Following a pasture-to-pot ethos, Wexford’s Dunne family have developed one of the most luxurious and desirable yogurt brands in the world.
It’s a long way from the shadows of the Blackstairs Mountains to the Arabian Peninsula. It seems even further, when you imagine that distance – physical and figurative – from the Dunne family’s Wexford milking parlour to the kitchens of the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven star hotel.
Yet, regular consignments of the Dunne family’s Killowen Farm yogurt make that trip, and even further afield to the five-star hotels of Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. The exceptional Irish yogurt has captured the attention of these luxury properties thanks to its exquisite taste and unique pasture-to-pot ethos.
Run by three generations of the Dunne family, the Killowen Farm has been the Dunne family home for over 200 years. Brother, Nicholas, is the farmer, with sister, Pauline, looking after the marketing, though she is quick to pass on credit to the real stars of the show, their 250-strong herd of dairy cows. “We only use the milk we produce on the farm to make our yogurt. It all goes to our creamery, and no other Irish yogurt manufacturer can say that. We know what the cows have had for breakfast, what field they’re grazing in and how much water they drink on a daily basis. We are touching it and feeling it every day.”
With the milking parlour a short walk from the fields, Killowen cows live a simple and relaxed life, focused around fresh grass and clean air. They spend February to November outdoors, moving indoors in winter where they’re fed a mixed diet of grass silage, maize silage, beet, straw and meal.
With such a centralised ethos, it makes sense that Killowen sources much of its fruit locally too. “Kehoes in Ennicorthy is where we buy our rhubarb, and it’s rhubarb harvest time now. We always harvest early. As soon as the first rhubarb comes, Pat Kehoe will let us know and we will harvest.” They only harvest for six weeks and then wash, chop and freeze the prized rhubarb, to use it as they need it. “When we run out we’ve run out. That’s it. We won’t compromise on taste and nothing can touch the taste of Wexford rhubarb.”
Known for their limited edition flavours – Christmas cranberry and orange is especially popular with hotels – they are constantly looking to innovate. “We’re now working with Ryan’s Farm in Dublin. They have beautiful forced pink rhubarb, Timperley Early, which is harvested by candlelight in dark tunnels.”
When they first experimented with lemon curd, the family weren’t sure it would work, but the zesty and luxurious flavour has been a huge success for them. “It was like a marriage made in heaven,” Pauline laughs.
“It was just perfect. We are always looking to see how we can grow the range and are currently looking at a limited edition Irish blueberry yogurt.”
Despite Ireland’s love affair with dairy produce, we still import 70% of our yogurts. “At Killowen we are always looking at ways to grow brand awareness. Our natural yogurt is as natural as you can get, made with only milk, live cultures and good bacteria. We only add real fruit to our flavoured yogurts and a small amount of sugar. Essentially, we are producing the kind of healthy food we are happy to feed our families and eat ourselves.”
Killowen Farm’s success has spurred further innovation, with the recent launch of Killowen Farm Cream Cheese. “It’s just fabulous!” Pauline extolls. “We’ve been developing the recipe for the past few years and did a soft, local launch before Christmas.” With no additives, preservatives or colourings, it follows the very same ethos as Killowen Farm uses for its yogurt, Natural and wholesome, this creamy cheese is already available in select food shops around Wexford and Dublin. Before we know it, Killowen Farm’s latest addition may soon be travelling long haul to Asia too.