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Giving Up The Rat Race Meant This Couple Could Start A Successful Food Business

Baked In Belfast going from strength to strength

WHEN most people give up city living they do it for life.

But for Suzanne Livingstone and her husband Keith they have returned to country living twice and having made the plunge once again are happier than ever.

Suzanne & Keith

Suzanne & Keith

Suzanne and Keith own Baked In Belfast an artisan company specialising in “happy pottery and quirky jam”.

Two years ago the couple returned to Fermanagh after years of hard work setting up their business and striving for success.

Their move paid off because last year the couple celebrated receiving two wins at the national “food oscars” awards.

Suzanne said: “The Great Taste Awards are regarded as The Foodie Oscars and attract entries from across the globe. Run by The Guild of Fine Food, entries are capped at 10,000 each year and each entry is blind tasted by a panel of judges. The best products are awarded one, two or a coveted three stars.

“Baked in Belfast are delighted to be awarded two Stars for our Pernod & Blackcurrant Jam, a combination the judges felt ‘shouldn’t work, but really does’.11427169_950705078302639_5692570478146561106_n

“They suggested that while this would be delicious on a scone, that it would also work well in a savoury environment, perhaps even with the Christmas Turkey.

“We were also awarded one star for our Gin & Tonic Marmalade, the judges liked the fresh lemon flavour and loved the overall concept.

“As we market ourselves as ‘happy pottery & quirky jam’ we are really delighted to receive these awards, from the industry experts, proving that although we have a fun image and pretty design, its all based on producing top quality food. Our customers know this, it’s why they keep coming back for more so it’s great that the experts agree.”

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Earlier this year Baked In Belfast were also honoured by the World Marmalade Awards for their now famous Gin & Tonic and Whiskey marmalades.

For Suzanne and husband Keith moving to the country has been a raging success.

She explained: “We have given up City life in favour of the country twice. First in 2001 and then again in 2013. We had always enjoyed holidays in Fermanagh and decided to move here in 2001 when we opened a boarding kennels and I dabbled in various crafts, more as a hobby than a business.

“But due to family health reasons we moved back to the city in 2009, opening a coffee shop in East Belfast – where we won Best Customer Service in Belfast in 2012 and we became the first Northern Ireland winner of the Theo Paphitis #SBS (small business Sunday) award on Twitter when he picked our Gin & Tonic Marmalade tweet as a winner.

Suzanne with Theo

Suzanne with Theo Paphitis

“With factories around us closing and café trade dwindling we gave up our café in October 2012, with plans only to make the most of the Christmas Season at Craft Fairs and Markets.

“Then in 2013 we were thinking ‘what are we going to do now?’

“After a very successful Christmas sales period, we returned home to Fermanagh with plans to re-invigorate and re-brand the business. With the aid of a mentor from Fermanagh District Council, under the Survive & Thrive Programme we worked through the most successful areas of our previous business and we decided to rebrand as Baked in Belfast.

“We went back to basics, doing everything ourselves from drawing the design for the labels, developing core flavours and cold calling top delis and farm shops.”

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For Suzanne and Keith returning to country life has given them both a new lease of life and helped them give more time to concentrating on building and expanding their business.

“We find living in the country much more relaxing than city life” said Suzanne, adding: “We have very little noise and virtually no light pollution, with big sky and starry nights. Despite living most of our lives in the city we always had an affinity with the countryside, we enjoy the space, fresh air and lakeside walks, now when we go to Belfast for work, we can’t wait to get back home again.”

Suzanne and Keith now spend their time making, marketing, packaging and selling their hand-made products.

“We hand make modern and original flavours of jam, marmalade and relish using traditional methods to own unique recipes, in a converted outbuilding in our countryside home in the hills of Fermanagh” said Suzanne.

“We also hand-make and hand paint bright, cheery pottery, inspired by our surroundings and our humourous look at life some of which we combine in gift packs and hampers with the jams and marmalades.”

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Suzanne believes Baked In Belfast came along just at the right time when the public were beginning to look for more in their produce than simply a nice taste.

She said: “We definitely think there is a resurgence in people wanting to buy local artisan food and crafts. People want provenance, they want something unique and not mass produced. Customers like to speak to the maker, whether face to face or through Facebook or Twitter, and we have found most know a genuine, quality product when they see it.

“We have always insisted that the ethos of the company is ‘hand made, hand painted’.

“Despite genuine interest from some of the ‘super retailers’ we have steadfastly refused to go down the factory production route, whilst this has possibly, hampered the growth potential of the business we still believe that we are happier remaining true to our ideas.

11692576_961127013927112_4564745888119682844_n“We know that small scale production and traditional methods give our customer a top quality product and this keeps them coming back for more.

“Following the various food scandals in recent years, customers are a lot more discerning in what they buy and from where, they are happy to pay for a quality product they know the provenance of and often have even met the maker.

“Our product is stocked in many top deli’s including Sawyers Belfast and Arcadia Deli.

“We are in some garden centres including Hillmount, Belfast and Bangor and Longwood, Ballyclare. Tourist attractions such as Titanic Belfast and the Belfast Welcome Centre and Kylemore Abbey stock our jams and gift packs and top quality craft shops such as The Wickerman and The Bushmills Gallery also stock us.

“We are also part of the Omagh, Derry and Coleraine Craft Collective shops, selling through Walled City Crafters in Derry and No 4 Queen Street in Coleraine among other places.

For more information log on to www.bakedinbelfast.com or find them on FACEBOOK

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About Tina Calder (114 Articles)
Journalist specialising in showbiz, entertainment, business, trade, human interest and lifestyle.

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