‘No brainer’ for every cohort with gut-loving, guilt-free ice cream
New innovator: Clinical nutritionist Conor Saunders brings health food Kefi to market
Conor Saunders: focused his study for an MSc on probiotics and gut health
Nutrition experts have long been aware of the importance of gut health to overall wellbeing.
They’re keen for people to eat foods that help intestinal flora to flourish, but don’t approve of the sugar-laden products often promoted as doing so.
Clinical nutritionist Conor Saunders is passionate about intestinal ecosystems. In his view the best way to help your gut is by eating naturally fermented foods rather than “sweet yoghurty drinks and costly probiotic supplements.”
On the face of it fermented foods don’t sound appealing. But just like Mary Poppins Saunders has created an easy way “to help the medicine go down”.
It’s called Kefi and it’s gut- loving, guilt-free ice cream.
“Basically we’ve uncoupled the normal association of ice cream being ‘bad’ for you. Kefi is actively positively healthful,” says Saunders who focused his study for an MSc on probiotics and gut health.
Recognising that kefir’s somewhat sour taste won’t appeal to everyone in its natural state, Saunders experimented with ways of incorporating it into healthy, no added refined sugar products. The ice cream proved the most popular.
“As it happens frozen probiotics are the best of all as the ideal temperature to preserve the ‘good bugs’ in kefir is in fact -20, or home freezer temperature,” Saunders says. “Many shop-bought supplements decline dramatically in probiotic power post manufacture even when chilled. Kefi experiences no such loss.”
Saunders says Kefi has struck a chord with people for different reasons. “Basically it appeals to just about every special eating cohort out there: those minding their health, weight watchers, diabetics and those on gluten-free regimes and those who have issues around digesting regular dairy products.
Kefi auto-digests which means the enzymes needed to digest dairy (which some people lack) occur naturally in the product so it’s easily digested by all. We’re also the “no-brainer” choice for diabetics fancying a healthful treat as Kefi has close to no impact on blood sugar in a standard serving,” Saunders says. Saunders has put about €30,000 into developing Kefi so far and the product is about to go on national distribution.
It was an innovation voucher from Enterprise Ireland that helped Saunders really nail his product.
“I spent the voucher with Teagasc and they were just fantastic,” he says. “It was so enlightening to see how food professionals work to solve problems. If I’d been doing it all myself I’d still be banging my head against the wall.”
Next to market will be a range of both dairy and non-dairy based probiotic drinks due to be launched in the first quarter of 2016. Saunders’s aim is to build a multieuro export-led operation over the next few years.
“If this means giving up significant equity to the right investor, that’s okay too. The business matters way more than I do,” he says. “The one thing I regret is that our price point isn’t lower (the recommended retail price is €6.49). My initial intention was to democratise good intestinal health. I would hate to be selling just to the privileged and to a certain extent that’s where we began. I’m determined to see our prices moderate over the coming year or two but this can’t happen until we get much more scale. There are also challenges around economic frozen distribution for a small business. We’d really like to buddy up with somebody along the lines of: we’ll drop your stuff or you ours.”
– OLIVE KEOGH