An award-winning Larne confectioner is tasting further success with the help of a new app.
Sea Sugar’s Linda McGibbon has embraced the latest technology to boost sales of her handmade sweets.
The artisan business, an active member of the Mid and East Antrim Food Network and also of Food NI, is now developing sales in Britain and especially in the Republic of Ireland.
She was also part of the visit organised by Mid and East Antrim Council to Kilkenny, Ireland’s Foodie Destination 2018.
Commenting on the Food Network, Linda says: “This is an important initiative to promote collaboration between smaller producers in the area. It will help develop relationships to support artisan businesses in particular which often find it hard to access experience and knowledge because they are working alone.
“I learned a great deal in particular from the networking opportunity provided by the council visit to Kilkenny,” she adds.
Linda stresses that her sweets are made completely by hand and that she knows the source and provenance of all the ingredients.
“I have total control from the moment sugar and glucose are added to the copper pan to when the final label is placed on the bag. All of my sweets are made in very small 3-4kg batches, thus ensuring a consistent high quality,” she explains.
What also sets her confectionery apart is the exclusive use of natural flavours.
“I use only 100 percent natural extracts, essences and colours, so the final product is bursting with natural flavours. The use of natural colourings is very important to me.”
And she’s developed some highly original flavours such as lemon and elderflower, rhubarb and vanilla, and lime and mint, which have won UK Great Taste Awards. Her unique lemon and elderflower also won a Blas na hEireann, the Irish National Food awards.
The ethos of SeaSugar, Linda continued is “to provide consumers with the best possible version of a small treat to be savoured, content in the knowledge that they are not eating chemicals”.
Her business is thriving. “We’ve a good spread of delis and independent stores here and are also supplying shops and individual consumers in Britain and the Republic. Much of our business outside Northern Ireland comes via our website – hence the decision to make ordering the sweets much easier through an easily downloadable app.”
She decided to take control of her own destiny after eight years in management. “I wanted to do something myself that also enabled me to spend time with my two sons, both then at primary school.”
Linda produces a type of ‘hard candy’, as the Americans refer to these sweets, not traditional boiled treats but ‘pulled’ confectionery.
“Pulled sweets are different from traditional boiled varieties in terms of their texture, appearance and taste,” she says.
“Pulling the boiled sweet allows air to be incorporated and this crystallisation produces a clearer product. Pulled sweets have a different colour, a much crunchier texture and, I believe, a much richer flavour.”