Milgro are Northern Ireland’s largest commercial grower and producer of onion products. The award-winning Crispy Onions are made from their own locally grown onions, when in season, which gives the products great provenance. They are then prepared and produced in the BRC AA accredited dedicated facilities on the Miller family farm, situated in Myroe, in the heart of Limavady’s Roe Valley.
In 2021, Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards recognised Milgro’s Original and Flame Grilled Steak Flavour Crispy Onions with Bronze and Gold awards respectively. They have followed this by receiving Great Taste stars for the same products in 2022. And as recently as September 2022, Milgro’s Flame Grilled Steak Flavour Crispy Onions Snack Pack also received a Gold award at the Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards, held in Dublin.
The company, who list Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Henderson Group as stockists of the award-winning Crispy Onions, as well as being the supplier of whole onions to Sainsburys, Asda and Henderson Group, encompassing Eurospar, Spar, VivoXtra amongst their stores. Milgro have most recently secured a supply agreement with S&W Wholesale, giving the company an “all-island” presence. Milgro Crispy Onions can also be found in many local independent butchers across Northern Ireland.
The welcome return of shows, such as IFEX, Balmoral and the Royal Highland Show in Scotland, have provided Milgro with a platform to showcase the versatility of their products beyond retail customers, with a marked increase in supply to recognised foodservice providers.
Whilst the company has enjoyed an increased recognition of their products and brand since the pandemic, there are no thoughts to rest on those laurels, with further expansion for the range of products on the horizon, with innovation at the heart of those exciting plans.
The company wanted to develop new innovative “portion controlled” family favourite recipes to expand their market reach in the foodservice and hospitality sector. The new recipes will include the 3 main flavours: Original, Flame Grilled Steak and Chinese Salted Chilli, which will show the diversity of the product. They will require assistance with recipe engineering, correct nutritional and allergen management.
To assist with the development of their concept, Milgro was supported by North West Regional College (NWRC) Business Support Centre (BSC) through the InnovateUs programme which is funded by the Department for the Economy.
NWRC Culinary Technical Consultant Ciaran Deery provided 30 hours of upskilling support in recipe development using Milgro’s Original, Flame Grilled Steak and Chinese Salted Chilli flavoured Crispy Onions, sourcing ingredients & flavour trends to create ‘low-fat’ recipes to extend Milgro’s market reach, development of new food recipes at Foodovation, using the Crispy Onions to upskill on, allergen & nutritional management and legal labelling information.
On completion of the project the company was able to successfully develop new “portion controlled” family favourite ‘recipes for their Crispy Onions allowing them to expand their market reach.
Conor Nicholl, Head of Sales & Marketing at Milgro described the benefits of working with NWRC’S Business Support Centre via the InnovateUs programme:
“When we were drafting our current company strategy, innovation was at the heart of our plans. Whilst we are delighted and proud that our products have been recognised recently, by both Irish Quality Food and Drinks Awards and Great Taste Awards 2022, we realise and appreciate that in an ever competitive marketplace there is a constant need to self-review. Having first met Ciaran at IFEX at the Titanic Exhibition Centre earlier this year, we were taken by his passion for food, how well he spoke about NWRC, and his undoubted talent. Following an initial meeting and seeing the benefits of the InnovateUs programme, we are absolutely delighted with the results. We have started to share the recipes Ciaran has developed with our current customer base, and potential supply partners. The feedback has been amazing. We would most definitely recommend anyone considering a partnership with NWRC Foodovation Centre, to go for it.”