Barry Connolly wins Irish Times Business Person of the Year

Majority owner in nutrition bar business Fulfil sold business for reported €160m last year

Barry Connolly has been named Business Person of the Year at the fifth annual Irish Times Business Awards, held in association with Bank of Ireland, at the Mansion House in Dublin.

The former majority shareholder in nutrition bar company Fulfil sold the business last April for a reported €160 million to family-owned confectionery giant Ferrero.

It was Mr Connolly who spotted the gap in the Irish market in 2016 for a high-protein “impulse purchase” bar that, crucially, was aimed at the broader consumer market, not just gym users. And it was he that pushed for its aggressive expansion into the UK where it could prove its global brand value to potential suitors.

“Thank you to The Irish Times and Bank of Ireland. This is a great accolade for the staff at Richmond Marketing Group and those who work at Fulfil,” he said as he received the award.


Mr Connolly’s hands-on involvement with Fulfil, founded just seven years ago, has been key to its success. Struggling to get the company’s pitch across the line in its early days, Mr Connolly reportedly told the then head of impulse buying at WH Smith “don’t be the guy who turned down the Beatles”.

WH Smith and Asda both bought the pitch in what was a critical piece of the puzzle for Fulfil, which assiduously markets itself as a protein-rich product for the general market rather than for a niche health and sports audience.

Originally developed in house at his Richmond Marketing Group, it was spun out into a separate business and is now selling a million cases a year in both Ireland and Britain. It is also selling in the Netherlands, Belgium and, to a smaller extent, Australia and the Middle East.

It was those international ambitions that saw Mr Connolly and his team opt to tap keen buyer interest, in the end choosing Ferrero over a number of other suitors, including private equity houses.

Mr Connolly has a long CV. He is the man who brought Red Bull to Ireland, among a range of high-profile drinks and snacks brands, as well as Heelys children’s roller-shoes.

He has retained control of Fulfil’s North America business, where it has partnered with local snacks behemoth Hershey.

“A great thing about this deal is that we haven’t sold the American business, where we partner with Hershey. The US is one third of the global confectionery market. There are lots of opportunities there. So this is only half time in the game,” Mr Connolly said at the awards ceremony on Thursday.

Fulfil survived the Covid-19 pandemic and has bounced back strongly as restrictions were lifted. Its growing UK presence has been critical to that success as life returned to normal more quickly in that market.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times