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Food Works - A Recipe for Success for Entrepreneurs

Dairy free ice-cream, biodegradable chewing gum, premium Irish vodka and sustainable seafood butter are a flavour of the new and soon-to-be launched innovative food and drink products developed by Irish entrepreneurs participating in Food Works, a training and development programme jointly run by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc.

Established in 2012, Food Works was set up to identify and nurture export-orientated entrepreneurs who want to be part of Ireland’s growing food and drink industry. Through a series of workshops and one to one mentoring, successful participants are given an invaluable range of practical business supports required to develop an initial concept into a winning food product with international appeal and global export potential. The available supports include consumer market research, business plan development, technical advice, commercial viability testing in addition to access to fast track access to research and development (R&D) facilities and possible investors and state funding.

Today (Thursday June 26th) marks the conclusion of Food Works 2014 and registration for Food Works 2015 is now open. Over the past two years, following a competitive process attracting in excess of 150 applications, a total of 43 start-ups from dairy, snacks, meat, seafood and beverages have participated in the programme.

Food Works Success Stories
Food Works (2012/2013)
Elivar, the world’s first range of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals tailored specifically for athletes and active sports people over 35 years of age participated in the inaugural Food Works programme. The company, owned and managed by Donal Hanrahan and Len Dunne, has since secured investment through Enterprise Ireland and the Halo Business Angel Partnership and is currently focusing on sales in the UK market.

Meanwhile, IASC (Atlantic Seafood Company of Ireland), a Cork based company who produce a range of Irish shellfish butters using Irish mussels, brown crabmeat and wild foraged Dillisk seaweed, also participated in Food Works 2012/2013. Branded as the world’s first Umami butter, IASC’s versatile products are used as traditional butters and / or a natural flavour-enhancer and ingredient for fish dishes, steak, risottos and chowder etc. In addition to listings with 30 Musgrave’s outlets nationwide, the products are currently used by more than 300 foodservice outlets and restaurants across the UK and Ireland. IASC also received EI HPSU investment.

Following a 20 year career as an investment banker in Toronto and New York, Dermot Hanley signed up last year to help develop and launch Nusli - a healthy, natural yogurt using local ingredients including Killowen Yogurts, Kells Wholemeal, Flahavan Oats and Ballycross Apples. As part of the Food Works programme, Dermot has launched three new products from an initial concept to retail shelves. Nusli yogurts are currently available in retail stores nationwide including Spar, Supervalu, Dunnes Stores and Applegreen.

The award winning Orpens Cider is the brainchild of Matthew Tindall and Chris Hill, two former wine industry professionals and another Food Works success story. Orpens completed the programme in 2013 and following a successful initial trial, in February this year they secured a listing with 65 Tesco stores nationwide, growing their presence in the Irish market. Orpens have recently secured a distributor in the UK and the export market is now the key priority for them.

Food Works (2014)
Laura Murphy started out with a career in music, however she has now turned her attention to brewing Kombucha Tea – containing live cultures is it a naturally carbonated healthy alternative to soft drinks. Originating in East Asia, kombucha is an ancient drink believed to be a source of chi, the invigorating life force. Based in Gweedore, Co.Donegal, Laura is the innovator behind the Synerchi Kombucha brand and she has recently secured investment from Raymond Coyle of Largo Foods. While final distribution planning is underway, the key outlets will be retail, pharmacies, wholesalers and health shops. The company is projecting a sales turnover of €8 million within the next three years, predominantly focusing on the UK and Ireland markets.

This year’s Food Works programme also included Patrick Shelley, founder of Origin Spirits and formerly Commercial Director LVMH Moët Hennessy Russia, who is launching a new upper premium Irish vodka for international markets; Robert and Louise Doyle from Irepak, the company behind a new non-fat gluten free greek yogurt with high protein content aimed at active men; Simon Lynch and Quincey Fennelly, co-founders of Wicklow Wolf craft beers and Liam Ryan and Eamon Murphy from Mr. Gum Innovation who have developed a biodegradable chewing gum. While the companies and entrepreneurs are at various stages of development, each is working towards exporting their products within the next 12 months.

Food Works 2015
The Food Works team is now recruiting for next years programme and over the coming months, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc will run a series of ‘drop in clinics’ nationwide to assist potential participants with their applications. For more information on the clinics or to register your interest in Food Works 2015, visit www.foodworksireland.ie 

Food Works is open to all determined and energetic individuals with an interest in building an international food business in Ireland. The ideal candidates are ambitious entrepreneurs or companies less than 4 years trading that wish to target new exports markets and scale their business. It is envisaged that the company will have an innovative product either already developed or in development. The Food Works programme aims to help these young companies to realise their full potential to achieve significant scale and become major international businesses in markets across the globe. Projects will be introduced to suitable investors to help them to fund a scalable business during the programme. Candidates may apply on an individual basis, as part of a team or a company if it has been in existence for less than 4 years.