Get to know Maxine Hyde, General Manager of Ballymaloe Foods
When Ivan Allen grew the tomatoes that his wife, Myrtle Allen, made into a relish and served to guests at Ballymaloe House, could they have known that same relish would become famous around the world?
Myrtle and Ivan’s daughter, Yasmin, had a sharp eye. Recognising the popularity of that singular relish, she took the recipe and with it launched Ballymaloe Foods in 1990.
Thirty-three years on, at 68, Yasmin is still active in the business – she still mixes together the spice blend inside every jar of Ballymaloe Relish. Day-to-day operations are headed up by her daughter – the third generation – Maxine Hyde, General Manager, alongside her brother, Sean, sister, Rose, and sister-in-law, Linda.
It couldn’t be more of a family business if it stuck itself on an ancestry plan shouting, ‘Hey, I’m a Family Business!’ What started with one woman and one product has expanded to a company that employs 40 people, producing a range encompassing chutneys, relishes, sauces, pickles, ketchup, Bolognese sauces, and seasonal specials.
I arrive at Ballymaloe Foods headquarters and immediately am offered a cup of tea. As if to emphasise the company’s genesis, tea arrives on a tray with a proper teapot, milk in a jug, a sugar pot, brown bread, cheese, and a jar of relish.
Maxine refers to their famous relish as ‘The Original Hit’. Her mother started the company when she was just four years; she has literally grown up around the business, but still dives into the relish as happily as I do.
“We got a portable building in the back garden, and that’s where the relish was made for the next five years. There were four kids, and we were all helping; everything was done by hand. I always had an interest in the business side of it; I loved going to shows, seeing the introduction of the product and the selling of it.
Maxine didn’t plan to go into the business straight from college; she took a year off before her studies to work as a chef in the Crawford Art Gallery café. But there was always something that needed doing in her mum’s business: a logo, a proper website, on hand to check emails while Yasmin got on with the busy work of making her condiments.
Maxine found her niche in sales and marketing. There was no-one doing that on a full-time basis, and as a one-member team, she was attending every meeting and event by herself.
“We slowly started building our teams six years ago and now we have great sales, marketing and finance teams. We employ 40 people permanently, and then seasonal temps – especially for beetroot week and Christmas packing.”