Niamh Dooley on the success of BiaSol Super Ground Beans
What started as a brother and sister’s lockdown project to create a healthy and sustainable food product, Bia Sol is now on track to exceed 1 million sales of its Super Milled Grains products over the next two years.
Niamh Dooley28 years old, worked for Edge Bia on a healthy eating program for primary schools when she was fired two months into the pandemic, while her brother Ruairi Dooley31 years old, worked in Australia.
The University of Limerick food science graduate had been pleased with Bord Bia and felt no desire to start a business on her own before she found herself on edge while Ruiari, who had studied accounting and finance at DCU , had previously founded a few start-ups-UPS.
Meeting on Zoom at the start of lockdown, the siblings wanted to create a food product that would meet people’s nutritional needs while being sustainable, noting a trend towards reusing food and beverage by-products.
“We thought it was a better way to produce a final product,” says Niamh. “We have started to look into this issue, and grain is plentiful in Ireland.
“We had a eureka moment after doing a little more research on the nutritional side from scientific papers, and there’s evidence that there’s still plenty of protein and fiber left in the grain. [after being used in the beer brewing process].”
Launched in February, Super Milled Grains is a food supplement based on light malt, dark malt and whole grains. The dark malt comes from stout beer and has a “softer chocolate note”, while the “more sour” light malt comes from heavier and IPA.
BiaSol collects spent grains from four breweries close to its base in Tullamore to make super ground cereal: Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery in Co Laois, St Mel’s Brewery in Co Longford, Dead Center Brewing in Athlone and Bru Brewery in Co Meath.
The product, which can be added to soups, smoothies, porridges and cereals, is now available in nearly 100 health stores, and BiaSol has also recently launched a line of baking mixes, available in 40-50 stores, including Avoca, Donnybrook Fair and SuperValu
Despite Niamh’s background in nutrition, none of the Dooleys have a culinary background, and the initial development of the product required them to experiment, using local breweries to collect the grains.
“It took 18 months to fully launch an actual product on the market between research, experimenting with beans, sending to labs, then collecting different types of beans from different breweries, lots of excel spreadsheets.
“It took all this time to work with it and also to understand how it worked as well – even working with it in kitchen trials. At first we sent it to different chefs and bakers to see what they had to say. thought, and they thought the flavor was fabulous.
“So that gave us confidence that we were really onto something here like it has good nutrition, it’s great in terms of flavor, and the breweries are all on board to make it work.”
Maurice McGeehanhead of performance at IRFU, was also an early partner, helping the Dooleys fill knowledge gaps and advising them during development, and with the La Rousse company as a wholesaler, helping to make get the product to more chefs and restaurants.
Niamh has also improved her business acumen through her participation in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Marine Department’s six-month ACORNS (Accelerating the Creation of Nascent Rural Startups) program.
“It was awesome, really good support, because during the pandemic when I was home alone researching the business, it was nice for that network and that support,” he said. she said of the program, which brought together a group of women business owners under the mentorship of a business leader.
BiaSol has received support from Company Irelandwhich awarded the company an investment of €50,000 for 10% of the company’s capital from its competitive start-up fund, and the local Offaly Business Office, which awarded a feasibility grant of €10 000 to 15,000 €.
The Dooleys are now seeking a private investment of up to €350,000 to help grow their team, which currently includes an additional full-time staff member and two interns; fund additional investments and help BiaSol expand internationally.
Further product development is on the back burner at this time, but Niamh says there is an “exciting product” in the pipeline.
“The ingredient is very versatile, but it can be a blessing and a curse. We could continue to develop products, but we can’t get distracted because we have to go out and sell what we have right now. L The investment would really be to bring Super Milled Grains to organic stores in the UK,” she says.
“Product-wise, the baking mix line is doing very well…and that will continue to grow, and we should be in every SuperValu in the coming months, and that will keep the lights on,” Niamh says, looking ahead.
“Then we’ll be pushing our ingredients on the wholesale side as well, as it’s been slow during the pandemic, but hopefully it’ll keep rolling. It’s more of a slow move, but it will bring some volume into the time, especially as we scale.
“And there’s the exciting new product that I can’t say much about, but it will also open up another huge revenue stream.”
It was when the Enterprise Ireland funding was granted that Ruairi decided it was time to go home, and sales have increased month on month since the launch of Super Milled Grains earlier this year. The company now expects sales of 1 million in 2024.
Photo: (lr) Ruairi Dooley and Niamh Dooley.