This question arose during a recent family holiday in the smart alpine town of Chamonix in the French Alps.
The town sports a number of high end shops specialising in outdoor wear, equipment and accessories. With its proximity to the Mont Blanc Massif it’s a natural mecca for climbers, winter sports enthusiasts and lovers of the outdoors. Almost every hotel promises an amazing view of the mountains and when you get there you understand why. The Massif towers over the town providing a jaw dropping spectacle which feels almost too close to be real.
Also in Chamonix is a small chain of confectioners Aux Petits Gourmands which makes the most of its adjacency to Europe’s highest mountain. The menu for the sit-in café features a selection of Summit Chocolates dedicated to the famous peaks nearby, all with heights over 4,000m. There is also a retail range of chocolates branded 4810 (the height of Mont Blanc) which are in the shape of mini-mountains and impress in their detail, memorability and uniqueness.
It got me thinking.
Could this work for a topographical or cultural heritage site in Ireland (or any other country for that matter)? Is there an opportunity for one or more of Ireland’s unique and ancient features to be fashioned into a commercially viable food product that people (particularly visitors) would like to buy?
Some years ago while working in food exports I was approached by someone who mooted the idea of developing a soda bread baked in the shape of the island of Ireland. Which could be served at ambassador receptions and gatherings of the Irish diaspora around the world. At the time it was difficult to think beyond the practicalities of devising a suitable loaf tin that would be able to effectively carve out Ireland’s craggy coastline in all its glory. The core idea, though, of using Ireland’s distinctiveness as a key selling point and a basis for product development, was pretty valid.
A number of food and beverage companies have used their connections with mountains and the outdoors to convey brand credentials, a point of difference and sometimes health cues. Toblerone and the Swiss Mountains. Alpen and the French Alps. Coors Light and the Rocky Mountains. All brands with longevity.
Perhaps one of the most famous foodstuffs to be associated with high altitude is Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake which Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay ate at the summit of Mount Everest during their successful ascent in 1953. The “cake” is still popular with mountaineers and is widely believed to be the world’s first energy bar.
Some Irish chocolate companies do make good use of Ireland’s landscape and cityscapes in their branding and packaging designs. Skelligs Chocolates branding reflects the famous Skellig islands; Butlers Chocolates has a range of Dublin (and other cities) branded chocolate boxes and tins; and Clare based Hazel Mountain Chocolates has recently launched a new Burren Truffle Collection gift box, with the brand design highlighting aspects of the Burren landscape.
But what is Ireland’s Mont Blanc? My thoughts below, and please feel free to add your own suggestions …
- The Cliffs of Moher
- Ben Bulben
- The Skelligs Rocks
- Newgrange Neolithic Tomb
- Round Tower of Glendalough
- Brownshill Dolmen
- The Burren
- The Book of Kells
- Dun Briste Sea Stacks
- The Giant’s Causeway