A Kerry manufacturer of natural protein bars is expanding following a recent brand refresh aimed at highlighting its Irish roots, local ingredients and sustainable ethos.
All Real Nutrition in Farranfore has just picked up its first national contract with a multiple in Irish retail.
Ross McDowell and Niall Harty, the company’s founders, have signed a deal with BWG, the wholesale supplier to more than 1,000 Spar, Mace and Londis shops around the country.
The listing follows €150,000 in high potential start-up funding secured recently from Enterprise Ireland, the state agency.
It also signals a new beginning for the company, which rebranded last November having traded for three years as Origin Protein Bars.
“We’d done these accelerator programmes with Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland and we just thought ‘maybe there's an opportunity to do a little bit more than just having a product we think is really good,” McDowell said.
“We started looking at our manufacturing, packaging and messaging. It’s mainly a sustainability thing. We wanted to source Irish ingredients wherever we could and let people know that was a priority for us with a new brand.”
McDowell and Harty use just 12 ingredients to make their protein bars, including milk protein, dates, nuts and cocoa.
Starting out in 2017, they saw their niche in the growing protein bar market as a natural brand using simple, clearly labelled, ingredients.
“We noticed that a lot of the bars already on the market used artificial sweeteners and lots of ingredients you’d nearly need a science degree to understand,” McDowell said.
“We wanted to simplify that. Every ingredient we use, everything customers see on our labels, you’d find in your kitchen cupboard.”
Coming into 2020, however, McDowell and Harty realised that they needed to do more to differentiate their brand in the market.
What they needed, they believed, was a point-of- difference that would really resonate with their target demographic and build the right foundations for future growth.
“We see our customer as being in the ABC1 demographic, split into two categories,” McDowell said.
“One is your young professional who lives for the weekend, exercises everyday and is quite discerning about what they eat.
“The other is what we call ‘guilt-free goers’, people who are looking for a tasty guilt-free snack that’s sustainably produced.”
In response, McDowell and Harty have started to source their milk protein from local farmers in Kerry instead of Eastern Europe. They have also switched to plastic-free and home-compostable packaging.
“We’re accredited now under Origin Green, the Bord Bia programme for sustainable manufacturing,” McDowell said.
“We’ve also realised that nearly everyone in our space outsources their manufacturing. There are a couple of big factories in Europe that make nearly all of the protein bars on the market.
“We make our bars ourselves here in our own factory in Farranfore. The Irishness of our business is a real point-of-difference. That’s another big focus in our new branding.”
All Real Nutrition is a client of Enterprise Ireland and secured its HPSU funding last month, bringing to €400,000 the total amount of investment the business has raised so far.
“Nine months ago, it was just the two of us rattling around in the factory. Now, there’s seven of us and we’re gearing up frantically now for the BWG contract,” McDowell said.
“That’s going to be a big launch for us. We already deliver to about 50 stores locally here in Kerry in our own van and we also have an online platform — eatallreal.com — which is becoming more and more important to the business.
“We launched it last year, really just to plug a hole, but, so far this year, we’ve had a 450 per cent rise in online sales.
“Our online subscription service is really important to us, because it’s guaranteed income. We keep it flexible. People can change how many bars they order, and how frequently they order them, anytime.”
All Real is also developing a B2B portal online to supply gyms, cafés and independent retailers in Ireland.
There are eight varieties in the All Real Nutrition range of protein bars, priced at €2.79 each. Flavours include Almond Vanilla, Choc Sea Salt, Lemon Coconut and Cashew Cookie Dough.