New Innovator: Jack Parsons
O’Kale Krisps packs a nutritional punch
Jack Parsons: “I tinkered around with a few ideas while at UCD, but settled on O’Kale Krisps as the product has a lot of things going for it”
Kale is a superstar in the functional foods firmament. It has more iron than beef, twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange and more calcium than a glass of milk. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory and bursting with antioxidants.
So why isn’t it more popular? Probably because its bitter flavour and tough structure put people off.
But Jack Parsons, founder of O’Kale Krisps, has found a way to convert consumers to this wonder veg by giving it a crisp-like crunchiness and adding different flavourings to enhance the taste.
Parsons is just 22 years old, and has already notched up a string of business ventures from running events to setting up a student publishing platform. He started O’Kale’s while studying for his finals in business and law at UCD.
Parsons is very food aware as he has been involved in sports since he was young and played underage Gaelic football for Galway.
“I tinkered around with a few ideas while at UCD, but settled on O’Kale Krisps as the product has a lot of things going for it including the fact that the crisps are super-healthy and the trend for healthy eating is growing.
“What makes our crisps unique is that they are air-dried. This means all the nutrition from the whole ingredients remains intact.”
Also good news for the diet police is that this nutritionally dense (in a good way) snack contains just 75 calories per packet.
O’Kale Krisps made their retail debut in November last year, and are in 25 stores in the west of Ireland. The company has recently participated in the SuperValu food academy, and will begin launching across the country in September.
The venture also won the 2017 UCD student start-up Stars Programme. The product is available online, and there has been brisk interest from Ireland and the UK. There are three flavours: original, spicy and cheesy, and the product retails at around €2.60 per tub.
O’Kale Krisps is something of a family affair as the original idea came from Parsons’ younger sister Sally.
“Sally started making kale crisps to enter in a local entrepreneurial competition in 2012 – and, yes, of course she won!” he says. “I was on a student visa in California, and I saw at first-hand how the ‘green stuff’ was insanely popular in the USA as a nutritional powerhouse. But no matter how many kale snacks I tried [quite a few actually] none were as tasty as Sally’s.
“We use local organic kale and fresh natural ingredients, and we can’t keep up with demand. Air-dried snacks are quite popular in the USA, but are only starting to gain popularity in Ireland. We see O’Kale Krisps as the perfect lunch box snack, and with a lot of schools bringing in strict no junk food policies we see no reason why our product can’t fill the gap for a healthy treat for children at school.”
The snack market is already crowded, but Parsons believes there is still room for O’Kale to carve out a niche.
“We have found a gap for a low-calorie, highly-nutritious snack. A lot of nutritious snacks tend to be high in calories while low-calorie snacks tend to be low in nutrition. We fill the gap between the two.”
Start-up costs for the business have been around €5,000, and Parsons is currently making the product by hand. However, this is preventing him from scaling up so the next step is to outsource the manufacturing.
“We want to become one of the top-selling healthy snack brands in Ireland in five years’ time, and to build out our offering to help as many people as possible live a healthier life. We are building a loyal O’Kaler community and will continue to adapt and service them any way we can.”