When it comes to food innovation it’s all about finding a niche and putting a new twist on it.
Shane Ryan, Katerina Kazantza, Artjom Blackred and Sjuzanna Muizniece are all part of the latest wave of new food innovators trying to stand out from the crowd. What makes this group different is that they’re all vegan producers.
Ryan is the founder of fiid which makes plant-based ready meals. The range is called Nourishing Lunch Bowls and there are three varieties: smoky Mexican black bean chilli, Moroccan chickpea tagine and Italian sundried tomato and lentil ragu. They come in single serving pouches and don’t need to be chilled.
“Each meal is all natural, suitable for vegans, high in protein and made using 50 per cent vegetables to deliver a whopping three of your five a day. We describe fiid as ‘hyper convenient’ because it doesn’t need refrigeration making it the ultimate kitchen cupboard or office drawer staple,” Ryan says.
Ryan studied commerce at the Shannon College of Hotel Management and then worked in the international hospitality sector mainly on the food and beverages side. This included a year managing a restaurant for chef Gary Rhodes in the Middle East. “By the time I was 24 I had lived in Germany, Malta, USA, London, Beijing and Abu Dhabi before returning to Ireland with the kernel of a business idea. To help me develop the idea further I enrolled in UCD’s Innovation Academy where I did a post-grad in entrepreneurship, innovation and enterprise before starting my first business in 2016,” Ryan says.
Ryan’s initial idea was a fresh salad box delivery service to offices which was successful as far as it went, but wasn’t suitable for exporting or scaling. Venture two was a chilled product for the retail trade but Ryan says this wasn’t quite right either as keeping food correctly chilled was an issue as was waste. Business idea Mark 3, which was launched last December and is now an Enterprise Ireland HPSU company, is fiid.
“We went through a number of different incarnations as we tried to get the business model right and navigate the difficult landscape of outsourced manufacturing. We kissed a lot of frogs before finding our current producer, but outsourcing was essential if we were to scale the business and export,” Ryan says.
“I’ve always had demanding jobs where free time was a luxury. At the same time, I’m obsessed with food, health and fitness and found this glaring conflict between how I aspired to eat and how I had time to eat,” he adds. “I couldn’t find any prepared food that matched my criteria for taste, nourishment, healthy ingredients and convenience and so set about creating it myself.”
Ryan says convenience was his major goal and he felt this wasn’t up for negotiation despite being advised otherwise by food industry professionals. “We spent months researching different processes that would give us stability on the shelf while also maintaining flavour and texture. Ultimately, we chose to cook our meals sous-vide, which locks in the flavours and maintains the bite of the whole food ingredients but gives us a 12-month shelf life versus the 30 days of our chilled competitors.”
Ryan has spent in the order of €125,000 developing fiid and has global ambitions for the brand. The product was launched in SuperValu in December and is now available there and in independent food outlets. The company has just received its first listings in the United Kingdom.
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