Fit for the future
Irish owned and operated private-label manufacturer of sports-nutrition, weight-management and lifestyle-nutrition products, ABC Nutritionals, is one of the Irish companies exhibiting at Food ingredients Europe (FiE) in 2023. Bernie Commins caught up with owners and joint managing directors, William Wixted and Sean McNamara to find out a little more about the evolution of the company, which was founded in 2006
ABC Nutritionals is one of the many success stories among Irish ingredients companies. Its ability to adapt and diversify, as well as its willingness to maintain close relationships with customers and stay atop trends, have served the company well along the almost-two-decade journey. William explains: “Like so many businesses we started out from a very small base in Shannon [Co. Clare] and have grown steadily prior to some exponential growth in the most recent past. We have always tried to stay close to our customers and the market trends, developing innovative products through a robust new product development (NPD) process, which has been integral to our growth. In 2019, we started to sell through various online marketplaces and this has driven the business to new levels.”
The company now employs 85 staff from its Shannon manufacturing base with turnover that is in excess of €25m. And in 2024, the business will move to a new, state-of-the-art facility, which will enable larger, more efficient, lean and sustainable manufacturing processes, according to William. More about that later.
Of course, the industry in which ABC Nutritionals has embedded itself has also proven to be hugely important as health and wellbeing and striving for a better-quality living are key concerns for many people in society, particularly in recent years. And it is big business, too. If we look at just the functional foods slice of that cake, globally in 2022, that market size was valued at around US $300bn and it is predicted to hit around US $597bn by 20321.
Research tells us that, 59 per cent of global consumers are more concerned about their overall health due to Covid-192, while 60 per cent of consumers worldwide proactively look for products that improve their health3. According to Bord Bia [Irish Food Board], people are seeking out functional foods that offer extra health benefits: “From gut health to immunity, people are looking at food as a way to boost their wellbeing, particularly with products that have added benefits.”
Sean can attest to this and explains ABC Nutritionals’ role in helping people find such food: “Sports nutrition products continue to be the backbone of our business model. Worldwide demand for quality sports nutrition products has increased with the growth of new, primarily online brands. Over 90 per cent of our business is exported, so we have shared in the global increase in demand for these new on-trend brands.
“Our functional supplements business has also increased in size in recent years, however different marketplaces are at different stages of development. Our functional supplements range was born out of demand for energy and immunity-boosting supplements and has shown positive growth trends post Covid-19.”
ABC Nutritionals has recently developed in-house brands, Activ Health, a range of ‘super supplements’, and Fitfork, a range of ready-to-go meals, which are ideally suited to those seeking tasty meals that complement a healthy lifestyle. These products have certainly piqued interest among ABC Nutritionals’ customers, explains William: “The active supplements are formulated and designed to meet specific health claims using active patented ingredients. These have generated significant interest amongst our existing customer base, and have attracted interest of new customers who have sampled the products at shows similar to FIE.” He is hopeful that FiE attendees will also be suitably impressed, as the company hopes to secure custom for the products there.
In addition to the development of these products, Sean says the company is also involved in a number of Europe-wide research projects.
“These projects will explore how nutrition can help with preventing, slowing, reducing or managing the negative side effects of a range of medical conditions. Our customers also continue to be innovative for their customers and this drives innovation and continuous improvement across multiple segments and markets,” he says.
New product development
And when it comes to the time for NPD, William explains, ABC Nutritionals has developed significant expertise in its people, which has allowed the company to explore opportunities that would otherwise not have been possible: “The process itself is a combination of our experience, research, market trends combined with entrepreneurial customers, who see an opportunity that they can exploit in the marketplace. For our part, we would take the customer through a process of establishing a product brief, formulate a recipe that will fit the brief, formulate samples that the customer is satisfied with before progressing with branding, packaging, pricing, and distribution so that it is positioned to fit the target market for the intended product. We then proceed to produce the product from our new state-of-the-art plant. It is a very comprehensive process.”
And speaking of that state-of-the-art plant: “We are so excited to be moving to our new facility, which has been a significant project,” says Sean. This 10,000m2 facility will be ‘a transformational move’ he adds.
“It will increase production capacity and our head count and positions us well for future growth. The new facility will also help us to adopt leading edge sustainable production practices and will help us with our ambition to reduce the carbon impact of our manufacturing process and achieve independent certification for sustainablity.”
2 FMCG Gurus, 2020
3 GlobalData, 2021
FiE – an annual staple
Irishfood: Why is attending FiE important for your company?
ABC Nutritionals: Attending the show is a great way for us to meet with and speak to exhibitors, suppliers, and customers to gain a greater understanding of global and local trends affecting our business. It offers an opportunity to find new ingredients, to enhance our knowledge of cutting-edge research, and to understand price trends and where consumer trends are heading in the near term.
Irishfood: What products and innovations are you showcasing at FiE 2023?
ABC Nutritionals: We will be showing our broad range of capabilities in the areas of sports nutrition, functional foods, functional supplements and weight-management products. We will be exhibiting our meal pot range which we have devised under our Fitfork brand. This range is generating great interest amongst our customers.
Irishfood: Are you launching or unveiling any new products there?
ABC Nutritionals: We redeveloped and repositioned our Activ Health Super Supplements range, which is formulated with patented ingredients, backed by science, and offers specific health claims approved within the EU.
Irishfood: What do you hope to achieve from this year’s FiE?
ABC Nutritionals: We are always hoping to source new ingredients, new suppliers, also to find new customers for our Activ Health and Fitfork range.