Just How Mama Used to Make it
May 13, 2013
THE snack that Clotilde Fitzgibbon missed most when she came to Ireland in 1990 was the fruit compóte her mother used to make and serve to her family in France.
It was delicious and nutritious and she was puzzled why a similar product was not available in Ireland, as it was very popular in her native country, especially with children.
But that was to change after Clotilde introduced her own homemade compóte to Irish consumers who have now developed a taste for the natural and versatile product that is high in vitamin C and dietary fibre.
The background to it all is that she married tillage farmer Paddy Fitzgibbon and settled in Glanworth, Co Cork. The couple have three children, Celine (18), Jerome (16) and Laetitia (11).
But it was not until local dairy farmer Pat Landers asked her what French products might work in Ireland that she thought about turning her skills in making fruit compóte into a small food business.
Having grown up on a farm in France, surrounded by apple trees and with a love of cooking and a passion for wholesome produce, she set up an artisan food company with Pat Landers and named it, Clotilde’s Fruit Compóte.
Fruit compóte was, however, a new product for many Irish consumers, but she assured them it was a 100% natural product, with no added sugar or preservatives, and soon it began to attract growing interest.
The name is derived from the French word compóte, meaning mixture. It was originally served as an afternoon snack with sour cream and biscuits. During the Renaissance, it was served chilled at the end of dinner.
Compóte, which originated from 17th century France, can be used as a daily snack on its own or added to natural yoghurts, porridge, cereals, muesli, bread and toast, ice cream, fruit tarts or as a dessert.
Her varieties of compóte have become much sought after in Munster where they are now being sold in 25 shops including SuperValu and Centra stores, a mere two years after going on the market, as well at farmers markets and in health shops.
She is producing 400 pots of compóte per week in her kitchen at Glanworth but the production target is 1,000 pots a week with a renewed focus on targeting the market in Dublin about to be planned.
“The next big decision will be on commercialising the operation through outsourcing the production,” she said.
Meanwhile, Clotilde’s Compote, which comes in six different flavours, is proving popular across with all age groups and is especially suitable for coeliacs and diabetics and for people who cannot digest raw fruit.
It can also represent one of the five portions of fruit and vegetables that health experts are urging people to eat every day.
Clotilde, who has a degree in international trade, completed the Ballyhoura Country code of practice, which puts special emphasis on traceability and labelling verified by independent assessment.
She was one of just 11 food producers selected to participate in last year’s Enterprise Ireland SuperValu supplier development programme which is aimed at assisting emerging Irish food companies to achieve retail listings.
Developed by Enterprise Ireland in conjunction with SuperValu, and assisted by Bord Bia and Teagasc, the programme delivers support for small or emerging food companies to achieve the product quality, service standards and technical innovation necessary to reach supermarket shelves.
Being chosen for the programme, which combines workshops, delivered by both SuperValu and food industry experts, and one to one mentoring, was a significant achievement by Clotilde’s Fruit Compóte.
Participation is only offered to companies that have the potential to meet Enterprise Ireland’s criteria for high potential start-ups and who also have the potential to offer SuperValu and its retail partners a product or service, which adds value and difference for its customers.
An active member of the Taste of Ballyhoura Country, the brand initiative established by Ballyhoura Development to showcase the region’s craftisan foods, Clotilde’s Compóte is capturing market share and public attention.
Clotilde, who also teaches French at two primary schools in Fermoy, and is active in sports activities, is particularly delighted to be making the varieties of compóte her mother used to serve her family in northern France, when she was a child, and to be introducing Irish consumers to a food so close to her heart.
“The compóte are as delicious and nutritious as the ones I used to have at meal times in France. It is like being back at home,” she said.