Reinventing the meal
Special Report The Food Works programme has just turned out its first batch of potential future global food entrepreneurs writes Joanna Roberts
Talya Lewin-Russell (left), co-founder of Superlife, with Rachel Flynn (right), co-founder of Nobo.
Chris Hill (left) and Matt Tindal (right) of Orpens Cider.
Len Dunne whose Elivar range of sports supplements will be launched in July.
‘Overall in terms of health, the line-up was very strong,” says Mary Morrissey, programme director of Food Works, a year-long scheme designed help individuals or young companies develop new products suitable for export. In March 2012, more than 100 people applied for the programme, which is a joint initiative by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc to find Ireland’s next global entrepreneurs.
“We had products for children, for the elderly, for sports. I suspect it will be strong in the next phase too; it’s a big trend,” says Morrissey. Eleven successful participants have just emerged from the programme with a viable product, an investor-ready business plan and a firm export strategy. Many of their products target the healthy eating sector.
Applications were whittled down based on whether the proposed product filled a new or previously unidentified consumer need, as well as on the applicants’ track record in business, either in the food sector or elsewhere and whether they have the passion, ability and skill to potentially grow these companies on the domestic and export market.
Participants receive marketing and consumer insight from Bord Bia, feasibility funding from Enterprise Ireland and technical R&D assistance from Teagasc.
“The big thing is feasibility; really assessing the business to see whether it’s sustainable,” says Morrissey. “It’s almost easy to get into the food industry without thinking whether this is really going to work.”
For Rachel Flynn and Brian Nolan, both from Dublin, the future is dairy-free. The first product in their Nobó range is an “ice cream” made from avocado, cashew nuts and coconut cream and sweetened with honey.
“Our goal was to create a pure version of ice cream that had a healthier set of credentials without removing the indulgence aspect,” says Flynn. “There are no refined sugars, no additives.”
With a passion for food but no professional experience – their backgrounds are in advertising and finance – Flynn and Nolan moved to Italy for a few months in 2012 to work in a restaurant and decide if the food industry was for them. They concluded it was, and entered the Food Works programme with the concept for their new product.
“By September we had a product we were happy with. We sold it at farmers’ markets for a couple of months.”
The pair created the recipe themselves but received help from Teagasc to ensure the product was scalable. “We started with almond milk but that would have been impossible on a larger scale so we shifted to coconut milk.
“In the beginning you’re so enthusiastic that you want to jump in without analysing the financials or the potential to scale. It slowed us down in a good way – we know there is a business there; we have done the groundwork.”
The aim is for Nobó to be in Irish stores by June, concentrating on independent and premium retailers. After that, sights are set on the export market, with the UK and the US key targets.
There are currently two Superlife products on the market: a superfood smoothie mix (hemp, maca, lucuma, cacao, spirulina, chlorella, kelp and barley grass) and a superfood breakfast topping (hemp, cacao, chia, goji berries and mulberries).