Connect2Laois For Food

Food Futures 2030

The first ever Connect 2 Laois Food Futures event will take place in the Heritage Killenard on March 21st 2018.  The event is being run by Laois County Council in conjunction with Laois LEO and Laois Partnership, as part of the REDZ Connect 2 Laois for Food programme.  This exciting event will bring food service operators, food producers and food buyers together under the one roof.  With the support of James Burke & Associates, Ireland’s leading Food and Retail Advisors, an exciting line up of speakers has been organised which includes Laois’ very own Darina Allen from Ballymaloe Cookery School, Domini Kemp from Itsa, Olivia Duff from Boyne Valley Food Series and Colin Jephson from Ardkeen Quality Food Store amongst others.

An exciting element of the Food Futures 2030 event is a Showcase of Laois Food by local food producers.  Some of those who will be showcasing their products include Niamh Maher from Aghaboe Farm Food, Helen Gee of G Jams, Michael Onalimi of Flavour Safari and Kelly Ging from Kelly Lou Cakes, amongst many others.

Connect 2 Laois for Food is aimed at supporting and nurturing start-up and established food businesses in the County.  Over 30 food businesses (producers & food service providers) are taking part in this programme.

Food Futures is an industry event targeting buyers, suppliers and people working in the food, tourism, hospitality & retail sectors.  If you are thinking of starting a business in the food or hospitality business, join us to hear our exciting speakers, panel discussions and Showcase of Laois Food.  Spaces are limited.  Lunch will be provided on the day.  Please log on to the following link to register

This is a must attend event for anyone in the food industry.

Further details can be obtained directly from:

Liz Kennedy, Connect 2 Laois for Food, REDZ Project Co-ordinator, Laois County Council

Email:; Phone 086 174 6370

Event Programme

                                               Event Programme


09.00 – 10.00 Registration and networking with tea/coffee
10.00 – 10.05 Opening by John Mulholland, Chief Executive  Laois County Council

Welcome by An Cathaoirleach Padraig Fleming,  Laois County Council

10.05 – 10.15 Context and introduction by James Burke, James Burke & Associates
10.15 – 10.35 The future of food SME’s: Agility, positivity and dealing with the challenges and changes in hospitality.

Domini Kemp, ITSA

10.35 – 10.55 The Boyne Valley Food Journey

Olivia Duff, Boyne Valley Food Series, Headfort Arms and Fáilte Ireland Food Ambassador

10.55 – 11.15 Trends from The Thinking House, Bord Bia

Grace Binchy, Insight and Innovation specialist, Bord Bia.

11.15 – 11.35 Paddy O’s Granola, a producer’s perspective on the future of food

Paddy O’Connell, Paddy O’s Granola,

11.35 – 12.00


Panel discussion: How will the role of food will change in the next decade (Domini Kemp, Olivia Duff, Grace Binchy, Paddy O’Connell)
12.00 – 14.00 Producer Showcase including a lunch of locally produced food
14.00 – 14.20 When nothing goes right, go left – how to stand out in a crowded market place through digital media.

Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing

14.20 – 14.50 Perspectives from the Speciality Retail Sector

Colin Jephson, Director, Ardkeen Quality Food Store

14.50 – 15.20 A taste of this place – serving our local and traditional food proudly.

Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

15.20 – 15.30 Q&A Session & Closing Remarks




Connecting Food Producers and Service Producers in County Laois

The first training session of the Connect 2 Laois for Food programme took place in the Midlands Park Hotel on September 12th 2017.  James Burke from James Burke & Associates, Ireland’s leading food and retail advisor, took the group through a series of recent worldwide trends in the food industry.  Some of these trends included unusual dining venues and the demand for vegan food as evidenced by the success of the Happy Pear and The Garden of Vegan.

The group then met Colum O’Sullivan from Cully & Sully who attended as a guest speaker.  Colum gave an honest account of his journey and the key success factors that helped him and his partner Cullen Allen to achieve the sale of their business for a sizeable sum in 2015.

The photos below show the participants with James Burke and/or Colum O’Sullivan and also enjoying the networking event that took place before the training.

Mentoring is continuing throughout September and October with James Burke and his team of mentors.  The next training session for start-up and established Food Producers will take place on October 3rd in the Killeshin Hotel with Wendy Roberts on the area of Food Safety, Innovation and other matters.


Laois Food stands strong at the National Ploughing Championships 2017 Event

It was good to see so many wonderful food businesses flying the flag for County Laois at the recent National Ploughing Championships in Screegan in County Laois.  Those who exhibited included Paddy O’Connell from PaddyO’s Cereals; Kelly Ging from Kelly Lou Cakes, Kathleen Irwin from Adora Flax and Damien O’Brien from Garden of Vegan.

Visiting our Laois Food Producers

Picture taken at a recent visit to the business premises of Aymar Goudet of Le Skinny Chef, one of our wonderful food producers in County Laois.  Aymar has a fabulous facility in Clonminam Business Park, where he produces and sells a broad range of products including soups, sauces and oils.

Watch this space for more developments as the programme unfolds.









Connect 2 Laois for Food, a collaborative project between Laois County Council, the Local Enterprise Office and Laois Partnership, is a programme of market led innovation, best practice transfer and product and service development.

It is aimed at supporting and nurturing start-up and established businesses in the County and will allow them to have access to a programme of supports to improve their businesses. James Burke & Associates, Ireland’s leading Food Consultants and Retail Advisors, have been recruited to deliver the programme which is funded under the Rural Economic Development Zone (REDZ) Initiative through the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, together with Laois County Council. 30 food businesses from County Laois will avail of specialist training and mentoring to help develop their businesses.

An information session for the Connect 2 Laois for Food programme was held on Wednesday 9th August in the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise. The event was very well attended by both food producers and food service providers from all over the County. One of the speakers at the event was Darragh Flynn, Director of the Happy Pear. He enthralled those who attended the session with tales of how the Flynn brothers have developed their business from a fruit and vegetable shop in Greystones to a large multi facet business employing 170 people.

He stated “it is very important that any business continuously reviews its direction on a regular basis.  Our growth within The Happy Pear has been relatively fast and we have always been big believers in participating in up-skilling programmes, and surrounding ourselves with mentors who have expertise greater than ours.  I would encourage any Laois food stakeholder to seize the opportunity to participate in the Connect 2 Food Programme”

Programme mentor and trainer James Burke said ‘The support that Laois County Council are providing through this project to food producers and foodservice operators is unprecedented by national standards.  The programme structure will provide food stakeholders with an opportunity to revisit the direction their business is moving in, and together with the support of an external team of experts, to formulate new strategies for their business.

Liz Kennedy, Laois County Council, Project Co-ordinator emphasised that  ‘in addition to the networking and brand awareness opportunities that participation in the Connect 2 Laois for Food programme will afford participants, it will also provide the opportunity to create synergies between the food sector and support agencies in the County . Training and mentoring commence in September 2017.  In addition to the mentoring and training, a Showcase of food in County Laois will also take place during the first quarter of 2018.

Places on the programme are limited. Anyone interested in participating should contact:

Liz Kennedy; Connect 2 Laois for Food, REDZ Project Co-ordinator, Laois County Council, Business Support Unit

Email:; Phone 086 174 6370/ Denise Rainey, Business Support Unit 057 8664103