New Innovator: Foods of Athenry

Siobhan and Paul Lawless of Foods of Athenry

Siobhan and Paul Lawless of Foods of Athenry

 

Huge strides have been made in the quality and taste of home-produced gluten-free food products. A number of Irish companies have focused on this niche as demand for gluten-free food has grown among those avoiding wheat by choice rather than medical necessity.

Galway-based Foods of Athenry has been in the bakery business for the last nine years making standard and gluten-free products.

Aware of imminent legislation that would greatly tighten up the rules on production of such products, Siobhan and Paul Lawless built a dedicated production facility in 2010 and expanded their line-up.

They have launched a range of crackers and granola bars, and this summer sees the launch of their range of breakfast cereals targeted at both coeliacs and wheat avoiding health-conscious consumers.

There are three products in the cereal range, a Nutty Crunch granola with no refined sugar, a sweeter Strawberry Vanilla granola and a nut, seed, and berry muesli.

They employ 12 staff and Siobhan Lawless says interest in wheat-free diets from personalities such as Posh Spice has raised the profile of gluten-free food, but also raised the bar in terms of people’s expectations.

“The problem with gluten-free up to now is that most of it was imported, around 80 per cent, and as shelf life was an issue it contained preservatives and other additives.

“We felt there was little available that could be considered ‘premium’ when it came to taste that was also free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, GM ingredients and hydrogenation,” Lawless says.

The Lawlesses set up their bakery - with help from Galway Rural Development - in the 1990s, and having raised a family with various food-related health issues, they are passionate about making products that are additive free and contain no artificial ingredients.

They also make products suitable for those with specific intolerances such as eggs and sell into a wide range of outlets including Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Superquinn and speciality food stores.

“We are about making products that taste and look as good as their mainstream counterparts and are attractively packaged. Traditionally gluten-free products looked really dull,” Lawless says.

“We are also focused on developing unique products so our gluten-free twice-baked soda cracker is the only product of its kind in the UK and Ireland, and we are the only ones manufacturing our type of gluten-free ‘grab & go’ bars here too.

“For us, the future lies in exporting and we have already begun selling in the UK, Germany, Spain, France, the US and Dubai. We have 27 taste awards under our belt so we feel we must be doing something right.”

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