Niall Moloney is a dietician who specialises in sports and exercise nutrition so his world generally revolves around healthy eating. But he admits to having a sweet tooth and a love of ice cream in particular and says he found it practically impossible to find an alternative frozen treat that was both healthy and nice to eat. This led him to develop PowCow, a high protein, reduced fat, reduced sugar, frozen yogurt which he describes as "the perfect guilt-free treat after exercising".
PowCow is made from Greek-style yoghurt and Moloney tried out more than 200 recipes at his kitchen table with his budget-buy ice cream maker before coming up with one that hit the spot. “People kept telling me they got really fed up with the protein snacks and drinks on the market because they didn’t much like the taste of them,” he says. “PowCow has a rich, really creamy taste but also a great nutritional profile as each 125ml portion has 15g of protein, and contains less than 110Kcal and 80 per cent less sugar and fat than conventional ice creams or frozen yogurts.
“From working with both professional athletes [including the Connacht Rugby Academy] and private clients with weight and diabetes issues, I could see a gap in the market for a healthy sweet treat as there was a real problem sourcing high-protein snacks that were good to eat,” Moloney adds. “There are currently no high-protein frozen yogurts on the market. Greek yoghurt is a growing market sector and PowCow is the first Greek-style frozen yogurt in its segment.” PowCow is sold in either 125ml or 500ml tubs in three flavours: Cool Coconut, Heavenly Chocolate and Passionfruit & Mango.
Moloney studied dietetics at the University of Hertfordshire followed by post-graduate studies at the University of Coventry. He then went into a research and development role in the food industry with a company specialising in meals for hospitals and nursing homes. In 2011, he returned to Ireland to start a nutrition department for international catering company, Aramark. From Aramark he moved to Danone's medical division, Nutricia, and worked there in regulatory affairs and sales. He founded PowCow in 2015.
PowCow was soft launched in Ireland through the SuperValu Academy last year. Based on feedback, the company has since tweaked its recipes and redesigned its packaging. It is now listed in about 30 SuperValu outlets in the greater Dublin area and in 20 health food and sports supplements stores.
The next step, Moloney hopes, will be a national listing with SuperValu and the roll out of PowCow to more health and independent retailers here. However, he has his sights firmly set on conquering international markets.
"We have been approached by buyers in the Middle East and Sweden and are in early stage talks with both," he says. "We are also planning a move into the UK in the next six months through a potential listing with a large health food store chain. The immediate challenge is to build sales and then look for funding to bring the company to the next level."
To get PowWow up and running, Moloney used the facilities of a small ice-cream producer to make the product himself once a week. But as demand grew it became clear this was unsustainable. He needed to scale up and spent almost a year trying unsuccessfully to find a company in Ireland willing to make PowCow. The product is currently being produced in the UK, but there is a possibility that its manufacturer will move some of its production to Ireland in the months ahead to soften the effects of Brexit.
Start-up costs to date have been in the region of €125,000, with €75,000 invested by Moloney and the rest coming in competitive start funding from Enterprise Ireland. Moloney participated in the New Frontiers entrepreneur's programme at DIT Hothouse during 2015 and the company now employs three people.