Abdul Aziz investigates how shamrock producers are preparing for their busiest time of year yet — St. Patrick’s Day — and what goes in to it
Every year, the Taoiseach presents the President of the United States with a skillet full of shamrock. It has become a tradition marked in stone on St Patrick’s Day and this year will be no different. Leo Varadkar is expected to give US President Donald Trump a crystal bowl full of shamrock on March 17.
The company which grows the shamrock – Irish Plant International (IPI) Teoranta report that their sales of skillet shamrock were down by 10% last year on the year before. They sold 220,000. However their lapel shamrock sales were up by 20%.
“We sold 100,000 lapel shamrocks last year,” says company director of IPI – James O’Leary. “It seems it’s becoming more fashionable to wear them.
“We’ve plenty of time to go before St Patrick’s Day so we’re hopeful that sales of our skillet shamrocks could improve on last year,” he added. “We’re already getting orders from companies around the country.”
“People love the shamrock because it’s our national emblem and well, Paddy’s Day is celebrated worldwide”
And while you might presume that this small green foliage was grown in Irish soil, you’ll be surprised to learn that in fact was produced in a more modern manner.
IPI Teoranta grows the shamrocks in hydrogel using hydroponics. This manufacturing process allows the shamrock to live longer than it would if it were grown in soil as the roots are left intact. In fact, the company claim the shamrock will last for up to 30 days.
James O’Leary says IPI does not deal directly with the St Patrick’s Day event in Washington, but each year sells the shamrock to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland.
Every year, the company grows approximately half an acre of shamrocks in greenhouses, according to O’Leary. The crop is planted in September and harvested in March ahead of the St Patrick’s Day festivities. This has been the practice for almost 20 years.
“We were first established in 1995 when we were licensed to grow shamrocks in hydrogel using hydroponics and using technology from UCD,” says O’Leary.
“We were supported to establish their production in Ballinaskelligs by Udaras Na Gaeltachta and we have offices in Athlone, Co Westmeath,” he added.
The company took three years to establish itself and since then has steadily grown. It now employs one person full-time and three on a part-time basis. However in the lead up to St Patrick’s Day, some 25 people are taken aboard on a part-time basis.
“For obvious reasons, it’s our busiest time of year,” says Mr. O’Leary. “Approximately 80% of our business is for the Irish market. The rest is international sales.
“We supply to Track Dunes and Supervalu. Added to that, we distribute to a lot of small retailers. The shamrock generally retails at €3.95 in shops.
“Our corporate customers include all the Irish government departments, the Irish Army, Diageo, the Irish Association in the UK and numerous other companies abroad.”
The company, which sells shamrock under the title, Living Shamrock this year initiated a digital marketing campaign which has brought in more business from abroad.
“The biggest order we’ve ever had was from Eircom about 15 years ago,” he adds. “The company gave out shamrock as promotional freebies and they ordered 50,000 shamrocks from us. Next to that was from Tourism Ireland with 12,000 units.
“People love the shamrock because it’s our national emblem and well, Paddy’s Day is celebrated worldwide,” he says. “Irish people are proud of their link with the shamrock.”
For further information visit: livingshamrock.com