Exclusively for Premium Plus and digital website members, Hospitality Ireland presents a piece originally featured in the August 2017 issue of our print publication in which we talk to Paddy O'Connell, managing director of PaddyO's Cereals.
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Where did the original idea for PaddyO's Granola come from?
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I spent a summer in Hawaii on a J1 Visa eating granola every day. This was my first experience of granola. When I came back to Ireland, I looked up some great recipes and started making granola for myself, slowly coming up with the recipe that is still with us today in my Fruit and Seed Granola.
Have you always had a passion for food? Do you have a background in the food or hospitality sector?
Growing up, I was surrounded by good food. All meals were cooked from scratch, and significant importance was given to each meal where all our family would take the time to eat together. Most of my extended family are in the food business also, so it was a good fit.
Was it a difficult process getting the business off the ground and established in what is a competitive cereal market?
Yes, it has been a very difficult and long process, but I think that is the same with every business that wants to make an impact and be trusted by the trade. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep pushing forward and seeking out opportunity.
I believe after getting an initial investment, you set up a production room above your parents' pub. How was that?
I remember the days above the pub very well! When we received big orders, it meant we had to stay up all night to produce enough stock. I feel this is where a small brand is built, when you have the experience of how the hard yards were overcome and customers appreciating quick and easy service. Things have changed a little over the years and now our production takes place in Co. Kildare.
Is it right you originally started to grow the brand on the farmers' market trail?
Yes, I attended farmers' markets in Kilkenny, Templemore and Stillorgan, and attended every event possible where people might be interested in buying breakfast cereal. It was a difficult sell back then as maybe one in ten people had heard of granola, but now, quite a few years later, the category has grown hugely.
What strategy have you used to grow the brand in the intervening years?
Our main focus is to create great relationships with our customers and to try to work as a team to create new and exciting products together. We have worked very hard on our foodservice and retail offering, trying to offer solutions to our customers. Our distribution partners have shown us huge support and, in turn, we work very hard to push the brand and products forward together.
PaddyO's Granola has grown from farmers' markets to a national brand. What do you put the success down to?
It is down to perseverance and the support of people and chefs around Ireland wanting to support local products.
What is the plan for PaddyO's Granola over the next 12 to 24 months?
We have three new exciting products arriving this month into the retail market, we are revamping our branding and packaging for an over all modernisation. We are looking to lead in the granola category.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the food production business?
Seek the best financial advice possible on margins, costings and funding.
What are your favourite restaurant, pub and hotel in Ireland?
I think I have to say O'Connell's Restaurant in Donnybrook, Dublin. Tom O'Connell is an inspiration and always buys great Irish produce.
If you could do any other job apart from what you do, what would it be?
I couldn't see myself doing anything else but building a strong food business.
What do Irish food producers do best?
They show amazing pride in their products. Their products are their identity as they know the food they produce is world class.
What could they do better?
Export to overseas markets and show what Ireland has to offer.
What would your death row meal be?
Anything with Cashel Blue cheese on it.
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