We caught up with Linda McGibbon of SeaSugar Handmade Confectionery at the Love Your Home Show in October 2016.
SeaSugar is a small batch producer of handmade confectionery which uses only natural ingredients and traditional methods to make the finest confectionery.
“You won’t find any information on our labels about additives and preservatives because we don’t use any.”
The ethos of Sea Sugar is to give you the best possible version of a small treat to be savoured, content in the knowledge that you’re not eating nasty chemicals.
Q: What makes your product unique?
A: There’s nothing like it in NI! SeaSugar Handmade Confectionery uses only natural flavour extracts and colours to produce hard sweets in unique flavour combinations that you wouldn’t usually find in a sweet.
Q: Where do you source your raw ingredients?
A: Sugar is sourced from GB. Flavours and colours are from a range of primary producers in GB also. I always source services locally, from packaging to design it has to be kept in NI as we have fantastic businesses here who can’t be beaten.
Q: What inspires you as a producer?
A: I am inspired by the endless possibilities available to me. There’s nothing off-limits; if its not the right thing right now it may well be in the future. That’s what makes me push a little more every day. I work on my own and wouldn’t have it any other day. My success are all my own hard work and my less-than-successes, well they’re all mine too and I learn something each time. The hardest part of running a small artisan food business is finding a level that works for me. I turn down opportunities or deliberately limit them if they’ll take too much time away from family life. It’s not all about making more and more money, its about having a good quality of life and enjoying it all. The day I wake up and don’t enjoy it, I think I’ll pack it in.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I was made redundant from a job I hated and with 2 small kids still at Primary School I found I just couldn’t manage a full-time job that took me away from home every day and wanted something new and different. I had always made confectionery for family and friends and so a good friend suggested I give it a go at a local food and craft market. I went to it with a wide range of confectionery from toffees, nut brittle, fondants, marshmallows and of course hard sweets. I found that the hard sweets sold best as customers recognised something a bit different. I built the product up, experimenting with the basic recipe and flavour combinations, sourcing different suppliers when the flavour wasn’t what I was looking for and eventually developed a range that worked which, along side seasonal varieties, form the core of the business.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to keep local?
A: I’m fiercely proud of being from Northern Ireland and have always been keen to buy local products in the shops (remember the old days of PONI – Product of Northern Ireland?). I prefer local shops to big multi national chains as I just think you get a much better product when its made here, farmed here etc. I love seeing NI brands in shops here and will always choose it over a brand from elsewhere, I just think its better. So to me its part of who I am and what is important to me, to identify with NI and support its small, and not so small, producers.
Q: What motto do you live/work by?
A: Just keep going forward! The hard days are vastly outweighed by good ones and every day is a tiny bit further forward that the last. It’s all about small steps and building a strong foundation, not charging ahead and then floundering. And just enjoy it!I don’t compare myself to others I just do whats right for me and enjoy the success that comes of doing it all myself.
Q: Where can we buy your products?
A: Via my website at www.seasugar.co.uk Or from a range of retailers such as Arcadia Deli (Belfast), Warke’s Deli (Portstewart), Picnic Deli (Killyeagh), Yellow Door (Portadown) and others. I do about one market a month (or more at Christmas, Easter etc) and will always post where I will be on the website and through social media. Or just message me through social media or by email, I get quite a lot of orders that way.
Q: What food best compliments your product? Or what is your favourite way of using your product?
A: Just eat them and enjoy a small taste of something lovely and don’t sweat the fact that it’s sugar. It’s free from all chemical flavours, colours, preservatives and other additives you will regularly find in mass-produced sweets, so just enjoy and be kind to yourself, you’re worth it! I was lucky to win a Great Taste Award this year for my Green Apple and Spearmint sweets.
The most popular variety and the first of many such awards!
Visit www.seasugar.co.uk to see a full list of their products.