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Galmere Foods using Research to its Advantage

Article appeared in issue 6, 2022

Galmere Foods uses research and innovation to improve its business. As a result, the company is benefitting from the trends for plant-based foods and healthy ingredients for cooking

If you’ve bought fresh pesto in a tub recently from an Irish retail outlet, chances are it was made by Galmere Foods. The Galway-based producer of soups, salads and sauces has enjoyed unexpected success with its pesto product, which is sold under a under a number of different private labels.

It began when Galmere took on a small pesto-making business three years ago. “We started to get feedback that people were going out of their way to buy the pesto,” explains John Casey, CEO of Galmere. “It was only being produced a couple of days a week on a very small scale, but it was getting a really good following, so we decided to take a chance on it.”

After conducting research on the topic, the company invested significantly behind the pesto brand, with the result that it’s now one of the top two pesto producers in the country and it has, in fact, started to grow its own basil. The basil is grown in a vertical garden container in a temperature-controlled unit, using ultraviolet light. As a result, no pesticides or germicides are necessary. “Ireland has a much higher percentage of fresh pesto on sale, than the UK where jars of processed pesto are still popular,” explains John. Galmere grows the basil onsite also for its award-winning pesto brand, Pestle + Mortar.

This is just one example of how Galmere Foods is continuously looking at the market and considering ways to innovate and improve its products. “In conjunction with our partners, we try to gather as much information in the market as we can and Bord Bia is extremely helpful in this respect in that it produces and procures reports for the marketplace and we augment them with our own reports,” explains John. “In addition, we have an R&D function within the business, and we actively look at ways of innovating and adding product value in different categories.”

The company was founded in 1989, when a restaurant in Galway began selling coleslaw. It was bought however in 2013 by its current owners, Dunmore Investments. It has expanded the business considerably and today employs over 70 people. Galmere Foods now produces a wide range of soups, salads, and sauces, predominantly for the Irish retail market, although some are sold in the UK and in Europe.

It has however taken a number of years to reach this level of success. “The business we originally acquired was challenged, but with well-targeted, careful investment, we’ve been able to gain the efficiencies that we needed. Now, we continuously invest in people, in business processes, and in capital equipment,” says John.

Galmere’s success in the private label market has allowed the company to grow. “Private Label was the entry point for our business, and we’ve been building brands on top of that successfully for years. We’ve used the brand to explore new areas of the market and to innovate.”

The company has benefitted hugely from interacting with Enterprise Ireland over the last six years. “In addition to the capital investments it has made, the experience and competency that Enterprise Ireland has brought to discussions about the business are most impressive,” says John.

Sustainability

Galmere also became a gold member of Origin Green, Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board’s sustainability programme, last year. It has been helped too in terms of product and market development by Bord Bia. “As a management team, we’re committed to using food not only in a cost efficient, but in an environmentally friendly manner and, the framework surrounding Origin Green has been extremely helpful to us.”

Consumers, says John, are increasingly interested in whether a product has been made in a sustainable manner. “Whether a product is private label or branded, a consumer wants to know that the food they’re buying isn’t damaging the environment or is at least having a minimum impact on the planet,” he says. “Sustainability is not just good for the planet, but good for profitability because ultimately, you’re talking about energy efficiency.”

 

Plant-based Foods

The trend towards plant-based foods has also benefitted Galmere.“What’s happening in the marketplace is that everyone is eating more plant-based foods than they were before,” says John. “They are either having a plant-based day, or they are eating plant-based foods a couple of days a week, or sometimes they are just putting more vegetables into their meals.”

In particular, he says it’s a strong trend in the 18-35 years old. “They’re more health conscious, more health focused and they have a much better understanding of nutrition than people that are older than them. It’s definitely a positive trend for us. We’ve organised the business so that about 70% of our ingredients are plant based.”

“We’ve got lots of meals that are exclusively plant-based, others that are vegetarian as well, and also a range of plant-based meals under the Roots and Shoots brand and they’re doing very well for us.”

And while a lot of the plant-based foods in Ireland use imported ingredients, Galmere prides itself on using ingredients that are grown in Ireland whenever possible. “We buy Irish vegetables in season and in volume whenever we can. Obviously, we have to supplement them with imported vegetables from time to time.”

Another trend that has worked to its advantage is the increase in the number of people cooking at home and looking for healthy ingredients which limit the cooking time. “We’re always trying to find opportunities that allow people to make something from home, when they simply don’t have the time to cook from scratch. It is a huge challenge to cook at home seven days a week. That is where the Galmere meal products come in,” says John.

 

Investment

The company has invested up to €3 million in recent years. It now has plans to scale up its houmous production, as the vast majority of houmous here is imported. “We decided to invest in a new line, and we are about to launch products in Tesco under the Galway Kitchen Brand.”

In addition, it will be launching additional lines next year, and despite the challenges that all businesses are facing with inflation, John is confident that Galmere will continue to be successful. “We hope that as the inflationary environment stabilises in 2023 that we should be able to maintain upward growth,” he says. “This year may be challenging, but it will remain a profitable year for us.”