GRA BIA ARTISAN FOODS
What brings a native of Brittany to settle in Bryansford? Why love of course – the love of the countryside, the people and the food. And it is his love for cooking and, in particular, for creating delicious chutneys that lead Benoit Le Houerou to establish Grá Bia Artisan Fine Foods.
Benoit first moved to Northern Ireland in 2013 having studied for a City in Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation in a hotel in the Channel Islands.
He had always loved to cook and in his spare time he enjoyed nothing better than spending time in the kitchen creating chutneys which he turn gave as gifts to his family and friends. Part of the gardening team at Montalto Estate, as well as sharing the care of his young daughter, Benoit had his hands full but he began to wonder whether his home made chutneys could be sold commercially. In2018 he saw an advertisement for the Go For It programme decided to apply to explore the potential for setting up a business.
And that’s when Benoit became a client of Down Business Centre.
Working with our Go For It Business Adviser Joan O’Hara, a Business Plan slowly began to develop. “Each time we met, Joan asked me questions I couldn’t answer. She got me thinking about all aspects of my business and by the time I met her the next time I made sure I had the answer well thought through. Joan’s support and enthusiasm for what I was trying to achieve was priceless” says Benoit.
On the technical front he was supported by the team at Loughrey College helping him to further developing his products and then testing and analysing them in line with stringent food standards. They also helped him look at the product’s presentation and the all-important packaging and branding.
In May 2019 Grá Bia Artisan Fine Foods was launched. The name Grá Bia comes from Benoit’s passion for food with a ‘Celtic’ twist. ‘Grá’ means ‘Love’, ‘Bia’ means ‘Food’ and, as he says, “Producing delicious chutneys is all about sharing Love and Passion for Fine Foods”.
Grá Bia chutneys combine fresh fruits, vegetables and spices to create wonderful flavours. There are currently 5 products in the range Beetroot and Mint; Mango and Green Chilli; Pineapple, Cranberry and Black Pepper; Rhubarb, Date and Ginger; and Tomato and Black Onion Seed.
“I am very keen to work closely with local businesses and suppliers from Northern Ireland. Most of the fruits and vegetables come from our local shop, Hales Fruit Sales in Newcastle, while the Apple Cider Vinegar, used in all our recipes, comes direct from Long Meadow Farm in County Armagh” says Benoit
Grá Bia chutneys are on sale at a number of outlets across Northern Ireland and earlier this year an on-line shop at www.gra-bia.co.uk was launched. The website was developed in conjunction with Eilish Devline through the Newry Mourne and Down ‘Get Your Business On-Line programme
Benoit has continued his relationship with Down Business Centre through the Newry Mourne and Down Business Growth Mentoring programme. Centre General Manager, Janice McDonald has been mentoring Benoit as he seeks to further develop the business and in, in particular, grow Grá Bia’s distribution through specialist food and giftware retailers.
“Having a Mentor has been of great benefit as I seek to reach the next stage in the business’ development. Janice has a wealth of business experience and being to discuss issues and opportunities with her has been a big help. Running a small business can be lonely and it’s been really valuable having Janice’s ear when I just need to talk something through”.