‘If you’re not in the appropriate category, you don’t get State support’

Inside Track: Darragh Hammond, co-founder One Nutrition

Wicklow-based Darragh Hammond and Dominic Galvin have 20 years' experience in the health supplements industry. They've recently given their nutritional supplements brand, One Nutrition, an eco-makeover to appeal to consumer demand and, of course, to help tackle the growing environmental issues over packaging and sustainable sourcing.

With “the purest of ingredients ethically sourced – presented in almost 100 per cent recyclable packaging”, their products are vegan-friendly and sold in reusable amber glass bottles.

What distinguishes your business from your competitors?
We do a lot of raw material testing to ensure the purity of the products. At the end of the day, while we put a lot into producing the products, it's the customers who decide. You have to make sure that your product delivers tangible results for the end consumer.

What has been the biggest challenge that you've had to face?
The ever-changing European legislative environment which governs our industry. We have to work within very tight regulation. We constantly have to be mindful of wording on packaging, of ingredients used and of strength of ingredients – it's constantly changing in Europe.

Then the VAT which was introduced for the first time on food supplements in January last year, that’s 13.5 per cent, so that adds an extra level of cost to the consumer. And then there are the unknown ramifications to come of Brexit.

What's been your major success to date?
The One Nutrition range rebrand, which was overseen by our in-house marketing team, was quite a challenge – rebranding 14 products in a short timeframe. We're also proud of the fact that, now, the actual presentation of the products reflects the quality and purity of the ingredients. We've tried to use glass; we've moved from plastic to glass and we are using untreated cardboard for the packaging.

We’ve always had the quality and purity of the ingredients, but maybe the presentation hasn’t reflected the actual quality of the product. The rebranding makes it more appealing to the consumer and the packaging is better for the environment as well.

What more do you think that the Government could do to help SMEs?
Well, I suppose the first thing is to recognise the value that existing SMEs bring to the economy in terms of employment. I think established SMEs get a raw deal when it comes to government agency support, particularly if you're not in the agri-food, pharmaceutical or tech space.

We employ 30 people in Ireland and export to five countries, all without State export assistance. If you don’t tick the box or you’re not in the appropriate category, you don’t get the support. That’s the bottom line.

Do you think the banks are open for business?
Over the years, we've built up a great relationship with our bankers but certainly in the earlier days, even back then in the mid-'90s, it was tough getting bank loans. From what I read in the papers, I don't believe it's really changed.

What's the biggest mistake that you've made in business?
Diversifying into the beauty market, assuming we could replicate success from the food supplements market – it was very different. There was lot of learning there. We lost a chunk of cash and bruised our egos but at the end of the day, you have to put it down to the price of an education.

Whom do you admire in business? And why?
I'd have to say I admire anyone who takes the risk and sets up a business. It takes a lot of hard work and personal financial risk. People don't realise how hard it is to set up and grow a business. I suppose any new entrepreneur who takes the plunge, I'd have to admire them, knowing myself, how difficult it is.

What's the best piece of business advice that you've ever received?
To always respect your customers because they put food on your table.

How do you see the short-term future of your business?
We'd like to make One Nutrition the leading Irish food supplement brand. That will be our short-term plan. Growing 40-50 per cent month on month in normal times and expanding the product range. We'll add, maybe, another three or four new products within the range this year.

What's your business worth? And would you sell it?
No. I mean, we've a long way to go with the brand in terms of growth. For the foreseeable future, we don't see us putting the brand on the market, or the company for that matter.

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