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Saturday 30 August 2014

My Big Idea: Mum’s radically healthy oats now a tasty moneymaker

Published 08/05/2014 | 07:59

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Miriam Monahan with her daughter Tabitha (19)

Miriam Monahan first created her product in an effort to keep her four hungry teenagers fuller a little longer.

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Christened ‘Radical Oats’, it’s a snack combining probiotic yoghurt and oats. The 49-year-old told Sarah McCabe about building up her company with 19-year-old daughter Tabitha.

“I was always trying to get my kids to stay away from chocolate bars and crisps and coming up with different recipes that were healthy but tasty. Everyone wants to eat well, but raw vegetables or even porridge isn’t always that exciting. So I came up with a recipe for something that had lots of goodness in it – slow-release energy in the oats and probiotics in the yoghurt with natural flavours like honey or berries.

“My kids adored the concoction and their friends loved it, too. When I was forced to close our family clothes boutique in Clontarf in the wake of the recession, I began to wonder if there could be an opportunity to make a business out of ‘Radical Oats’.

“I put everything we had into getting proper products made up and tested them out in our local grocery store. We blind taste-tested in three locations in Dublin. The end result was a single portion product available in four flavours. All of the ingredients are Irish. I couldn’t believe the response.

“Next we got in touch with Bord Bia and they gave us advice and made some introductions. After that, Supervalu and Spar stores started to stock the product.  We couldn’t believe it! Tesco has just come on board and are stocking ‘Radical Oats’ in 111 stores across Ireland.”

Demand for stock and sampling meant the whole family had to pitch in. “My eldest daughter Tabitha came on board – she’s a natural. Soon she was putting together tasting schedules for hundreds of stores and organising and training promo staff. Then she said we needed to go out on the street and give it to people getting off at DART and bus stations. It’s not enough to have the product in the shops – no matter how good it is, if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to sell.

“With food-related health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cholesterol problems dominating the headlines globally, nutritional products present a real opportunity. A report conducted by Bord Bia projects 20pc growth in the healthy snack market between 2013 and 2014.

“One of the biggest challenges, though, is protecting our idea. There is nothing like ‘Radical Oats’ anywhere in the world at the moment so we have to move quickly before people copy it. We’re planning to move into the UK market next year.”

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