Dairy Concepts

Innovative Dairy Snacks for the Global Market

Tom Brennan

Tom Brennan - CEO, Dairy Concepts IRL

What is your idea?

We are developing a new category of all natural dairy snacks for the global market using a patent pending 'novel dairy technology platform' developed by researchers at Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark. Our first product is a fruit flavoured handheld dairy snack for children.

What problem are you solving and what is innovative about your approach?

Children seem to be always hungry and it can be a constant battle for parents to get them to snack healthily.

Confectionery is fun but has little or no nutritional benefits. Cheese is not always popular with children but delivers important nutrients including protein and calcium; however cheese is also high in fat and salt. Fromage Frais is fruity and tasty but high in sugar and can be messy.

Fruchee® is an all-natural, hand held dairy snack that combines the texture and goodness of cheese, with the fruity taste and flavours of fromage frais and the fun and engagement of confectionery. Fruchee® can be moulded into bar or character shapes, like chocolate.

Fruchee® is a product that children think of as a ‘treat’ but that parents know is good for them.

Our patent pending technology platform facilitates the manufacture of customised milk powder that can be combined with other ingredients to form unique dairy based gel structures.

We are applying the product development, manufacturing and marketing approach of the confectionery industry to the dairy industry.

What’s the backstory here and how did you get involved?

I am an entrepreneur who has spent my working life in the consumer foods business, I previously founded Freshways Ltd., acquired by Kerry Group in 2002.

I have four children under 10 years of age, so I experience first-hand the challenge of satisfying children’s snacking needs 'in the home', 'in the school lunchbox' and 'on the go'.

I had been looking to start a new food business with truly global potential; I identified an opportunity to develop a category of “world first” dairy snacks for the global market.

Living in the south of Ireland, in the heart of the Irish dairy industry, I was aware of Ireland’s leading position in the world of dairy, that the milk quota system will be abolished in 2015 and that milk production is expected to double within 5 years to nearly 11bn litres. I was also aware that a world leading dairy research centre, Teagasc Moorepark is located on my doorstep.

In 2012, I established Dairy Concepts IRL and teamed up with my business partner Paul Simpson who is an experienced Commercial and Marketing Executive.Big Ideas

We succeeded in joining the first Food Works programme. Food Works is a 12 month business development programme managed by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc aimed at finding and fostering global food entrepreneurs to develop an initial concept into a winning food product with international appeal.

Through Food Works, Teagasc introduced us to Professor Tim Guinee, Principal Research Officer in the Department of Food Chemistry and Technology at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark who led the development of the ‘novel dairy technology platform. We 'joined the dots' between the technology platform and a global consumer need.

The business has been funded to date by the promoters and a Competitive Start Fund Investment from Enterprise Ireland.

How is this idea commercially attractive?

Fruchee® is a disruptive innovation that is: on trend, globally relevant and locally expressive; the product can be tailored to suit local tastes and nutritional needs in foreign markets.

Fruchee® can be manufactured 'in-market' without the need for a fresh source of milk, using dairy ingredients exported from Ireland.

As an innovative and value-added consumer proposition, Fruchee® will achieve a standard retail price of over €20,000 per tonne in the ROI/UK markets and achieve an attractive gross margin.

Our aim for Fruchee® is to capture 10% of the children’s dairy snack market in ROI/UK markets, which would be worth around €50 million in retail sales value. We also plan to internationalise our turnkey solution (ingredients, process solution, brand and marketing platform) via a franchising model in high priority markets including Europe, North America, China and the Middle East.

Fruchee® is just the first product in our development pipeline; the technology platform allows the development of a portfolio of healthy dairy snacks.

What are you looking for at the Big Ideas event?

Dairy Concepts IRL is now seeking to secure capital investment to establish an on-going product development function at Teagasc Moorepark, to finalise the development of Fruchee®, to source the manufacturing equipment necessary and to launch and refine the proposition in the Irish market before internationalising through a franchise model. The manufacturing equipment will also be used to launch our pipeline of additional products.