30 Aug 2017 | 02.34 pm
Caramel Popcorn Comes With A Whiskey Bite
American brings new twist on popcorn to Ireland
30 Aug 2017 | 02.34 pm
Popcorn is an unassuming snack that’s generally cheap to produce at home or cheap to buy (except in cinemas). Maureen O’Donnell is bringing an artisan twist to popcorn with Popsy Daisy, which adds flavours such as maple, Teeling Whiskey salted caramel, vanilla and chocolate stout flavours.
Originally from the US and living in Ireland since 2012, Maureen (pictured) worked with an NGO before making the leap into self-employment. Early on I made the choice to not to compete in the mainstream popcorn market,” she explains. “Instead I focussed on the artisan niche where most producers are making a fresh product. That’s where Popsy Daisy competes – in the indulgent category providing fresh quality but with a longer shelf life, underpinned by our flavour partnerships and environmental ethos.”
Having Teeling Whiskey as a flavour partner is a boost for brand exposure, while participation in the Food Academy programme got Popsy Daisy stocked in SuperValu outlets around Dublin. “SuperValu and the LEOs have invested a lot into the Food Academy and it shows in the programme’s professionalism,” she says. “The mentoring and training quickly matured my business. I’d recommend it to anyone considering the retail sales channel.”
A big challenge for any new consumer product is getting in onto shop shelves. “Buyers want to know how your product will attract new customers to their store or increase existing customer spend. They also want to know what you are going to do to help sell the product, and how you’re going to build awareness and engagement with your brand.”
Popsy Daisy sells for €3.95 per 80g pack and is made in small batches. Maureen makes the caramel first, then coats the popcorn and bakes it. The entrepreneur is full of praise for flavour partners Teeling Whiskey and Galway Bay Brewery. “Partnerships can be tricky and I’ve been very lucky in that developing these partnerships has been a relatively easy process. There’s a lot of trust and patience on their part. It helps if you recognise that you’re the ‘younger sibling’ in the partnership but that you’re still bringing something valuable to it. Good communication is important in making partnerships like this work.”
Like most cash-strapped startups, Maureen designed the Popsy Daisy branding herself at the beginning. This got her through the first months and helped create the foundational company identity. However, as Popsy Daisy evolved and the structure and ethos of the company solidified, she realised that the amateur branding wasn’t good enough. “Thanks to the Food Academy I found a wonderful design company in Dublin, Dave Curran Designs. We worked together to design a professional brand that still kept the artisan, fun and quirky identity we started with.”
Popsy Daisy is a member of Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme, which bolsters the brand’s green credentials. “We use environmentalism to differentiate our product – for example we’re the only snack company in Ireland using compostable packaging,” she says.
Maureen advises aspiring entrepreneurs to tap Bord Bia for market research before launching a product. “Then visit markets and festivals, talk to the vendors and see what their experience is like. Try to get a feel for the trends by reaching out to chefs and food bloggers through social media. Once you have a product that you think is viable, start selling it in local festivals. The real test is whether someone is willing to pay for your product.”