Thursday 29 September 2016

The man behind Everest Granola wants to climb the iconic mountain

Published 17/01/2016 | 02:30

ON THE GO: Seamus Tighe, founder of Everest Granola, whose busy work day and active lifestyle left him with little time to prepare meals, so he adapted his favourite post-workout food – yoghurt and nuts – and made it into a ready-made, nutritious meal to launch on the market. Photo: David Conachy
ON THE GO: Seamus Tighe, founder of Everest Granola, whose busy work day and active lifestyle left him with little time to prepare meals, so he adapted his favourite post-workout food – yoghurt and nuts – and made it into a ready-made, nutritious meal to launch on the market. Photo: David Conachy

Seamus Tighe's love of sport and fitness led him to spot a gap in the market for healthy, on-the-go food - now his granola cups are destined for Britain, he has decided to cast his eye on markets in New York and LA too, writes Louise McBride.

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Nothing encapsulates the idea of ultimate achievement better than Mount Everest. So it's no surprise that this mountain inspired the name for a food company set up by young hillwalker, Seamus Tighe, in the summer of 2014.

The company, Everest Granola, makes gourmet granola cups that are full of natural ingredients, high in fibre - and low in fat.

"Mount Everest is the roof of the world and that's what we're aiming for with this company - that is, to produce good quality food which tastes great," said Mr Tighe.

The young Dublin man decided to set up his company after spotting a gap in the market for healthy on-the-go food.

"I'm a very busy but health-conscious person," said Mr Tighe. "I don't have a huge amount of time for breakfast in the morning - or for preparing meals throughout the day. Most of my friends and colleagues are the same. However, we want to eat something healthy that you'd make at home - something with high-quality ingredients - but that's still on-the-go food."

As well as climbing mountains in Ireland and Britain, Mr Tighe plays Gaelic football and is an avid gym-goer.

"After going to the gym, I like to eat something healthy so I often have nuts in yoghurt," said Mr Tighe.

After spotting a gap in the market for healthy on-the-go-food, Mr Tighe decided to take the idea of his post-workout snack of nuts in yoghurt and turn it into the flagship product of his new company. Everest Granola, which has been trading since September 2014, has three flavours of yoghurt granola cups on the market - apple and cinnamon, raspberry, and honey.

"Most of the granolas out there [from rivals] are very standard," said Mr Tighe. "We wanted to provide a premium granola cup - a product full of mixed seeds, fruits and nuts which would have plenty of nutritional benefits."

While most of Everest Granola's competitors provide 120g to 150g granola cups, Everest provides a 200g cup. The cups currently sell for €2.

"Our cups offer better value for money," said Mr Tighe. "If you have a large cup for breakfast, you'd definitely be full after it."

Mr Tighe believes there is huge room for growth in the healthy on-the-go food market.

"Shops are really catering for people who are busy and on-the-go," he explains. "The on-the-go food market is becoming more health-oriented. If you look at the shops and what they're doing, there are great healthy options out there.

"Within the next three to five years, a lot more of the food market will be grab-and-go. People are a lot busier today than they were say 10 or 20 years ago. The likes of social media means that people can be contactable 24/7. There's more demand for on-the-go food as a result - and people want healthy options. They are a lot more health-conscious now - and knowledge is behind that. You can see from the obesity crisis out there that people today are a lot more focused on getting a healthy balance."

Although it has been only trading for about a year, the company has already secured some major customers, including SuperValu.

"SuperValu is our biggest customer," said Mr Tighe. "We also supply a couple of coffee chains as well as some independent stores in Dublin city centre and some Centra stores."

The company's turnover has "grown significantly" since it started trading, according to Mr Tighe.

"The product has now a loyal following of customers throughout Ireland," said Mr Tighe. "With hundreds of thousands of people commuting into the cities across Ireland every day for work, there is a huge opportunity to revolutionise the on-the-go market and change bad eating habits to healthier options - such as our granola cups."

The company took part in Supervalu's Food Academy programme - which helps small businesses navigate the journey from start-up to getting their products on the shelves.

"We've been part of the programme for a year now," said Mr Tighe. "It was a great launch pad for the business and it's given us a great foundation to push on. We have four employees and hopefully within the next six months, we'll have more contracts. We're hoping to move into Britain this year. We'd love to get a listing with a few British retail chains - it's a huge market. We're in talks with a few British chains at the moment."

Everest also has its sights on the United States.

"Eventually, Everest would like to enter into the US market," said Mr Tighe. "It is such a vast market with a lot of opportunity. The major cities in the US such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles would be the perfect place for our grab-and-go products. We are carrying out research with a large distributor with a view to making this happen."

The company is also developing a "more innovative product", according to Mr Tighe.

Although he won't reveal much about that product, he expects to be the first to manufacture it in Europe "on a significant commercial scale".

"That will be exciting and it will take up the majority of our time - alongside growing our existing business for the next six months," said Mr Tighe.

After that, the company could develop a sports drink. "The sports drinks industry is one that would be of interest to Everest in the future," said Mr Tighe.

Mr Tighe, who is 27, is from Castleknock, in Dublin. He studied accountancy in college and worked in financial services for three years afterwards.

His career has clearly taken a very different direction - but he is still using his accountancy knowledge.

"It's good to have the accountancy background to help me run the business," said Mr Tighe. "It's important to know how to manage a company's balance sheet, finances and so on."

His love of sport has clearly steered him towards the career path he is now on. "I have been involved in sports all my life from a very young age and sport has played a huge role in my family's life. I have played rugby with Castleknock College and Gaelic football with St Brigid's GAA club. I also enjoy golf and play in Killeen Castle - even though I have played very little since I started the business. I was always an active child, never able to sit down for a moment and I have not changed much. I enjoy training and keeping fit."

He comes from an entrepreneurial family.

"Our family has been involved in business since I was growing up, including accountancy, pubs and transport," said Mr Tighe. "That's where I got the inspiration to push on and set up my own business. Both of my grandparents were self-employed and my father has been in business since 1990.

"I have learned a lot of important lessons since I started the business and probably the most important lesson that I have learnt from my parents is: 'It's not what you say, but how you say it'. This has been particularly true in building business relationships which is so important in our industry."

He is currently living in Castleknock Village with three friends he has known his whole life. And he isn't afraid to be adventurous with his food - and this will no doubt stand to him as he builds his business.

"Last summer, I travelled to New Orleans,"said Mr Tighe. "It is an amazing city and I would recommend it to anyone. The mix of people, colours, food and cultures would make you step back and think. We ate in a restaurant called Cochon one night, where we ate alligator, bacon ice cream and finished off with some moonshine."

Mr Tighe would like to climb Everest in a year or two - as a way of promoting his business.

For the moment though, he is happy climbing mountains on home soil - particularly in Kerry.

"One of my favourite mountain ranges is the MacGillycuddy Reeks," he said.

"I spent a week last summer climbing the mountains with a friend. I enjoy climbing - it's good to get out, clear the head - and go back to work."

And work is something this young ambitious Dublin man is unlikely to be short of anytime soon.

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