Local Artisan Food and Drink


As part of the primary research for my Master’s dissertation, stakeholders in Donegal’s local food and drink scene were asked for their definition of local artisan food and drink.

The definition fell under several themes rather than one defining phrase or statement. In Ireland, regulatory guidance is in place around using specific marketing terms or descriptions of an artisan or local food and drink; the main tenure is consumer protection and avoiding misleading information. To be described as an artisan, authenticity is key to demonstrating this to consumers and the local community.

Artisan features the heritage of a craft, provenance, sense of pride and place.

The ethos of artisanal producers is to remain true to this small batch production and handmade and natural forms, the cornerstone of many artisans. Additionally, brewing, fermenting, maturing and other techniques attributed to artisan production equate to time, and processes can not be sped up; thus, a cost factor must be applied to compensate for this. Hence, artisans must grapple or come to terms with the economics of running a business versus lifestyle choices or moving from a hobby to generating an income. Such considerations are significant on several fronts;

• Firstly, the more artisans, the greater the pool to draw from and develop the sector, thus increasing the saturation throughout the county.

• Secondly, as artisan produce becomes more widely available and dispels the tag of exclusive or luxury, correct pricing to ensure costs can be met and a selling price that does not make it cost-prohibitive.

• Thirdly, although artisan produce is not seen as essential store cupboards, the sector requires a consumer base to purchase the products regularly, thus ensuring market viability.

• Finally, consumer awareness, supporting local food producers, and this payoff are filtered through locally.

Thus, the emergence of “Locavorism”, grounded in supporting all things local in food and “Foodies”, became prominent throughout the past decade, although the term has been around since the mid-1980s. Consequently, this has changed the lens through which local food is viewed more positively in Donegal than in previous decades.

Connecting to people and creating a positive narrative is key to constructing an authentic local artisan food community.

This is comparable to the bakers and craft brewers; whilst there is not a proliferation through Donegal, they are a spectrum of a developing community, growing and creating a legacy. They have developed a symbiotic relationship with other artisans and small food businesses, and their craft beers and sourdoughs make their way onto local eateries’ menus. They are found on sale in local shops, retailers and delis. A geographical anchor or identity acting as a location for artisans is a notable constituent of a predominantly rural county. This contributes to the dynamic collective of what is perception of local artisan authenticity.

Support for local food and its attributes drives local economies and strengthens the consumer’s connection to local artisans and producers.

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