As a young entrepreneur from rural Cavan, Barry John Crowe found a niche in the food market for a unique and tasty product. In the first of three profiles of Love Irish Food members this month, he talks to Maev Martin about successfully developing a niche product and future business opportunities.
Barry John Sausages carry a core range of over 26 unique-flavoured, jumbo-sized (450g) sausages, as well as traditional pork sausages in regular sizes – 400g, 200g and 450g.
They also produce cocktail sausages/catering boxes and butcher-style loose sausages.
All are made with their award-winning pork recipe and 75% PQAS-certified Irish pork meat.
“We are the only pork manufacturing business in Ireland to produce such a wide range of flavours, which are loved by all ages,” says Barry.
“Our unique and quirky flavours include Caramelised Red Onion, Chip Shop Curry, Spice Bag, Chocolate Chip & Honeycomb, Bacon, Mushroom & Black Pudding, Emmental & Roasted Onion, Crushed Garlic, Leek, Mozzarella & Cracked Black Pepper, Country Relish, Pepperoni Pizza, and Cheddar Cheese & Chilli Flakes, to name just a few.
We are known locally as ‘the Willy Wonka’ of gourmet sausages. We have created so many flavours that you could technically enjoy a different flavour each day of the month!”
The business, well at least the germ of an idea for the business, began almost three decades ago when, at the tender age of 13, Barry began making sausages in his father’s butcher shop, Crowe’s Butchers, which opened in 1970.
“I became skilled in sausage making by watching the craftsmanship of my dad’s employees who were making them at the time,” he says.
“I was fascinated by it and I eventually started making sausages for the butcher shop after school and at the weekends.
"I entered my first competition when I was just 13 – it was in a local agricultural festival where I won first prize.
"It was at this show that I saw what other butchers were creating and I realised that there could be so much more done with pork sausages.
"There was a niche in the market to develop flavours for lunch and dinner that went beyond the traditional breakfast sausage.”
Armed with his skills and ambition, Barry completed a Business Studies, Meat Management programme at DIT in Mountjoy Square after finishing secondary school.
He then returned to Cavan and created the label ‘Barry John Sausages,’ mixing flavours and spices and creating the uniquely flavoured, gourmet pork sausages for which the brand is renowned.
Years later, he has built his own premises in rural Cavan and, along with his sister Sharon, dad George, mum Anne and nephew Aaron, Barry John has developed and grown the brand to where it is today.
“I am proud of how far it has come and I look forward to seeing where it goes,” he says.
“My son Callum, who is ten years old, is already showing a great interest in the business, so at least I know that the brand is going to be in safe hands for generations to come.”
Funds for investment can be a major challenge for smaller producers, but Barry John has had a largely positive experience. “Initially, when you set up, you haven’t built up trust with banks as you are a new business and not established,” he says.
“But I found that once I started to develop my product, grow my brand more, and gain contracts with large companies, things were a lot easier.
"I did this by approaching and entering programmes such as the Lidl Kickstart programme and Grow with Aldi.
"I was listed and got supply dates with them for a few promotional dates, both within and outside those programmes.
"This proved to the banks that I was well established.”
Barry also approached his local LEO office to see how they could help.
“I had a marketing plan and went in to see them with my vision and they were amazing,” he says.
“I would highly recommend a visit to the local LEO by any small start-up business because they have start-up programmes, run marketing courses and offer financial support with business expansion grants. I can’t praise them enough.”
New Product Development
Last year, Barry John Sausages launched a range of flavoured pork sausage rolls – Cheddar Cheese & Chilli Flakes, Garlic & Black Pepper, and Traditional Pork, which are generously filled with sausage meat and a flaky pastry.
They also brought out a country relish-flavoured Tear & Share Christmas Sausage Wreath, which was filled with Barry John’s gourmet country relish sausage meat, some country relish, and cheddar cheese in a flaky pastry.
“I have always believed that sausages are not given enough credit and have been continuously seen as a breakfast commodity,” says Barry.
“The new products we are launching this year will show that sausages can be so much more – they can be for lunch, brunch or dinner too.”
For example, new products that will be at the Bord Bia Bloom festival in June include: a Caramelised Red Onion Pork Sausage Burger; a duo pack of flavoured cocktail sausages with an oriental twist; crushed garlic pork meatballs as a dinner alternative, which he tells me are “fabulous with a carbonara sauce;” sage and onion-flavoured Pork Sausage Stuffing Balls, “the perfect accompaniment for a Sunday roast dinner;” and Barry John Sausages XL-sized duo packs of flavoured sausages.
“These will be the ideal size for the BBQ season and they fit perfectly into a floury hot dog bun,” he says.
When it comes to his ambition for the brand, Barry John would like to see his sausages become established in large multiple stores around Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“I would also like to have stockists in the UK and Europe, and become a better known and sought-after brand nationally, within the UK and in Europe,” he says.
“I would like us to be so busy that production levels are increasing all the time and we can offer more employment in a rural setting.
"Of course, it is very important that we don’t get lost in all these ambitions – Barry John Sausages is a unique product and I want to ensure that the quality and credibility will always be there in every packet we make.”
Guinness World Record
In April 2017, Barry John Crowe took part in a Guinness World Record attempt and won the record live on air – on RTE’s Big Week on the Farm programme, which was being produced in Cootehill, Co Cavan that year.
“I hand linked 78 sausages in one minute and I still hold this record ,” he says.
“It is listed in the 2019 Guinness World Record Book. A media frenzy followed after I won the Guinness World Record Title – I was in national newspapers, I did live radio interviews and I appeared on TV shows.
"At the many food shows that I attended, I was also asked to make sausages and try to beat the record again. Some celebrity chefs even tried their hand at it!
“In 2020, Virgin Media got in touch with me about recording a radio advert for their new 1GB broadband. This involved me talking about my Guinness World Record. The advertising campaign, with the slogan ‘Bravo Barry John Crowe,’ aired on all national radio stations.”
As verified members of Bord Bia’s Origin Green Sustainability Programme, Barry John Sausages follow the 3Rs of the circular economy – reducing waste, reusing and recycling.
“We have been focusing on energy, packaging, recycling, water conservation and reducing emissions, and we have established targets that we want to achieve in these areas,” he says.
“Our commitments are: to maintain 100% of our pork from PQAS-certified suppliers; to increase the percentage of our suppliers with sustainability certifications from 20% in 2020 to 70% by 2025; to replace all black non-recyclable PET tubs and black polystyrene trays with recyclable packaging by the end of 2023 (all our jumbo-flavoured sausages are now packed in 100% recyclable packaging); to donate staff time to community-based projects in our area; reduce our carbon emissions by using the delivery van efficiently; and to reduce electricity output by 20% by 2025 compared to the 2020 baseline.”
As members of the 2021-2025 All Ireland Pollinator Plan, Barry John Sausages have also created a ten-metre square pollinator-friendly garden at their factory.
“We have created this garden so that pollinators will thrive here because without bees we will lose the colourful and distinct natural beauty of our landscape and 78% of our wild plants benefit from insect pollination,” says Barry.
“Producing our sausages in a sustainable way is having a positive impact on our community, on the wider environment, and on our team at Barry John Sausages.
"These are just some of the many benefits of being a sustainable manufacturing company."
© 2023 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Maev Martin. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.