The sweet taste of success

Innovation awards finalist: Fulfil Nutrition sold 15 million bars of its healthy confection in its first year

Put together two friends, a fitness regime, protein bars with a bad taste, and a kids' chocolate-making machine and you've got the unlikely recipe for the fastest growing brand on Ireland's snack bar market. That's the story of Fulfil Nutrition and their range of healthy snack bars which can be found in supermarkets, pharmacies, fitness clubs, and health stores across the Ireland, the UK and Europe.

It begins with co-founders Niall McGrath and Tom Gannon working together in a different business. "Tom signed up for an intensive personal fitness course and he was eating these protein bars as part of it," McGrath recalls. "I'd see him eating a bar during a meeting or whatever and I was interested in them. I tried a bar one day and I thought it was terrible – the texture was gritty and the taste was just awful."

That sparked a thought process and McGrath carried out some research into nutrition bars and healthy snacks. “I found a lot of admirable stuff about them but there was very poor execution.”

That might have been the end of it but chance intervened one Saturday morning when McGrath was watching cartoons on the Nickelodeon TV channel with his four children. “An ad for a chocolate bar-making kit came on and that set me thinking. I bought one and played with it with the kids for a while and then thought about making protein bars with it. I bought some protein shakes and mixed them in with the chocolate and made some bars. I thought they would taste good but they were awful.”

He wasn't about to give up though. "We brought in a nutritionist, Prof Gareth Williams, as well as Olympian and chef David Gillick to help us get it right. We spent two years developing the bars and finally got it right at the end of 2015. We launched in January 2016."

Demand for the product exceeded all expectations. “We thought we might sell one million bars, and that was us being optimistic. We actually sold 15 million in the first year.”

He attributes this success to the characteristics of the bars. “Our innovation was to take the world of confectionery and the world of protein bars and bring them together. They are bars that are better four you but taste like the chocolate bars you know and love. That’s why we are in a rush to roll out globally. We have first mover advantage at the moment and we want to exploit that as quickly as possible.”

This crossover status is reflected in the wide spread of retailers selling the bars. "All of the big multiples like Tesco, Dunnes and SuperValu stock them," McGrath points out. "They have all been fantastic supporters – as have Penneys. You will also find them in newsagents and places like hotels and sports clubs. In the UK we are in WH Smith, Sainsbury's, Tesco among others. We are in a number of supermarket chains in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium as well."

The future lies in continued innovation and global expansion. There are already 12 flavours of bar on sale, with more on the way. “We are growing rapidly,” he says. “We ran out of space in our premises and had to expand back in January. We have a huge new product development line. We are constantly innovating. The bars are made for us under contract in five facilities across Europe and we had our first production run in the US at the end of June.”

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