Tucked away in Studio Souk on Ann Street in Belfast, opposite Victoria Square, is a delicious outlet called BITETOSAVOUR that showcases Northern Irish artisan food and drink. Set up by young entrepreneur Jenna Stevenson, NI’s independent ‘Champion’ and media spokesperson for artisan food and drink, we called by to see what the craic was.
Q: What’s trending just now in the artisan food sector?
A: Food boxes, subscriptions and to-your-home delivery of local / fresh food. America has lead the way, setting the trend for food subscription boxes and Graze has opened people’s eyes in the UK and Ireland to the idea of it being delivered to your door. The Graze guys were really smart, creating a box that can be posted through your door and focusing on the ‘foodie’ part of us which likes to either eat quality food or taste new things. Companies like ourselves are now continuing the story by focusing on the local-to-you market, so for us it’s showcasing and packaging the hand crafted products of our amazing N.irish artisan producers.
Q: So what food boxes do you have?
A: We have 4 types of boxes, public gift, public foodie, tourist and corporate. We call it ‘A box for every occasion’. For the public we have gifts that would be an alternative for flowers, vouchers and craft, usually in the £15-£30 range with titles such as ‘Thank You’, ‘Best teacher’, ‘New Home’ and so forth. For the foodies we’ve put together boxes such as ‘The Gluten Free Box’, #girlsnightin and ‘The Hot Box’. For tourists we have ‘The Belfast Box’, ‘Taste of N.Ireland’ and ‘The Titanic Box’. And for the corporates we can create bespoke boxes to fit their needs, usually as a promotion, a staff reward scheme or customer retention initiative. One client created an ‘SOS Box’, full of NI goodies aimed at NI folk overseas which looked absolutely brilliant.
Q: What’s your favourite box?
A: I love our ‘Wee Taste of Home’ box. The initial idea was for parents who send care boxes to their children who head off to University. We then realised that it was a great gift for anyone who has a family member or friend overseas. We looked at what was the taste of ‘home’ – wheaten, tea, homemade produce – usually ‘Granny’s cake or biscuits – and of course Tayto! So we’ve packaged it all up and market it as a #hugfromhome. And for those who get it, especially those who have haven’t seen Tayto in a while, it really is an evocative hug from ‘home’.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I was travelling in Australia and got a job with Pukara picking olives. They make incredible olive oil. So good that I decided when I returned to import it into NI. Doing the markets here I realised that NI was full of amazing artisan products but the producers were struggling to get their products in front of people, particularly in the digital space. BITETOSAVOUR was born!
Q: What drives you as a producer?
A: The artisan producers. They all have amazing stories, they all work really hard and their produce is genuinely really good. But many struggle, especially with the marketing and sales. They are some of the nicest, funniest, most genuine people you will meet, a real eclectic bunch and it’s been a real pleasure getting to know them, so I feel driven to showcase them to the world to help drive sales and put them where they deserve to be, on the world food map! I’d urge people to not just taste their food but to hear their stories and find out why they do what they do, it’s inspiring!
Q: What inspires you?
A: Truly. Mango Street is a fresh drinks producer, set up after the founder saw people begging for water, not money, on a hot day in Las Vegas. A social enterprise his profits help the homeless. The Camran Craft gourmet marshmallows (Strawberry & Prosecco amongst other flavours!) was set up by two mums making mallows for their autistic children, with profits donated to Autism charities. Wee Choco make amazing chocolate with volunteers with autism and learning difficulties. Our youngest artisan Ian makes plum puds from his granny’s secret recipe and they are unbelievable! Harnett’s Oils are from a family that has been farming the same land for 400 years. Blackfire Chilli sauce range are from Chilli’s grown in Belfast by Tim, a phenomenal street artist who does great things for the community. The list goes on. An inspiring bunch whose stories need to be told.
Q: Where can we buy your products?
A: Online at www.bitetosavour.com or at Studio Souk’s new shop on Ann Street, opposite Urban Outfitters / Victoria Square in Belfast. With a range of 500 artisan products and over 20 boxes we’d love foodies and gift seekers to connect and through us to do their bit to help support #artisanNI producers.
Visit www.bitetosavour.com to see a full gallery of their work.