Rucksnacks: From Monaghan Beef Farm to European Markets

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Updated on April 22, 2024

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In the vast landscape of culinary innovation, there are few tales as captivating as that of Rucksnacks. Born from the fertile fields of rural County Monaghan, Ireland, Rucksnacks represents a fusion of tradition and innovation, heritage and entrepreneurship. This is the story of Colm Connolly, who, inspired by his globetrotting adventures and a passion for quality, embarked on a quest to revolutionise the snack industry.

Join us as we delve into the origins of Rucksnacks, tracing its evolution from humble beginnings on a family farm to its status as a pioneering producer of premium air-dried beef snacks. Along the way, we’ll uncover the trials and triumphs, the inspirations and innovations that have shaped this remarkable culinary journey.

A Journey Back to the Land

In recounting a bit of background, Colm Connolly, a fifth-generation beef farmer hailing from rural County Monaghan, shares the story of his family’s enduring connection to the land. Surrounded by the iconic rolling hills of Ireland, farming has been ingrained in their lineage for generations. Colm’s father began tending to the farm at the tender age of 14, laying the foundation for a tradition that Colm himself eagerly embraced from a young age.

Despite his early affinity for farming, Colm’s journey took him beyond the borders of his homeland. Encouraged by his father to pursue higher education, Colm ventured to the UK and gained valuable experience working abroad.

With a spirit of exploration, Colm and his wife set out to traverse the world. From South to North America, crossing Canada and the United States, exploring the vast expanse of Australia and New Zealand, venturing through the diverse landscapes of Asia, then culminating with a final exploration through Europe, the couple Connolly soaked in diverse cultures and experiences before ultimately returning to County Monaghan to embark on a new chapter in farming.

It was during their travels around the world that the idea for Rucksnacks first took root in Colm’s mind. The couple found themselves in need of convenient, portable snacks that wouldn’t weigh them down during their adventures. However, they noticed a gap in the market—a missing element that could elevate the snack to new heights.

Reflecting on their own experiences of always having beef jerky on hand during their travels, Colm and his wife envisioned creating a product that combined convenience with exceptional taste. Their aim was to offer a snack that would be a perfect fit for travellers and adventurers seeking something both lightweight and satisfying. Such an inspiration laid the foundation for the creation of Rucksnacks.

Upon returning to Ireland, Colm couldn’t help but reflect on his farming roots. Recognising the unmatched quality of Irish beef produced on his family’s farm, he felt compelled to bring that standard of excellence to the snack industry. With this idea firmly planted in his mind, Colm embarked on a journey of exploration into the feasibility of his concept upon returning to Ireland.

The Birth of Rucksnacks


Once he made it back to the family farm, Colm Connolly found himself faced with the challenge of ensuring its long-term sustainability. Having gained insights from his experiences both within and outside the farming industry, he recognised the need for innovation to carve out a viable future for the farm.

Their goal was clear: to establish practices that would not only sustain the family farm but also provide a legacy for successive generations.

In their quest to find a niche in the snack market, the Connollies started assessing the existing snack market landscape. Leveraging his wife’s expertise as a food technologist and combining technical knowledge, they started experimenting in their kitchen. Though met with initial setbacks and more failures than successes, they persisted until they discovered a promising recipe.

The turning point came during a sports event with a football team, where Colm quietly introduced their creation to fellow athletes for unbiased feedback. The candid response from the team members served as validation, prompting the couple to refine their product further and thus, Rucksnacks was born, featuring air-dried beef snacks crafted from premium beef infused with a delicate blend of spices.

Today, Rucksnacks offers a range of premium air-dried beef snacks, including original Biltong and Fiery Red Chilli Biltong, marking the culmination of their culinary exploration and dedication to quality.

Recognised for their excellence, both snacks have garnered awards, motivating the Connollies to expand their product line. In addition to the existing offerings, they plan to introduce jerky to cater to a broader segment of consumers. With their emphasis on air-dried meat snacks, renowned for their rich protein content and 6 Forgotten Health Benefits of Carbs” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener” data-wpil-monitor-id=”545″>health benefits, Rucksnacks aims to meet the diverse demands of the market.

Rucksnacks Customer Base

A diverse range of individuals forms the customer base for Rucksnacks. 

Another motive that influenced the creation of Rucksnacks was the challenge of balancing a busy lifestyle with a desire for nutritious options. As a young couple with limited time, especially since the arrival of their 16-month-old daughter, Colm and his wife found it difficult to find convenient yet healthy snacks that aligned with their fitness goals.

With a shared commitment to staying healthy and active through regular gym sessions, they sought a solution that would cater to their lifestyle and provide a wholesome snack option that could be easily enjoyed on the go.

It does not stop there, however. The decision to create Rucksnacks also stemmed from Colm Connolly’s recognition of the prevalent issues with many snacks available on the market, often containing hidden sugars, salts, and unhealthy fats. In response, they formulated a product free from added sugars and gluten, appealing to a diverse range of customers, including those with specialised dietary requirements.

Beyond catering to specific diets, Rucksnacks also target individuals seeking a convenient yet nutritious option to satisfy their hunger without having to compromise on taste or health benefits. By offering a wholesome snack alternative, Colm aims to help customers in maintain a balanced diet even amidst busy schedules, allowing them to feel good about their snack choices while enjoying a delicious treat.

A special Tribute to Drivers

Colm Connolly noted a growing customer base comprising individuals frequently on the road, such as lorry drivers or taxi drivers, who face challenges in finding healthy snacks while travelling. Recognising this need, Rucksnacks offers a convenient solution with their ambient snack, boasting a long shelf life that aligns well with the demands of these consumers.

The grab-and-go nature of their product caters perfectly to individuals seeking a quick and nutritious option to keep on hand in their glovebox or cab, enabling them to maintain their health and energy levels even during busy days on the road.

Expanding Market Reach


The challenge lies therein. It’s evident that consumers aspire to prioritise their health by making healthier choices. Therefore, it falls upon health-conscious companies, including Rusksnacks, to furnish them with such options. Their current endeavour is to expand distribution, focusing on independent and convenience stores. They’ve observed a positive response in high-traffic areas, with shop owners recognising the appeal of their product to customers.

For this reason, Connolly emphasises a steady, methodical strategy, aiming to gradually increase the number of outlets each week. He likens their approach to a marathon rather than a sprint, underscoring the importance of sustained growth and outreach efforts.

Although it may take some time for the product to gain traction, considering its convenience factor, it has the potential to be stocked in multiple stores. As consumers increasingly prioritise healthier options while shopping, there is a growing market for products like Rucksnacks.

Versatile Snacking Solutions

Colm Connolly also highlights their initial foray into local supermarkets as a valuable learning experience. While their product, Rucksnacks, serves as a convenient and healthy snack option, it also offers versatility beyond mere snacking.

Connolly explains how Rucksnacks can be integrated into various meal options, such as wraps or salads, providing quick and satisfying meals. The company also offers recipes on their website, including a five-minute pizza recipe, catering to consumers’ desire for healthy, tasty, and time-saving food options.

Meeting consumers’ needs for convenient yet nutritious food, as Colm asserts, is a trend evident in their success in local supermarkets and their plans for wider distribution in the future.

Additionally, Colm is committed to enhancing its offerings in the coming year, particularly through its online presence. They have introduced a variety of recipes on their website, including a blog post titled “25 Healthy Snack Ideas,” accessible to both customers and the general public.

Recognising the challenge of maintaining diversity in food choices, Colm acknowledges that consuming the same foods regularly can become monotonous. To address this, they provide suggestions on their website for rotating snacks, offering a range of healthy alternatives to keep things interesting. This initiative reflects their ongoing efforts to expand and improve their services as they continue to grow.

Dietary Considerations and Environmental Stewardship

Colm explored varying perspectives on dietary choices, emphasising the importance of individual autonomy in decision-making.

He underscored the nutritional considerations inherent in dietary decisions, cautioning against potential deficiencies that may arise from certain eating patterns. For instance, he notes that individuals adhering to a vegan diet may encounter challenges in meeting their calcium, B12, and iron requirements. This underscores the necessity for consumers to critically evaluate dietary advice and ensure they are adequately meeting their nutritional needs to support overall health and well-being.

Carefulness is essential, Colm suggested, particularly concerning dietary trends. Besides acknowledging the appeal of certain dietary movements, he expresses scepticism about their potential to become widespread, noting that the food produced by farmers offers a natural and inherently healthy option. That is why he emphasises the need for vigilance, particularly in relation to processed foods, which are often prominently displayed in stores and can contribute to health concerns.

In such a context, Colm advocates for consumer awareness and understanding of food choices to address health issues, cautioning against drastic dietary changes without proper consideration.

Quality Assurance and Environmental Concerns

From his perspective as a farmer, Colm holds a deep appreciation for the agricultural industry’s multifaceted role, not only in food production but also in environmental stewardship. 

Farmers, he notes, play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the land, which in turn contributes to overall environmental well-being and helps mitigate emissions through practices such as hedgerow and tree maintenance.

Farmers take immense pride in their produce, dedicating themselves to maintaining the highest standards for their herds or stock. This commitment stems from a desire to offer consumers the finest quality products. The farm places great emphasis on this pride, reflecting the care and dedication invested in every aspect of production.

Let’s consider their family farm as an example. They are fully quality-assured, adhering to a stringent quality assurance process that undergoes annual evaluation to ensure compliance. This standard not only dictates operational procedures but also encompasses environmental considerations.

Farmers like Colm diligently carry out environmental tasks at designated times of the year to preserve the landscape. They view themselves not only as participants in a quality assurance program but also as stewards of the land, preserving it for future generations.

That being said, farmers face constraints imposed by regulations and market demands. Environmental performance poses a significant challenge for farmers today. For instance, their farm includes hectares of forestry on steep terrain, yet they receive no recognition for offsetting carbon emissions from their food production activities.

The government’s food-wise strategy for 2020 outlined production targets but lacked integration with environmental considerations. There is a need for collaboration among government agencies, farmers, and other stakeholders to address this gap. Farmers are willing to adapt and contribute to environmental preservation efforts but require support that ensures their livelihoods are sustained.

Colm envisions the implementation of a comprehensive strategy that highlights the positive impact of farming on the environment while ensuring farmers’ hands are not tied by regulations. Such a strategy, he believes, would pave the way for a more vibrant rural economy. He sees significant potential for Ireland to prosper with the right support in place.

In the broader scope of agricultural strategies, there’s room for improvement. Current approaches may be effective within certain sectors but fail to consider all relevant aspects comprehensively.

This sentiment is particularly evident in regions like Ireland and the UK, renowned for their natural farming environments. While some may envy these conditions, recognising the benefits of ample rainfall for grass growth, there’s a growing awareness of the need for a more holistic approach.

Grass growth forms the foundation of much of the agricultural produce in these regions. Consequently, there’s a call for a more integrated perspective that acknowledges the impact of farming on the environment while also recognising the essential role farmers play in food production. While farmers are willing to adapt, the current framework often leaves them feeling constrained, hindering progress and making meaningful change challenging.

Locally, there’s a strong culture of mutual support and understanding of each other’s impact. Farmers, in particular, play a pivotal role in this interconnected web of local businesses. They patronise local shops, hardware stores, cooperatives, and other establishments, thereby sustaining the entire local economy. The ripple effect of their support extends beyond direct transactions, influencing indirect jobs and livelihoods throughout the community.

This symbiotic relationship underscores the vital role farmers and local businesses play in each other’s success. However, there’s a sense that those involved in policy-making and strategy development sometimes overlook the depth of this interdependence. The rural community and farming sectors are deeply intertwined, relying on each other for economic stability and growth.

Such a collaborative ecosystem fosters a strong sense of unity and cooperation among local businesses, as they recognise and appreciate each other’s significance in sustaining the local economy.

Support From Local Businesses

Colm highlights the strong sense of community support among local residents, especially farmers, in his area. He emphasises how they actively contribute to the local economy by patronising nearby businesses, such as hardware stores, co-ops, and hotels. He also underscores the interconnectedness of these businesses, both directly and indirectly, and the significant impact farmers’ support has on sustaining them.

He notes the symbiotic relationship between rural communities and farming, emphasising their mutual dependence. Colm believes that those involved in planning and strategy development may not fully grasp the depth of this interdependence. He stresses the importance of recognising how closely intertwined the rural community and farming sectors are, highlighting the essential role they play in supporting each other’s livelihoods.

Expansion Plans and Product Offerings

Rucksnacks is focused on expanding its presence in as many outlets as possible to reach as many customers as possible. Their aim is to enhance customers’ lives by offering delicious, nutritious snacks.

Initially, they’re targeting outlets across the island of Ireland before considering overseas markets like Germany, the mainland UK, and the rest of Europe. Overall, they’re committed to growing the company and embracing the journey, acknowledging both the challenges and successes along the way.

Indeed, they offer a remarkably healthy protein source. Short of consuming raw meat, it’s hard to find a more wholesome option. They often encounter customers who lack the time or resources to prepare fresh meat, especially when on the go or in transit. In such situations, their products serve as a convenient alternative. Using only premium lean silverside, they ensure that all excess fat is meticulously trimmed off before undergoing the air-drying process.

Returning to the origins of their craft, Rucksnacks draw inspiration from the survival techniques of their ancestors, particularly those residing in climates conducive to such practices. By employing salts and leveraging the natural humidity of their surroundings, ancient communities preserved meat, ensuring a reliable protein source over extended periods. In essence, they replicate these age-old methods, albeit in modern, convenient packaging, for their customers’ enjoyment.

Rucksnacks are also currently in the process of obtaining certification from Sugarwise in the UK, a move that holds significant promise given the scarcity of products without hidden additives in the market. This clarity regarding their ingredients is particularly beneficial for customers with dietary restrictions, such as those with diabetes or gluten intolerance.

By providing snacks that accommodate such requirements, Rucksnacks offer an additional option for individuals who often struggle to find suitable choices in mainstream offerings. The positive feedback they receive from this customer base underscores the importance of offering inclusive and health-conscious snack options. Now, with an array of options available, from traditional recipes to innovative twists, there’s a Rucksnacks to suit every palate and occasion. 


From a young age, Colm Connolly has found farming to be immensely fulfilling. Each day brings something new, and despite the challenges, he relishes the outdoor work.

Growing up on the farm, Colm’s father instilled in him a deep appreciation for the land and its responsibilities. Farming isn’t merely a job for them; it’s a way of life, a tradition passed down through generations. It isn’t just about tending to the fields or livestock; it’s about stewardship, ensuring that the land is preserved and nurtured for future generations. 

The ideal scenario envisioned by Colm Connolly and his wife is one where no one ventures out of their home without a pack of Rucksnacks in hand. This vision emerged as a playful twist on the concept of always having a reliable snack companion during travels and daily adventures.

Video Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00)
So welcome to this episode of Amazing Food and Drink, we’re going to talk about my brand, Rocksnacks, and how I came up with the brand, the snacks that we developed, including beef biltung, and the farming industry.

Speaker 2 (00:17)
So welcome to this episode of Amazing Food and Drink. Today we’re with Colm Connolly of Rocksnacks. He’s the founder, and he’s going to tell us a bit about himself and his company. So welcome to Amazing Food and Drink. Colm, over to you.

Speaker 1 (00:29)
Thank you, Colm. Thanks for having us today.

Speaker 2 (00:32)
You’re very welcome.

Speaker 1 (00:33)
So yeah, I’ll just tell you a wee bit of our background. So I’m a fifth-generation beef farmer based in rural County Monaghan, so we’re surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills that Ireland he’s renowned for. So my father has farmed on our farm since he was 14. It’s all he’s known, and I guess I was out helping him whatever age I could get a pair of wellies on. So we’ve always… My My grandfather farmed before him as well. So I guess farming has always been something that’s been strong in our roots. At that young age, I enjoyed it, but my father did encourage me to go on to university. So I worked in the UK for a number of years. But I guess, like a lot of people that grew up in the countryside, I was always drawn back. So we came back to Ireland just to set up on the farm and look at something different. Before we came back, myself and my wife, we were working in different locations and we decided that we wanted to see a bit of the world before we came home. So we both quit our jobs, put everything into a backpack, and just travelled around the world.

Speaker 1 (01:54)
So we went from South America to America, Canada, and Australia, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and then finished up through Europe. My God.

Speaker 2 (02:04)
So it was a brilliant experience.

Speaker 1 (02:07)
Definitely recommend it to anyone. I guess it was something that we had in our minds. We wanted to get out of our system to see the world. And there’s no better way, I guess, because when you can do travelling in one goal like that, you’re a lot freer to see everything and do everything that you want.

Speaker 2 (02:24)
And you’d no ties, no children at that stage.

Speaker 1 (02:27)
So it was brilliant. Then we came back to Ireland, and I guess it was the travelling that inspired us a lot because while we were travelling, obviously, I never forgot my farming roots. And we just seen how popular beef snacks were across the world, but they didn’t really have the quality or the taste that I thought would do them justice. Like Irish beef? Coming from an Irish beef farm, I knew the quality the quality of beef that we are capable of producing. So that idea was always in my mind when I came back to Ireland, and that’s when we started to look into things a bit.

Speaker 2 (03:12)
And when you come home, were you back on the farm again?

Speaker 1 (03:15)
I was back on the farm again. And I guess looking at farming and having worked outside it, I found that it was a tough industry to carve out an So I guess I decided from an early stage that we needed to do something different on our farm to make it sustainable because ultimately the goal was to make it sustainable for the family going forward and the next generation, the next generation. So it was trying to think outside the box of what we could do on our beef farm that would give us something different.

Speaker 2 (03:57)
So it was adding value. So for those who don’t You don’t know what rock snacks are.

Speaker 1 (04:02)
Tell us what they are. Yeah. So I suppose the quick explanation is we looked at what snacks were there in the market. So my wife is a food technologist by background, so she brings a lot of the technical expertise in, which is brilliant. So what we did is we started playing around in the kitchen and creating stuff. And at the start, there was a lot of failures, more failures than successes. But eventually, we stumbled on something that we thought was good. And the melting pot for that was we were playing sports with a football team. So I brought someone along with the football team and said nothing. I just said, if there’s good feedback from this, we’re on to see something. So there’s nothing like a sports team to give you an honest feedback on something. So that’s when we created our first dried meat snack and tried it out on a football team. And from that, we developed Ruck Snacks in a food college. And Ruck Snacks are really now, they’re an air-dried beef snack using premium beef and a little bit of spice. And at the minute, we have original Biltong and Friery Red Chilly Biltong.

Speaker 1 (05:19)
They’re both award-winning snacks, and we’re adding to the range. So we’re going to add jerkeys to the range as well because it’s a wider appeal across the market. So really, Rock Snacks are an air-dried meat snack, very high in protein, very healthy, and there’s a wide appeal for that in the market.

Speaker 2 (05:39)
And they’re very tasty. I can just vouch for it. Just having some. They’re gorgeous. So who are they for? What’s the market? Is it sports teams?

Speaker 1 (05:46)
Is it different people? There’s a wide range. I guess when we started this product ourselves, whether it was by luck or whatever way you want to call it, I guess we’re our own target customers because we have a baby girl now, 16 months old, so time is precious. So we’re a young couple We don’t have a lot of time maybe to prep healthy food yet. We want to eat healthy. We both are into gym going, so we want to stay healthy. So it was hard to find a snack in the market that satisfied us. And we felt that was part of the reason why we created Rock Snacks as well, because we wanted to find something that we could pick up on the go and just have a healthy snack.

Speaker 2 (06:39)
That wasn’t a bar of chocolate or a pack of Cribs.

Speaker 1 (06:41)
Exactly. Because a lot of the stuff out there is laden with hidden sugar or salt and fats and different ingredients that aren’t good for you. So I guess that’s why we looked at it. And in terms of customer base, there’s a wide range of customers because we’ve no added sugar. We’re gluten free, so we cater for specialised diets. Brilliant. But it’s also people that want to have a healthy, tasty snack and maybe don’t have the time always to prepare. We’re there to assist them, give them their healthy snack, and they can feel good about it and satisfy their hunger at the same time.

Speaker 2 (07:18)
So you were drawn really from your own lifestyle background, yeah? Yeah. What about taxi drivers or truck drivers? Would they be interested in this? Because I know everyone’s starting to think healthy now.

Speaker 1 (07:28)
Yeah, definitely. We’re getting a lot of customers coming that are on the road a lot because they’re finding quite hard to find healthy snacks on the road. And they need something, perhaps it’s a lorry driver or taxi driver. They need something in their glovebox or in their cab that they can pick up and have on the go. And because our snack’s ambient, it’s a long shelf life, it suits those needs of those consumers. So it’s working great for people. So, yeah, grab and go is a perfect area for us to be in.

Speaker 2 (08:01)
Brilliant. And do you think there’s a strong pull towards healthy living there?

Speaker 1 (08:06)
There definitely is. There’s a lot more information out there for consumers, but sometimes it can get quite muddled. So I think it comes back to maybe the education piece, and we need to be stronger than that, perhaps in schools, to help people from a young age to understand food and understand And throughout their lives what is a good choice and what is a bad choice. Because the large multinationals tend to flood us with marketing employees to con us into thinking, God, that particular breakfast cereal is what I need to give me energy for the day. Yes, it’s maybe 50 % full of sugar.

Speaker 2 (08:48)
So it’s more about profit than health, isn’t it?

Speaker 1 (08:52)
Yeah, well, that’s the trouble. So I think you can see that consumers want to be healthy. So they want to make the healthy choices. So I guess it’s up to us as a healthy company and other healthy companies to provide them with those choices. So that’s what we’re trying to do and trying to get into as many outlets as we can because they want to have that help. Because ultimately, everybody, no one wants to be in bad health or in bad shape. Everybody wants to be healthy, to live as long as possible. So, yeah, I think there’s a big drive towards that now.

Speaker 2 (09:25)
Brilliant. So just on that, what’s your strategy for bringing these healthy snacks to the convenience stores?

Speaker 1 (09:30)
Yeah. So we are at the minute we’re approaching independent stores and convenience stores. And we’re seeing a pick up in areas with footfall. And The shop owners or maybe the owner number of shops are really seeing that through our product because it’s moving so quickly through because it’s given customers a completely different option than they never had before. So it’s getting really So I guess our strategy is just increasing the number of outlets we are. So we’re visiting stores week on week and increasing our numbers like that. I’ve often said to people that we’re not, you’re seeing both. This isn’t a sprint. It’s more of a marathon. So that’s our idea, is to increase outlets as much as we can every week.

Speaker 2 (10:21)
Yeah, it’s going to take a wee bit of time for this to catch on. So in fairness, it’s really a convenience product, but I could see that get into the multiples, because if I’m thinking about how I’m shopping, I’m certainly thinking about looking at healthier options. And I’m sure lots of other people are, too.

Speaker 1 (10:35)
Exactly. And we actually started off in local supermarket. And it was a great area for us to learn in. So yes, it is a convenient, healthy snack, but it’s actually much more than that because at times I see myself that I’m struggling for perhaps preparing for lunch. So all I need is a pack of rock snacks, a wrap, salad, and I’ve got a tasty wrap. So it’s different options you can add. So we provided that to customers. So we’ve got recipes on our website as well where you can make a pizza in five minutes. So it’s super handy to make a pizza. We only need a couple of ingredients, and it’s really quick. And that’s what people want. They want healthy food that’s tasty and quick. And if we have that in our lifestyle, that’s what we’re trying to do. So I guess we’re seeing that through the local Super markets that we’re in. And hopefully in the future, we’ll be in wider ones because you can plan for the week ahead. You know you’re going to be in the road X number of days. So you can pick up a couple of snacks that you have.

Speaker 1 (11:40)
And once you have that healthy choice, it avoids you making a poor snack choice. So it’s keeping you healthy as well.

Speaker 2 (11:47)
Brilliant. And you’ve actually still a one of my questions there. I was going to ask you. So in terms of recipes and maybe videos, maybe that’s something that you are doing or you could certainly do to help people on your journey.

Speaker 1 (11:57)
We are. And it’s something we’re going to improve in over the next year. So we have a couple of recipes on our website, and we have a blog post called 25 Healthy Snack Ideas that customers can go on or anyone can go on and use that to create healthy snack. So it’s really for anyone. I guess people nowadays struggle in food because food can get boring. If you’re eating the same thing, you’re not going to eat 10 apples as your snack every day because it gets So people need a little bit of change. So we’ve got suggestions on our website of how you can change your snacks up. So you could have five one week and five the next week. And they’re all healthy snacks, different ideas. You might not have looked at something. So it’s definitely something we have started and we’re going to increase as we build up as well.

Speaker 2 (12:48)
No, that’s brilliant because variety is a special life and it does become difficult every day thinking what I’m going to make today. It does.

Speaker 1 (12:54)

Speaker 2 (12:55)
So here’s a bit of a nemesis for you. There’s been an increasing move move towards veganism and vegetarianism and flexitarianism. How does that sit with you?

Speaker 1 (13:06)
I had this discussion amongst a talk recently. Again, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. So if someone wants to make a certain diet choice, that’s no problem. Everyone has their own opinion. Everyone can make their own choices in life. From a farming background, I am very pro-farming. I think what farmers do is amazing job because it’s a tough industry. But farmers don’t just produce product for consumers to eat. They also are maintaining the environment. So by maintaining the land in good condition, it’s leaving it healthier for the next environment. It’s also helping with emissions because they’re maintaining hedgeroves and trees and plantations and the like. So the other aspect of it is the nutrition The good side of it. Certain diets, and it’s down to the advice that’s coming out there, you have to be careful because take for a vegan diet, consumers can struggle in their calcium and their B12 and their iron requirements. So I guess everybody has a requirement to be careful of what advice they give. Certain societies are given certain advice. They need to be careful in that. And you need to know as a consumer, as a human being, that you’re getting the proper diet to maintain yourself, because if you’re lacking calcium, that’s going to lead to problems with your bones, et cetera.

Speaker 1 (14:36)
So I guess you have to be careful. I can’t see it being a major trend because the food that we have and that we produce as farmers is as healthy as natural as you can get out there. I think what we need to be careful about is the processed food. And I think that’s where we’re getting a lot of issues because you can see the special offers and the middle, the front of the aisle are perhaps the more healthy foods or the more processed foods. So I think we need to be, as consumers, understand what we’re eating and perhaps that’s leading to issues that we’re having in health as opposed to maybe making a drastic change in your diet.

Speaker 2 (15:20)
Yeah. And I suppose it’s about options now, too, isn’t it? And having a different range of products and produce. But in saying that, you can tell me about your story on the farm now, because that’s really It’s really important. And it’s really important that we know where our food comes from. So tell me how tough it is to run a family farm.

Speaker 1 (15:36)
It is. And take our family farm, for example. We are fully quality-assured. We follow a quality assurance process. We are checked every year that we follow that process. So for us, we are adhering to that standard by getting quality assured. It also has guidelines how you should run your farm. And it’s brilliant. There’s environmental aspects of it. So there’s certain times of the year where you can carry out environmental tasks to help maintain the landscape. And again, as farmers, we adhere to that. So really, farmers are one thing to follow in a quality assurance programme, but they’re also the gatekeepers of the land, they are maintaining the land in good condition for the next generation. So that’s what a lot of farmers see themselves at. And in terms of the produce, farmers really do care of what they’re producing. They really do take pride in it. So they’re maintaining their herd or their stock in the best quality because they want to have the best quality out there for everyone to eat. So the farm is taking an awful lot of pride in that. So I think it is very important for consumers to understand where their food comes from and food mileage as well, to eat as much local produce as possible.

Speaker 2 (16:58)
Absolutely. And You’re doing a really good job, that sounds good. And it leads me on to my next question, actually. What support do you get from local businesses as a local farmer? Do you find there’s enough support? Could there be more? What could Board Bay, for example, do differently to help?

Speaker 1 (17:13)
Yeah, I think Look, farmers aren’t adverse to change, but they are constrained by rules and regulations and market demands. There’s an awful lot of challenge in farmers in regards to environmental performance now. But if you take our farm, for example, we have a number of hectares planted in forestry in very hilly land. But we don’t really get any credit to offset our carbon emissions for our food production side of things. So again, I think in terms of what the government needs to do is they created a food-wise strategy for 2020 with a lot of targets in there of what we needed to get in production, but it was never co-jined with environmental aspects. I think the whole bodies need to sit down together and whether that’s as a government agency and include farmers in that as well Because as I said, farmers aren’t adverse to change. They want to work together. They are preserving the environment, but there needs to be, I’ll not say a reward, but farmers don’t want to make… They just want to put bread on the table.

Speaker 2 (18:28)
Yeah, they have to make a living like everyone else, of course. Exactly.

Speaker 1 (18:30)
So at the end of the day, I think there can be better strategies out there. I think what we’ve got is very narrow minded. It might work in a certain sector, but you’re not looking at all the other aspects. And I think that needs to come together. And that’s very much evident in Ireland and the UK, because they’re absolutely brilliant farm environments. There’s nowhere more natural. There’s other areas in the world, like New Zealand, that are big dairy the industry, but they look at us in envy because people complain about the rain, but it helps us here with our grass growth. And that’s what all majority of farm produce is coming from grass growth. So I think it’s important that I think there has to be change coming because all farming has an impact on the environment. Of course, yeah. And we need farmers for our food produce. But as I said, there needs be more of a co-joined look at what needs to be put in place with that. And farmers will work towards that. But at the minute, they’re taking one step forward and two steps back with their hands tied. Yeah. So it’s been very difficult.

Speaker 2 (19:44)
It’s been very difficult. And do you find that the local businesses are supporting you?

Speaker 1 (19:49)
Definitely. I think locally no one is not supporting each other. And everyone understands their impact. So Local farmers shop locally. They buy from the local hardware store. They buy from the local co-op. They might use the local hotel. They might use the local facilities. But if you take all the farmers out of that, all those, think of the not direct, but even indirect jobs that are affected by that. Where is your hardware store? Where does the co-op go? How is the hotel affected? So all those businesses work together and support each other, especially in the local environment. And I think people that are involved in planning and coming up with strategies don’t appreciate how intertwined the rural community and farming is. They’re dependent on each other. And that’s really the foothold of farmers in those environments and local businesses get on so well together because they’re taking business out of each other. They’re giving each other business day to day so that they realise each other how important they are to each other.

Speaker 2 (20:59)
If the government a wee bit more support, that would certainly help, wouldn’t it?

Speaker 1 (21:02)
It would, absolutely. And you can see that in Ireland as a whole, you can see there has been the demand in rural communities. And People actually do want to live in rural communities. But I think we need to bring a focus back to thrive those rural communities because cities are already under enough stress between doubling in terms of housing and stuff. So why not help rural communities thrive better? So I think there definitely needs to be an emphasis on that because we could have a lot better in terms of that strategies in rural Ireland.

Speaker 2 (21:41)
And going forward then, what’s your hope for the food industry in Ireland?

Speaker 1 (21:46)
I’d love to see a proper strategy put in place that would really emphasise how good farming is and how we can impact the environment without our hands tied. And that would lead to a more positive, thriving rural and economy as itself. So I think there’s an awful lot of opportunity for Ireland to prosper, but I think there needs to be a wee bit more support put in place Brilliant.

Speaker 2 (22:15)
Brilliant. So if anybody’s listening from Bord Beia, they could maybe give you a shout call on what you’re, I can.

Speaker 1 (22:20)
Yeah, definitely.

Speaker 2 (22:21)
No problem. And in terms of Rocksnacks, okay, really original, brilliant product. What’s the hopes for the future?

Speaker 1 (22:28)
Where’s it going? As I said, look, we’re trying to get into as many outlets as possible. We want to get to as much customers as possible. So we’re just there to help customers’ lives improve by providing them with tasty, healthy snacks. So we want to get as much outlets as possible. So our first goal is really how many places we can get into in the island of Ireland that can take our product, basically. And then we’re going to look at overseas markets. So the likes of Germany and the rest of Europe and mainland UK as well are big markets for us. But we’d like to get a bigger foothold in our whole market first. So, yeah, we just want to keep growing the company, keep getting it out there as much as possible and just enjoy the ride along the way. There’s been plenty of mistakes, but there’s been plenty of times it goes right and we’ll enjoy those.

Speaker 2 (23:23)
Brilliant. And are Rockstecks a sustainable product?

Speaker 1 (23:26)
They are, yes, definitely. Do You cannot get much healthier than in terms of a protein source unless you’re dealing with a raw piece of meat. So sometimes what we see from customers is they might not have the time to prepare a fresh cut of meat or they might not have the resources, so they’re in a car, so it doesn’t lend to frying up a piece of meat. So we’re the next best thing to it. So we only use premium lean silverside. All the fat is trimmed off it, and it’s just air dry.

Speaker 2 (24:06)
It’s completely natural.

Speaker 1 (24:08)
It’s really going back to our roots, because if you think of how Our ancestors survived, especially in areas that led to it in terms of climate. They created dried meat using salts and using the humidity of the area they were in, and that preserved the meat so they could have a protein source over a long period. So we’re doing the exact same, basically, in a convenient pack for our customers to enjoy.

Speaker 2 (24:38)
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Tell me, you did mention earlier that it was gluten-free. I think that’s important, the stress.

Speaker 1 (24:43)
It is, yeah. We do cater to people like a product is gluten free. It’s no added sugar as well. So we’re in the process of actually getting it certified with Sugarwise in the UK, which be brilliant for us because there’s not a lot of products out there that don’t have something hidden in them. And we’re very clear on that, that we’ve no added sugar and we’re gluten free because there is quite a customer base that come to us and perhaps their son or daughter or cousin or uncle might have diabetes or might be suffering from a gluten intolerance. And we can cater, our snacks cater for that. So it’s just a filling another option for them. And I think they do struggle with choices out there because in the mainstream, there’s not a lot of foods that might be tasty, healthy, and cater for those people. So it’s great to give them another option. We get a lot of feedback from them.

Speaker 2 (25:47)
Brilliant option. Absolutely brilliant option. If I wanted to become a farmer, would you recommend it?

Speaker 1 (25:52)
I would. I definitely would. We’ve actually…

Speaker 2 (25:56)
We’d welcome you for a bit of free labour. I’m a silly slacker.

Speaker 1 (26:00)
It wouldn’t be very good. Look, I farm from a very young age and it does nothing more enjoyable than every day is different. You’re outside. Some days it can be poor weather, to say the least. But you get on with it. And some days it’s quite hard labour involved, but it’s so enjoyable. It’s so enjoyable. I never, I guess, and it’s the same with my father. He’s been farming since he was 14. His father took him out of school because he needed a hand and said to him he’d be returning to school next week. He never returned to school because work just took over. He would never say that that’s his job. That’s just who he is. And I guess that’s the difference in farming. You’re there, you’re almost a caretaker for the next generation. So it is a brilliant occupation to be in. Good.

Speaker 2 (26:59)
And And I really like the fact that you’re adding value to the really good Irish beef. It’s something really innovative. And I really like the name, by the way. How did you come up with the name? Was it due to your travels?

Speaker 1 (27:09)
Yeah, it was. I suppose that that’s where it all sprung from. You So we were looking at… It was two aspects to it. Because the idea of generation started while we were travelling around the world, all we had then was a rucksack. So we often think when we’re out and about, when you’re going to sea places or tourist places, you want to travel light, but also you don’t want to be stopping. You really want to get on with it. So at that time, we were trying to pick up snacks, and we did eat lots of each jerky when we’re out and about. So we throw it in our bags. We knew how convenient it was. It’s just something missing from it. So I guess that’s why we’re always thinking we’re throwing our beef jerky in our rucksack. So when we come back, that was, I guess, where we were thinking of the idea from. And it’s something that if you think of a rucksack and you want to go out, you want something light to carry with you, but it’s so good. So it’s something that I never… When we were travelling, we never left any or without our bags.

Speaker 1 (28:15)
So ideally, no one ever leaves their house without their pack of Rucksnacks. Yeah, it was a play on things then.

Speaker 2 (28:25)
I really like your packaging.

Speaker 1 (28:26)
Thank you very much. Very good.

Speaker 2 (28:27)
Very good indeed. So tell me then, if I want to find out more about Rucksnacks, where do you go?

Speaker 1 (28:33)
The best place to go is www. Rucksnacks. Com. So on our website, we’ve got everything, including our story, our background. We’ve got a couple of videos on our blog, and then there’s a Contact Us section on it. So if anyone wants to get in contact with us, we’re all on social media as well.

Speaker 2 (28:53)
So how do I contact Colm Conley then?

Speaker 1 (28:55)
So the best way to get us is we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Instagram, Twitter @rucksnacks. So just come on board there, ping us a DM or whatever, and we’ll get back to and answer any questions you have.

Speaker 2 (29:09)
Absolutely, Ben. Well, Colm, that was fantastic. Thank you very much. And I’m sure you really enjoyed listening to Colm and his story. So thanks very much for this episode of Amazing Food and Drink, and I’ll see you again soon.

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