Seymour Amazing Shortbread Biscuits Travel The World
“It can be tricky here this time of year with the humidity,” said Philip O’Connor as he greeted us at his Seymour Biscuits production facility in Bandon on a very warm 4th of July. The date is appropriate enough as the USA is one of the countries to which these delicious biscuits are exported. And the shortbread biscuits, in their distinctive shamrock shape, also find their way to the states and other countries as they are widely available in tourist frequented shops (including Dublin’s Temple Bar) and are the best seller.
Philip was working on his coating line when we arrived and we watched as the little discs were covered with chocolate. Not too long afterwards we were tasting the little beauties. Lots of butter here and combined with the chocolate it makes for a beautiful crunchy experience on the palate. And the good news is that Philip is strongly thinking of adding these to his regular products next year.
There is a little story too behind the butter. Philip’s family are farmers and their land is a few miles east of Bandon. Their milk is supplied to a local co-op and it is from here that Seymours buy their butter.
So how did a farmer’s son get involved in biscuit making? “I started working in the car industry, in marketing in Dublin. But, while in college, I always had a hankering to get involved in the food or drink industry, though on the market side.”
The beginning was small. About 12 years ago, he began making biscuits in the family kitchen on one day a week and began to supplying locally. Then one year later, in 2008, this unit became available and “I jumped in.”
With all of the equipment having to be bought, it was a big gamble, more so as the financial crisis was unfolding. But he stuck it out and survived. Lots of changes over those few years including the demand for gluten free and zero sugar products. “Independent outlets are going off the scene much to my regret. There’s a lot of competition and it is hard to get shelf space. But I have diversified a bit and that helps keep the show on the road.”
Recently has introduced Cheese Sables and these terrific savoury biscuits, excellent as a snack, “are getting nice repeat orders”. So far, he has two versions, the original and one with garden herbs (I really enjoyed that a few weeks back). West Cork cheddar is used in both, so you don’t even have to have cheese in the house!
And he is looking at new lines for next year, maybe with lower sugar (perhaps replacing it with honey or natural sugar). He is doing more too with coffee shops and hotels, and exports are increasing.
And back to the coating line, or the “enrobing” line to give it its proper name. There are not that many of these around and his investment in it has enabled him open up a new opportunity, that of contract coating. Philip though is happy with his business model, “small and niche, high quality, lower sales maybe but with a better margin”.
You’re more than likely familiar with some of his current products. One of my favourites is the Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Bites. Then there are shortbread variations, the original Shamrock that we’ve mentioned, Shortbread Bites, Chocolate and Hazelnut, and the top of the range (usually seen round Christmas) absolutely delicious Social Circles.
And, thinking of presents for someone, home or abroad, take a look at the Spirit of Ireland Biscuit tin, displaying the iconic Rock of Cashel on its cover, the tin features individually hand-cut round and shamrock shaped Irish butter shortbread biscuits set within a custom made cushion tray. This is a special Irish product to give and receive. No doubt the biscuits will quickly be devoured and the tin kept forever. You can get many of the Seymour products online at https://seymours.ie/6-our-handmade-irish-biscuits
Seymours Fine Foods Ltd,
2 Cloughmacsimon Business Park, Bandon, Co. Cork.
Land line: +353 21 733 1129
Mobile: +353 86 330 9378