There’s a lot more to frozen veggies than chips or peas

New innovators: Strong Roots

Samuel Dennigan: “People find self-expression not only through fashion or music, but also through food. That’s what our typical consumer wants.”

Samuel Dennigan: “People find self-expression not only through fashion or music, but also through food. That’s what our typical consumer wants.”

 

Samuel Dennigan is the founder of Strong Roots, a new food business intent on bringing chutzpah to the frozen veg aisle. “Our focus is developing healthy, tasty, premium alternatives to the ‘same old same old’ frozen food options usually found in the freezer section,” says Dennigan, whose company’s first product is oven-baked sweet potato chips. “We are effectively creating a new category within frozen foods which the holy grail of retailing as frozen brings all the benefits of fresh without the perishability.

“Our products will suit everyone from parents cooking for their kids to Paleo diet enthusiasts making sure to get their complex carbohydrates.”

Dennigan’s family owns a major fruit and vegetable distribution business. While working in the family firm, he was involved in the launch of new products such as Sam’s Potatoes and in developing the Green Giant Fresh brand for Ireland. His background is in art and design but his passion has always been food and he set up Strong Roots a year ago.

His company now employs three people, with two more joining next month. Its products are available in SuperValu, independent retailers, Spar shops in Northern Ireland and are about to be listed by Dunnes and Tesco.

“We launched with just myself and marketing director, Indira Fernandez, and focused our efforts on social media, PR and building retailer partnerships,” Dennigan says. “Later this year we will launch a fully integrated marketing campaign to ensure Strong Roots becomes a household name in Ireland and further afield.”

Dennigan has used his design background to ensure his company’s products stand out. Frozen foods are typically packed in bright shiny bags but Strong Roots has chosen a very simple look. “We wanted to have innovation in both the product and the packaging,” Dennigan says. “We’ve introduced a new style of bag with a matte printing process that’s never been done in frozen foods before. The idea is also to bring a new colour palette to the segment to add to the intrigue of the product.”

In an ideal world, Dennigan would like to produce his products in Ireland, but climate and logistics mean the sweet potato chips are coming in from North Carolina, the home of the crop.

“As a start-up, you need someone willing to do lower volumes so I partnered with a farmer in the US who was looking to add value to his crop,” Dennigan says. “If you are big enough, you have more options and hopefully, as our range expands and our volume grows, we can produce other products closer to home.

“New Irish food innovation is not just about putting something in a jar any more. There is an increasing level of complexity in the flavours and processes involved. I believe that ‘food is the new tech’ and that this spike in innovative food technologies will continue.”

Dennigan intends developing Strong Roots as a global brand and is already close to signing deals with two major UK retailers. The cost of getting the business to this point has been about €200,000 funded by Dennigan and a loan from Bank of Ireland.

“Existing products are not competitors because most of them lack the heart, soul and passion we’re putting into Strong Roots,” he says. “They are a commodity whereas we’re producing something unique.

“ Our product actually tastes of what it’s supposed to, not of the salt and sugar often added to frozen food products. Strong Roots is a group of people who believe in good food and want to express themselves in what they eat.

“If you look at Instagram or Pinterest or any other social media platform where people are now living their lives, you will find self-expression not only through fashion or music, but also through food. That’s what we do and that’s what our typical consumer wants.”

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