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The humble origins of Ireland’s biggest brands

A glance at the calendar might tell you that summer has arrived – but really, you don’t need a calendar to know that much. Peeking outside the window, listening out for tell-tale noises, or even sniffing the air is enough to confirm it; the sights, sounds and smells all point towards the changing of the seasons.

They say that even the mightiest oak trees grow from tiny acorns and some of Ireland’s biggest brands stem from remarkably humble beginnings.

1. guinness

From servant’s son to served worldwide

Arthur Guinness’ father, Richard, was a servant to the Irish Archbishop, Arthur Price, and brewed beer for the workers on his estate. The pair got on so well that the Archbishop became Arthur’s godfather when he was born.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Arthur started brewing himself in 1752 with a £100 gift he inherited from his godfather. Stout wasn’t the first alcoholic beverage he turned his hand to – he originally started brewing ale in Leixlip, Co. Kildare.

In 1759 Arthur signed a 9,000 year lease, at £45 per year, on a run-down brewery at St. James’s Gate. In 1770 he started experimenting with brewing porter and his endeavours proved so successful that by 1799 he decided to focus all his efforts on porter and the rest is history.

Today Guinness is brewed in over 50 countries and enjoyed in over 150 countries worldwide. Over 10 million glasses of Guinness are drank every day all around the world.


2. tayto crisps

From the humble spud to Ireland’s favourite crisps

Tayto Crisps was founded in 1954 in Dublin’s Moore Street by Joe “Spud” Murphy with just £500 of capital. A true entrepreneur, Liberties-born Murphy started out with one van and 8 employees.

Up until then crisps had been a pretty bland affair. Plain crisps came with a sachet of salt in the bag that could be sprinkled over them to add flavour, but Murphy spotted a niche in the market and started working to create flavoured crisps. He is credited with inventing the world’s first seasoned crisp so we have him to thank for the multitude of flavours we now have to choose from. His invention of the Cheese and Onion flavour proved to be the most popular of all and elevated Tayo crisps to the status of a national treasure.

Today Tayto Snacks employs over 500 people at its 80,000 square foot factory in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, and uses over 10% of Ireland’s potato crop each year. In 1954 Tayto sold 350 packs a day, today it sells over 500 packs every minute, with sales topping €100 million each year.

3. newbridge silverware

From forks to finery

Newbridge, Co. Kildare, was a garrison town in the 20th Century and supplied and housed soldiers and horses for the Crimean War. It also developed a tradition of metal forging for making weapons during this time.

When the war ended, there was a jobs shortage and an economic downturn and Newbridge Silverware (originally Newbridge Cutlery Company) was set up partly as a way to bridge this gap and put the metal forging and linishing equipment left behind by the army to good use by making cutlery instead.

The company has expanded its range over the years to incorporate jewellery, homeware and giftware and has earned a reputation for design and craftsmanship both in Ireland and abroad. Newbridge Silverware’s products have even been endorsed by celebrities like Naomi Campbell and former Miss World, Roasanna Davison.



From a cottage industry to the world stage

IrelandsEye Knitwear began with one man called Jim O’Sullivan, who knitted jumpers in his garage in Sutton in Dublin to keep his family warm and dreamed of growing his passion into a family business.

The Irish for O’Sullivan is Ó Súilleabháin, which means ‘one-eyed’ and the island of Ireland’s Eye can be seen from the Sutton coast, which is how the name came about.

They set up their first factory on the grounds of Sutton Castle Hotel, once the summer home of another famous Irish family, the Jameson Whiskey family.

IrelandsEye Knitwear has grown from one man in his garage to 6 family members working together in Sutton Castle in 1987 to a team of 50 people today, who work in their purpose-built 30,000 square foot factory in Baldoyle Industrial Estate making gorgeous Irish knitwear that is sold all over the world.


From handmade chocolates to a chocolate empire

Little did Marion Bailey-Butler know, when she started her handmade chocolates business “Chez Nous Chocolates” in Dublin’s Lad Lane in 1932, that one day her chocolates would be sold to customers all over the world and her name would become synonymous with delicious indulgence.

In 1959 the company was purchased by Seamus Sorensen from Cork as a family business and when the second generation of the Sorensen family took over the running of the business in the 1980s they rebranded it as “Butlers” in a nod to its founder.

In 1989 Butlers opened its first “chocolate café” on Dublin’s Grafton Street, selling coffee and cakes alongside the chocolates. This was the start of a series of “Butlers Chocolate Cafés”, who included a complimentary Butler’s chocolate with every cup of coffee.

You can now find 39 Butlers Chocolate Cafés, not just in Ireland, but in destinations all over the world, including places as far afield as New Zealand, India, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. They employ 400 staff across their factories and retail outlets and their chocolates are sold in over 40 countries and 60 airports around the world.


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