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News > The Lamb Van hits the road


The Lamb Van hits the road

October 22, 2021

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Invest NI continue to work together to help food businesses bring ideas to fruition. Loughry Campus supports small and medium-sized businesses innovate through the Invest NI Innovation Voucher programme. Through a partnership approach, companies access support, specialist knowledge and practical skills required to help promote innovation, develop new products and systems to assist their business to grow.

Alan and Wendy Dempster run a sheep farm in Ballymoney. Their passion for promoting Northern Irish Lamb coupled with an awareness of the challenges facing the lamb market in Northern Ireland was the motivation which drove them to apply for an Invest N.I. Innovation voucher.

When asked why they applied for an Invest NI Innovation Voucher they emphatically responded by saying, “We wanted to promote Northern Irish Farm Quality Assured Lamb within our local economy, and to encourage our NI farmers to reduce the high volume of lamb we export.  We wanted to increase its sales at home by highlighting the vast health benefits of lamb and by increasing awareness of lamb’s diverse use.  We also wanted to challenge the perception that lamb was only for annual or special occasions like Easter. We would like to see it being introduced as a weekly go-to meat for household use.” 

lamb van

Following a meeting with CAFRE Food Technologist Clare Campbell, work commenced on developing Lamb dishes that could be replicated and sold from the Lamb Van. Market research was conducted and ideas researched before starting to formulate recipes.  Once the ideas were agreed between The Lamb Van and CAFRE work started in the kitchen. After various trials, tastings and tweaks, six delicious Lamb Dishes were finalised.  Support was given in regards to packaging types, equipment required and ingredient sourcing. Alan and Wendy were highly complementary of the service they received from CAFRE “The support we got from CAFRE was amazing.  We worked with Clare Campbell and she provided help and advice every step of the way.  The mentoring, guidance and knowledge made available to us was priceless”.

When asked what they would say to anyone who was thinking of applying for a voucher and working with CAFRE? They responded by saying “Go for it!  For us it was the difference between having an idea and the idea becoming a reality. This was the experience we had during a pandemic.  Imagine what it would have been like with face-to-face interaction.  Without the help we received from CAFRE there is no way we would be ready for market at this stage. We plan to apply for another voucher next year!”

Alan and Wendy have converted a horse box into a fully functioning kitchen and have started selling the lamb dishes at various venues around Northern Ireland. They are promoting the versatility of Lamb, and selling only Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured Lamb.  They have already secured partnerships with some small retailers to sell their lamb creations, extending their reach from hospitality in to retail.

Get in touch with our technologists at CAFRE if you require expertise in Product Development.  Our Knowledge Advisory Team has a wealth of knowledge and experience in all areas of Food processing to help you turn your idea into a reality.

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