The countdown to The Late Late Toy Show is well and truly on, and with it comes the beginnings of Christmas. Once Ryan Tubridy bursts onto our screens with a boisterous opening number, it means that it's time to put on those festive pyjamas, put up the decorations, pour yourself a hot chocolate, and get into the Christmas spirit.

This year, the country has made a concerted effort to support Irish businesses, whether it be shopping for presents from a small start-up, ordering take-home boxes from local takeaways, or even making an effort to get your morning coffee from a family-owned café. 

Now, as we ready our kitchens for mince pies, chocolates, pastries, puddings, cheeseboards, and any other number of festive treats, we are once again suggesting that you shop local.

Below, we have listed a number of Irish food producers to get you started.

Gourmet Preserves
These days, this impressive family business is set up as an alternative farm enterprise situated near the heritage town of Abbeyleix, Co Laois, but it hasn't always been such a big operation. Twenty years ago, Helen Gee's passion for food led her to reviving her favourite family recipes at home. From her small kitchen, she started to build a brand that promised to create marmalade, chutneys, preserves, and jams that your granny would be proud of.

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Mella's Irish Butter Fudge
Many years ago, in Bantry in West Cork, a young school-girl started to make fudge for her local sweet shop. As time went on, having tried and tested a few career paths, that same girl found her way back to confectionery. And thank goodness for that. Using only the best ingredients, including locally produced Irish butter, Mella's Fudge comes in vanilla, rum & raisin, walnut, and chocolate.

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Skelligs
The doors of this Kerry factory opened in 1996 with just two quaint rooms to it's name - one for making chocolate and one for packaging. Fast forward to 2020, and having survived a fire in 2011, the homegrown operation has transformed into a state of the art production facility offering up a range of mouthwatering truffles, shards, pouches, clusters, brittles, and bars of chocolate. 

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Hassetts Bakery
In 1984, chef Michael Hassetts started his own bakery in Douglas, Co. Cork. Over the subsequent years, the business grew legs and soon had four shops in Cork to its name as well as multiple stockists across the country. Their magnificent menu includes artisan bread, cakes, pastries, tarts, biscuits, crackers, granolas, chocolates, and even ice creams. 

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Olly's Farm
In 2012, Olly and Chris bought a house with some land in the Dublin mountains. Situated in the valley of Glenasmole, they set about making their small farm as self-sufficient as possible by growing their own produce. As a beekeeper, Olly also decided to start producing pure Irish raw honey. By 2019, he had 130 colonies and more honey than he could handle. These days, he sells his honey by location whether it be a Dalkey Spring Blossom Honey or a Lucan Softset Honey.

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Miena's Handmade Nougat 
Located in the Glen of Imaal, a remote glen in the western Wicklow Mountains, this homemade nougat was created in 2012 by South African woman Willemien Rust. Made in small batches, and using locally sourced ingredients, the small operation grew quickly and, before long, Willemien and her family were converting their garage into a purpose-built Nougat Kitchen. By 2016, Miena's won Gold (Chocolate, Hazelnut & Cranberry nougat) and Bronze (Almond & Pistachio) at the Free From Food Award.

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WASi 
Having grown up on a small family farm just outside Bantry, West Cork, Claire O'Sullivan has always had an appreciation for seaweed, and the fundamental role it had in the health of both her land and her family. With the support of her partner Eli, Claire is now set on getting seaweed back in Irish kitchens through her brand, WASi - a beautiful range of wild Irish seaweed pesto.

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Grá Chocolates
Created by head chef Grainne Mullins, each and every piece of Grá Chocolate is crafted with care in painstaking detail. Made in small batches in Kilchreest, Co. Galway, the bonbons are hand-painted and take a total of three days to create. As if that wasn't enough, each mould is polished individually to ensure that each piece retains its shine. 

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Ballymore Organics
Irish stoneground flour and porridge oats are grown and milled by James Kelly in Ballymore Eustace in Co. Kildare. The flour is unbleached and without additives or preservatives, while the oats are not steam cooked during milling to preserve the full flavour and nutritional benefits of the oats. Whether you're baking bread, pastries, scones or cake, the 2020 harvest is ready to go.

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Mileeven 
Beginning with her husband's two bee hives in the back garden of their Dublin home, Eilis and Joe Gough established their honey business in 1988. Now, years later, the operation is run by Eilis and her daughter Sarah, in the slightly roomier location of Piltown, Co. Kilkenny, to accommodate their 100 hives. Their tasty range of Irish honey has grown to include Manuka honey, Organic honey, Honeycomb, and Lavender honey.

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Ballymakenny Potatoes
Husband and wife team, Maria and David Flynn, have worked hard to grow six varieties of Irish heritage and speciality potatoes on their family farm in Drogheda. According to their website, the two are "farming their way through life", and it looks like they're doing a good job of it as Chef JM McMahon credits their products as "probably the best spuds in Ireland".

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Wild About
Grown on a small permaculture farm on the outskirts of Monamolin, Co. Wexford, Fiona and Malcolm Falconer have created a range of hand-crafted syrups, oils, pesto, chutneys and relishes. Specialising in native wild ingredients, and credited as Ireland's first commercial nettle farm, Wild About grow their nettles from seed in polytunnels to produce their award winning products.

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Rebel Chilli
From humble beginnings in his mother's kitchen, Paul Moore began making chilli sauce with the help of his brother, selling jars at the local farmer’s markets in Cork. In 2014, he decided to go full-time with the business and quickly found success with his range of fresh and zingy chilli sauces. Before long, Rebel Chilli won Gold for their Red Chilli at the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards.

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Sisú
This Dublin-based startup was founded in 2015 by nutritionists Fiona and Brian McGann. Originally derived from a Finnish root word that implies determination, courage, and willpower, SiSú amounts to an all-purpose philosophy of life. They have a range of healthy products including kombucha, green juice, and turmeric shots that aim to keep your gut feeling good.

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