a rich flavour that comes from roasted peppers. I've kept the ingredients to a minimum to ensure the flavour of the peppers is paramount.

"A key objective for me was to create a new table sauce that didn't compromise on taste. The sauces are authentic and versatile. They can be used to add distinctively rich flavours to any dish, or enjoyed on their own.

"Apart from roasted peppers and tomatoes, the only other ingredients are sugar, salt and vinegar. I've also developed a reduced salt sauce to meet the requirements of consumers seeking to limit salt intake," he adds.

The artisan company is supplying its range of three sauces to Booths Supermarkets in the north of England - a classic sauce flavour, a mild version with chilli and a reduced sugar and salt variety. They are on sale in 16 stores including the supermarket's main store in Preston.  The initial sales in Britain follow a direct approach to Booths by Luca.

The supermarket was impressed by the rich flavours of the ketchups and placed a significant order. PEPPUP will be supporting the listing by means a series of in-store tastings. PEPPUP has also secured significant business from leading delis across Northern Ireland. All three sauces are gluten-free.

The products are based on original recipes developed by Luca and influenced by his upbringing in Turin, where his father, Walter, and mother, Sandra, still live. His mother, a graphic artist, weighed it to create the company's identity and distinctively colourful label.

It's a real family enterprise that has engaged wife Liz and their two children, nine-year old Oliver and Dante, aged five. It was Oliver who came up with the PEPPUP, the company's name. "We were batting around names over the kitchen table when Oliver came up with PEPPUP, pepper and ketchup," Luca says.

Luca and Liz, both academic researchers specialising in natural sciences, biology and the marine environment, are widely travelled. They met while studying at Sterling University in Scotland and have since held posts in the Shetland Islands, Denmark and Vietnam. Originally from London, Liz works at Queen's University's marine laboratory. The couple now live at Port ferry.

The original idea to start making ketchup came while Luca was watching an edition of television's popular Apprentice series. "One of the tasks set for the contenders was to develop and market condiments. It gave me an idea to use my experience in Italy to create new and richer flavoured table sauces," he adds.

He turned to Invest Northern Ireland for assistance and gained an Innovation Voucher that enabled him to tap into the expertise at Loughry Campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Cookstown.

"The innovation voucher was tremendously important in helping me to formulate the recipes for the sauces. It really made the difference. PEPPUP has a different, peppery taste. It's an alternative to traditional ketchups.

"Developing the sauces took me a year working with CAFRE at its development kitchen. Staff there were tremendously helpful in enabling me to develop the product and the manufacturing process with existing technology. Flavour was crucially important to me, and I didn't want to compromise. We carried out extensive taste testings to establish the production process and the best way to use ingredients. 

"The brand is all about flavour, with roasted peppers the main ingredient. I didn't want to put any water or thickening in it but kept it as concentrated as possible," he says.

Luca continues to work with CAFRE on another innovation voucher and for technical guidance. He's considering additional products in the condiment category using roast peppers.

What do his Italian family and friends think of the new sauces?  "They really love them. I'd aim to be exporting the sauces to Italy with its love for quality artisan foods with provenance that are also big on taste. My focus at the moment is on promoting the brand and creating an awareness of PEPPUP in Northern Ireland and Great Britain as a tasty option. Exporting is a bit further down the line. Booths is the first supermarket chain to list the sauces, and I aim to build on this business. I've also been encouraged by a number of delis here including Sawers in Belfast, Corries in Holywood, McKee's at Newtownards and McCartney's in Moira. I've held samplings and sold out at many of these delis. It's all very encouraging."

Initiatives in the US to develop added-value dairy products for export, particularly to Asian markets, will be explored by a 20-strong delegation of industry leaders from Northern Ireland from 29th September to 4th October.

The business mission has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland and is the outcome of a key recommendation in the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s Going for Growth action plan. Scheduled for the week-long visit are briefing sessions about market trends and new product development at major US dairy innovation centres in Chicago, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin. 

The members will also be attending the World Dairy Expo in Madison and visiting  dairy farms and processors in the Wisconsin area.