Three years on from the launch of her first functional food product, Leonie Lynch is getting ready to take Juspy, her Limerick start-up, global.
Juspy is an innovative powder blend, made from natural ingredients such as marine collagen, chicory root fibre, organic cacao and coconut nectar, which is designed to give people a healthy energy boost, without any effort.
“It gives you a boost whenever you need it, as an in-between mini-meal, a snack, coffee substitute, breakfast or quick mid-morning ‘pick me up’,” Lynch said.
Originally from Ballysheedy, Lynch developed the product in response to her own experience with low energy after the birth of her first daughter in 2014.
“Like most new mothers, I was exhausted at the time. I was doing the ‘juggle struggle’ with a new baby and writing up my PhD at the same time,” she said.
“I was running on empty, weaning my daughter and busier than ever. I was completely nutrient-deficient. What I was looking for was something nutritious, but delicious and super easy, but it wasn’t out there.
“Being healthy is easy when you have time, energy and a good night’s sleep. In reality most of us are too busy.”
Juspy started life four years later as a fresh energy drink, aimed primarily at new mothers. Lynch has since re-routed the business, replacing the drink with a new powder blend.
The move will give the start-up greater scope to grow and export, facilitating online orders and easing supply chain logistics.
“Working with a fresh food product starting out, I found that we ended up having to carry out sampling in shops, but looking to sell in retail had never been my plan,” Lynch said.
“I’d wanted a primarily e-commerce business, because, with two young children, I didn’t want to be travelling the country sampling. The fresh product meant Juspy had to be a retail business.”
She decided to “pull” the drink in May 2019, so she could concentrate on developing a more manageable alternative. “It was too early for the market in Ireland,” she said.
“We’d launched it before collagen became trendy here. I couldn’t find a manufacturer and it was expensive to make because of the ingredients. It had a short shelf-life and it had to be chilled throughout the logistical chain.”
Instead, Lynch reformulated the product as a powder, and the decision has made “all the difference” to her fledgling business.
“It has opened up our target market to busy health-conscious consumers, who love healthy and ‘permissible’ indulgence,” Lynch said.
“We now have a 12-month shelf life on the product, which means it can be shipped around the world without any bother. There’s no need for cold transport or storage.”
The move has also brought other benefits. “We kept the high-quality ingredients, but our manufacturing process is now less of an issue and, therefore, more cost-effective,” Lynch said.
“The margins are much better. It’s opened up the e-commerce world to us, over retail, which is where I always wanted to be.”
A former visual artist, Pilates instructor and DJ, Lynch is already selling her new Juspy powder blend in Britain.
She has plans for further expansion into other overseas markets, including Germany and Singapore, and is developing two further products ready for launch in 2022.
“I want Juspy to be a global brand, available across the US, Asia, China, the EU and Australia,” she said.
Juspy sells mainly online directly to customers on Juspy.com, its own site, and via Amazon.co.uk. The start-up had another “exciting partnership” on the way with the online retail giant, Lynch said.
“The product has a RRP of €33.95 and we’re starting to test the retail space with availability in some artisan coffee stores. For the summer, we’re launching Juspy Cool Beans, a cacao and collagen iced coffee, we’re calling a ‘boost on ice’,” she said.
Juspy recently secured a Priming Grant from the Local Enterprise Office in Limerick and Lynch is hoping to hire her first employee soon, having taken on six interns to help her run the business over the summer season.
While she had originally planned to launch her new powder in March 2020, Covid forced her to postpone the move.
“That ended up working out well for us, because it allowed us to do a soft ‘beta launch’ with 200 people instead, and we’ve been able to tweak our recipe, packaging and communications as a result of the feedback we got,” she said.
“Since Covid started, people have also really adapted to ordering online. That’s made running an e-commerce business for the first time much easier.”
Throughout the start-up process, Lynch has made ample use of the various start-up programmes on offer to entrepreneurs in Limerick.
“I went through New Frontiers at Limerick Institute of Technology when I was six months pregnant with my second daughter,” she said.
Lynch has also taken part in Food Works, a government-supported accelerator programme for scalable and export-driven food and drink start-ups, and Going for Growth, a six-month, part-time business development programme for female entrepreneurs.
“I went to a lot of trade fairs and festivals when I was starting out with the drink in 2018 and 2019. That allowed me to showcase the product and gather opinions and feedback. All of that effort helped with our market research, product development and brand building,” she said.