Donna Ahern talks to Gavin Cassidy, co-founder of meat-free sauces manufacturer Porter & Nash.
How would you describe your role?
As we are an SME, I play a part in all aspects of running the business, from purchasing and production to sales and marketing.
Over the past couple of months, I have been engaged in sales and new product development a lot more.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
When I was 13, about 90% of household milk was delivered by a milkman and milk floats (battery-operated vehicles).
During my school holidays, I got up early, at 5am, to see if I could get out on a milk round.
Premier Dairies was situated two miles from my house in Dun Laoghaire, so I would stand outside the dairies to see if a milkman needed help on the milk round.
It was hard work because those were the days when milk was delivered in bottles, which were heavy and awkward to carry.
However, there was a technique for carrying bottles of milk and soon I was able to carry seven bottles - three in each hand and one under my arm - so I could deliver to a number of houses with one batch, speeding up the delivery time.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy writing recipes incorporating our products, and researching new ideas and bringing them to the testing stage.
Before COVID-19, I enjoyed meeting potential customers while I was doing in-store product tastings, which helped to educate the customer on how easily our products can be utilised in so many dishes.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I hope to still be involved in Porter & Nash and still working on the continued growth of our company, including an extended product range, employing more people, and exporting to mainland Europe, the UK and the US.
What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
Research, research and more research – look into all aspects of food retail that your company will be engaged in, such as packaging, HACCP, production, storage, delivery logistics etc.
Look into where you are trying to go with your product. Find your target market, put a road map together, and set goals.
What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?
While I was working in Australia, another chef and I were contracted to cater for a wedding with 80 guests.
The wedding took place on a cattle station in a place called Griffith (a remote area) in New South Wales, seven hours drive from Sydney, but it took nine hours to get there as we got lost on the groom’s land, which was a massive property.
The groom had built an outdoor kitchen with cold rooms, sinks, ovens, ranges and BBQs, and dining took place in an air conditioned marquee.
All the fruit, vegetables and meat came from their land, including yabbies from their yabbie pond (similar to crayfish).
It was 37 degrees Celsius on the day, and we did all the preparation work at 39 degrees Celsius, when you factor in the heat of the kitchen.
The service went fine, but part of the dessert was an iced parfait – a nightmare to serve in terms of keeping its texture and shape. It took us two days to get home due to our tiredness from the heat on the wedding day!
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
The new Wrigley's advertisement. It shows the reaction of people in all walks of life as they come out of the Covid-19 lockdown and go back to life as it once was. It is a long ad and is cleverly put together.
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up, and why?
My favourite grocery brand from my childhood would be Brennans bread. The bread was around for nearly every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and was always filled with egg and onion when we went for a picnic.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received?
“Take out a pension as soon as possible”.
A chef I worked with when I was an apprentice gave me this advice. He told me to start with whatever I could afford and build it up as I got more financially secure.
I tell everyone when they start employment to take out a pension, or look into some sort of financial security for when you retire, and not to rely solely on the state pension.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am interested in horses. I like going on hacks with my daughter or taking on a few jumps in an arena. I also like to go fly-fishing in the west of Ireland.
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
I am not a big user of social media platforms, but I seem to be spending more time on different platforms these days through posts on Instagram, Facebook, etc, for promotional purposes.
I would prefer not to be on it as much, but these are the times we live in.