From the Deise to Dubai!

It’s almost a year to the day since the Waterford Blaa received the highest recognition as a quality European foodstuff – PGI status.  This prestigious designation meant that the Waterford Blaa could claim its place among the ranks of internationally renowned products such as Italy’s Parma Ham, France’s Camembert de Normandie Cheese and Greece’s Kalamata Olive Oil. 
And claim it, it did!  The sky seems to be the limit for this once humble bread roll.  Following the appearance of the Waterford blaa on Aer Lingus menus on transatlantic flights, the blaa recently made its debut at the Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai.
This prestigious five star hotel now serves the blaa in its Cavendish Restaurant and McGettigan’s Irish pub.  Mr. Dermot Walsh of M & D Bakery, based in Mount Sion Avenue in Waterford City is delighted that the blaa is making an appearance on Middle Eastern menus.
“The interest in the blaa has mushroomed beyond all expectations.  To see the blaa on the menu of one of the Middle East’s most esteemed hotels is a hugely significant achievement and one that all Waterford blaa bakers can be very proud of.  The Bonnington Towers is the latest addition to the Regency Hotel Groups chain and the owners were intent on bringing a taste of Ireland to Dubai.  We had been speaking with the team in Dubai, through their distributors La Rousse Foods, for a few months and were delighted they chose to bring a taste of Waterford to their restaurants.”
“Back in 2009, M & D Bakery, along with three other traditional family bakeries from County Waterford and South Kilkenny set up the Waterford Blaa Bakers Association. It was our objective to protect the Waterford Blaas as a traditional food product and register it as a protected food product in Europe, which we achieved last year.”
The Blaa Bakers Association consists of M & D Bakery, Hickey’s Bakery, Barron’s Bakery and Kilmacow Bakery, who between them, produce over 100,000 blaas weekly.
Mr. Walsh added, “Since the awarding of PGI status, the blaa can be found throughout Ireland, the UK, France, the U.S. and now in the Middle East.  It’s been an exciting journey from the Deise to Dubai.”
The last year has also seen the blaa receive a host of awards and accolades, both nationally and internationally and it has featured in countless publications, blogs and journals, including the New York Times.
Speaking of the introduction of the Waterford blaa to Middle Eastern fayre, Mr. Michael Hussey, Manager of Bord Bia, Middle East said, “It is wonderful to see the blaa such a long way from home.  We have been working with the Blaa Bakers Association in order to bring this project to fruition.”
Mr. Hussey added, “There are huge opportunities in the Middle East. The market is growing by 5 to 6% year on year in food service due to the growth in tourism in UAE and other factors such as population and income growth in the entire region. However, growing the market is very competitive, so hotels, restaurants and other catering outlets are looking for points of difference to make them stand out from competitors and the Waterford Blaa offers this to discerning customers”.
The story of the Blaa goes back to the 1690’s, when the French Huguenots arrived in Ireland introducing white flour and their baking skills. Over 300 years later, it remains a firm stable, not just of the Waterford diet, but of thousands of Irish diaspora scattered throughout the world. 
Currently the Blaa Baker’s Association is working on a joint marketing initiative to raise awareness of the blaa’s esteemed PGI status and continues to explore new export markets for the now, not so humble blaa!