Heavenly Tasty Organics
Shauna McCarney: "What I wanted was a little convenience without the guilt."
NEW INNOVATOR:For small, young food companies, the moment always comes when a decision has to be made about how to grow the business. Should they keep everything in-house and try to juggle production, sales and marketing or should they sub-contract the manufacturing and focus on building sales?
This was the dilemma faced by Shauna McCarney, founder of fledgling baby food company Heavenly Tasty Organics, which is about to extend its product line-up with a new range of frozen ready meals for babies aged up to 12 months.
The company started out producing frozen pureed fruit and vegetable products. While reaction to the products was very positive, finding the time to drive sales was difficult.
“You want to get out there and build awareness of your business, but you also have to manage production and try to fit in new product development as well,” McCarney says. “It’s a huge challenge when there are just two of you and you’re on a budget.”
Finding a suitable sub-contractor was difficult, as the company’s products are certified organic which means specific manufacturing criteria have to be met. McCarney was also determined to find a sub-contractor close to home in order to monitor quality.
After a long search, she found a progressive, young food company keen to work with her and willing to bear the cost of getting organic certification.
With production sorted out, McCarney was able to shift her attention to sales. In August last year, the company had a major breakthrough when SuperValu began listing its products.
McCarney got the idea for her business when she was trying to find freshly prepared organic foods for her young babies as opposed to meals in jars.
“What I wanted was a little convenience, without the guilt,” she says. “Then it transpired that my children have multiple food allergies and this spurred me on to launch the business. I spent four years working on the concept before launching in 2011.
“The challenge is to educate people to the idea of shopping for baby food in the frozen aisles. It’s different to what parents are used to, but by going this route we can offer foods with no additives, preservatives or added sugar that are also lactose and gluten-free.”
Moving to a sub-contractor has meant revisiting the cost base, but McCarney says by virtue of the fact that volumes have gone up, the price per unit has actually come down.
She estimates the cost of getting the Co Tyrone-based business to this point at about £100,000, which has been primarily funded from personal resources with some assistance from Invest Northern Ireland.