How chef Brian McDermott empowers others through the Dunnes Stores Simply Better range

The Dunnes Stores Simply Better range has a well-deserved reputation for award-winning food and drink. Behind the scenes it also champions small Irish producers, helping them to grow while doing what they do best. Brought to you in parnership with Dunnes Stores Simply Better.

Brian McDermott works with the Dunnes Stores Simply Better team to highlight great Irish producers

Chef Brian McDermott, a Donegal native, believes little acorns have started from multiple chats at the producers kitchen table with a cup of tea in hand. As a member of the Simply Better team, he doesn’t just identify the best Irish producers to collaborate with, he starts small businesses on the journey from notable artisan producer to supplying Dunnes Stores shelves nationwide with a new Simply Better product.

Brian’s deep knowledge of the Irish food scene draws on years of experience, from his roles as a development chef, an MC at food festivals around the country and even insights from social media. “I also set up a food Development Centre in Derry, and that has given me a lot of experience of really understanding how we can take a hobby and make it a business. Everyone’s got a startup idea, but is it right and is it right for the market and for trends, and also for categories that we’re looking to grow within Simply Better?”

Working with over 70 small Irish producers, Simply Better isn’t solely about finding exceptional products for Dunnes Stores’ premium food range; it’s about offering support and empowering small producers at a very early stage, while capturing innovation around the country.

“The majority of small producers have never supplied into retail before,” Brian explains. “and they may see it as too big of an ambition. So for us, it’s about starting a conversation and establishing where their capacity is, and then helping them recognise and take credit for what they’ve achieved to date.”

Simply Better takes a slow, measured approach. “This is never a rush, never a race. It is about understanding that person or family. To take the fear out of the process, I will showcase the people that have gone before them in the last couple of years, suggest that they phone and talk to them, ask questions and let their Simply Better experience do the talking. Word of mouth helps remove the fear for people who are first time transitioning their business into retail.”

“The people, the producers are the best part of my job,” says chef Brian McDermott Photo by Joe Dunne

Having recently panelled products from young Irish company, Bon Chocolatiers, Brian reveals that the biggest problem the Simply Better team had that day was narrowing down the selection, as everything presented was worthy of being included.

“But we had to curtail selection to suit where they are at this stage of their business. We don’t want to go in and take them to 100% capacity. We want to help them and allow them to grow their own brand at a pace that suits them.”

As a Simply Better brand ambassador chef Neven Maguire plays a key role in the process. “None of this could be done without Neven,” says Brian. “His involvement is key to getting people on board. A product has to pass Neven and our tasting and he’s a big draw for producers. And I’ve not seen anything like the energy that Derek Gallagher, Head of Simply Better, brings to this as a team leader. There’s real care in it that follows down to each and everyone one of us on the team.”

Brian believes that, ultimately, good people produce good food. “The people, the producers are the best part of my job,” he smiles. “And it’s knowing the difference that Simply Better can make to them and to their business. Seeing the impact of that and how it changes people and gives them confidence to grow is wonderful.”

If you would like to become a Simply Better producer, please contact Brian McDermott info@chefbrianmcdermott.com or Derek Gallagher DGallagher@dunnes-stores.ie

Brought to you in partnership with Dunnes Stores Simply Better