Ke Nako Biltong… It’s time
It’s time for Biltong! Ke Nako Biltong is a South African delight taking Ireland by storm.
In a world where culinary diversity is celebrated, Ke Nako Biltong has managed to captivate the taste buds of many, creating a cult-like following in Ireland. Founded in 2012 by Alanagh Chipperfield and Ilse Van Staden, this small business has grown from humble beginnings to become Northern Ireland’s most awarded South African Biltong producer.
The journey of Ke Nako Biltong started in Belfast, where it emerged at local markets from the back of a truck and trailer. In 2013, their first biltong industrial dryers arrived in Northern Ireland, signalling a turning point for the business. By 2014, they found a home at Ballylagan Organic Farm, where they are still based today. Despite their success, they remain loyal to their roots and continue to attend local markets across the island of Ireland every weekend.
The name “Ke Nako Biltong” holds significant meaning, derived from Setswana, a language spoken in South Africa. Translated as “it’s time for Biltong,” the name reflects the ladies’ passion for introducing this traditional South African delicacy to the Irish market. Biltong is thinly sliced dried & cured meat, usually made from beef. It is usually marinated in a mixture of vinegar, salt, spices, and herbs and then left to dry in a cool temperature regulated dryer for several days or even weeks.
Before embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, Ilse Van Staden was a master butcher, formerly a teacher in South Africa and a former Irish international rugby player. Alanagh Chipperfield, on the other hand, was and still is a lecturer at Belfast Met, teaching Animal Sciences. The couple met in South Africa, got married, and moved back to Northern Ireland. It was during this time that Ilse noticed a void in the market for authentic biltong, prompting them to start making it for themselves. However, when their friends kept taking it off their hands, they realized there was a viable market for their product.
In 2017, Alanagh and Ilse’s business received a significant boost when they participated in the Top of the Shop show. Little did they know that their product would not only win the meat round but also claim the grand final of the entire competition. The show aired in 2018, catapulting Ke Nako Biltong into the spotlight and generating over £30k worth of orders.
At Ke Nako Biltong, their commitment to quality and taste is paramount. In fact, they would declare this is what sets them apart from any of their competitors. As Northern Ireland’s most awarded South African product producer, they take pride in offering a range of meat products and subscriptions that are sure to satisfy even the most discerning palates. Their biltong, made from the tender beef of organically reared and retired dairy cows, is preserved using their special blend of spices, making it the best in the UK and Ireland. For those seeking a kick of flavour, they also offer chilli and garlic variants.
In addition, their droëwors, a dry sausage made from ground beef and stuffed in a lamb casing, is available in original, chilli, or garlic flavours. When they are at local markets, their customers are given the unique experience of selecting their desired biltong at local markets, just as it is done in South Africa. Custom orders are also welcomed, allowing customers to tailor their biltong to their specific preferences.
“Whatever we do, our products must be local, organic, and ethical. This is what sets us apart and we are committed to this cause.” – Alanagh Chipperfield
When it comes to their target market, Ke Nako Biltong primarily caters to South African expats and dried and cured meat enthusiasts. Their business has thrived through word-of-mouth recommendations and endorsements from well-known rugby players, bodybuilders, and CrossFit athletes. With its high concentration of protein and minimal sugar content, biltong has become a popular snack among fitness enthusiasts.
The accolades Ke Nako Biltong has accumulated speak volumes about their achievements. Besides winning the Top of the Shop competition, they have been recognized with the Gold Award at the 2018 Blasna hÉireann (Irish Food Awards) and named the top snacking product at the Charcuterie Live Awards of 2020-2021. Their proudest achievement, however, lies in staying true to their vision of ethically and organically sourced products that deliver an authentic South African experience.
Building a strong network has been instrumental in Ke Nako Biltong’s journey. The support received from other producers and their market family has been invaluable. In the close-knit community of vendors, they lookout for one another, sharing market recommendations and lending a helping hand. This sense of camaraderie has fostered a supportive environment for growth.
For guidance and support, Alanagh and Ilse turn to their parents and the owners of Ballylagan Farm, Tom and Patricia. These mentors ask the tough questions and provide valuable guidance, ensuring that Ke Nako Biltong stays on the right path.
Throughout their journey, Alanagh and Ilse have learned valuable lessons. They emphasize the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with Environmental Health Officers, as shortcuts in food production are not an option. Ke Nako Biltong has made a conscious decision to use only organic, high-quality ingredients, prioritizing the integrity of their product over profit margins. The ladies have also recognised the importance of adapting to changing times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ke Nako Biltong launched a mobile app allowing customers to conveniently order their dried meat treats, ensuring they could still supply their loyal clientele while also attracting new customers.
“[In business], you always need to be prepared to innovate and take ideas form other places.”, says Alanagh
Ke Nako Biltong stress the significance of doing thorough research when starting a business and relying on word-of-mouth promotion rather than expensive advertising. Passion and hard work are the driving forces behind their success, and they advise aspiring entrepreneurs to be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
Looking ahead, Alanagh and Ilse have ambitious plans for the future of Ke Nako Biltong. Their vision involves franchising the business, establishing a fleet of trailers that will bring their products to markets across the UK. Inspired by the model of Domino’s Pizza, each trailer will have their ingredients and recipe, ensuring consistent quality across all locations. They also aspire to crack the London market, collaborating with dairy farms to build a sustainable biltong factory.
Managing their health and well-being amidst their busy lives is of utmost importance to Alanagh and Ilse. They find solace in activities such as dog walks, playing American football, and participating in rugby matches at Cook Rugby Club. These moments of respite allow them to recharge and continue their pursuit of culinary excellence.
Ke Nako Biltong has undoubtedly made its mark in Ireland, delighting customers with its authentic South African flavours. With its commitment to quality, ethical sourcing, and innovation, this small business is well on its way to becoming a household name, offering a true taste of South Africa to enthusiasts across the UK and beyond. As they expand their horizons and follow their dreams, Ke Nako Biltong proves that it’s always the right time for biltong.