Tyrone mum of four Shauna Blair could scarcely have imagined that her search for organic weaning products for her children would eventually offer health benefits to babies in the Middle East and other international markets.
The inspirational journey of Shauna and husband James to outstanding international success in organic baby foods began in 2009. Among youngsters now enjoying a novel product, Coconut Squishies, from their small Tyrone business, Heavenly Tasty Organics, the enterprise they set up together a decade ago, are those flying with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. Etihad, which serves 84 destinations in 49 countries, carried around 20 million passengers last year and served 22 million meals.
“The Etihad deal is a tremendous boost as we mark the 10th anniversary of the business,” Shauna says. “And we have other exciting developments that will ensure
the long term growth of the company.”
The breakthrough order from Etihad for Coconut Squishies, which are free from both sugar and other additives but packed with natural flavours, follows a business development campaign by the entrepreneurial couple in the Middle East. It’s a tightly focused initiative which has already produced significant sales to retailers throughout the affluent United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Lebanon. The Etihad contract also represents an important diversification for the company into the vibrant foodservice category.
“Working with Etihad Airways is a hugely significant strategic development of the brand and product portfolio,” continues Shauna. “It’s part of our ongoing strategy to provide healthier snacks to families at home and on the go. As parents ourselves we understand the stress of feeling you have to bring everything with you for your children while travelling in case there may not be anything that that’s healthy that they can enjoy.”
The company, based in Augher, aims ‘to take the stress away from parents by providing healthy snacks, making travel time a little more enjoyable’.
“We are currently experiencing immensely encouraging growth in Middle East markets with our range of organic and award winning products. It’s become a
hugely important marketplace for us,” she says.
James developed the contact with Dublin-headquartered Retail inMotion, a specialist in sourcing premium food and other products for clients including major
international airlines. He explains: “The deal is the outcome of our focus on developing partnerships in catering supplies and services that will help us grow sales in this dynamic and demanding category. We pitched for business with Retail inMotion especially for our Coconut Squishies. They loved the product and then approached Etihad to sample them. Squishies is a healthy drink made from coconut milk with other organic fruits such as strawberries, apple and banana and is ideal for children aged six months and above.”
Etihad buyers also loved the original product and decided to add it to the airline’s buy-on-board menu as part of radically new Economy dining concept and retail offering last month on all flights.
“Squishies are now the lead children’s snack of bistro-style meals focused on healthy seasonal ingredients and more destination focused choices, plus new options for babies and children,” James explains. “We are really excited about the potential of this partnership.”
Squishies and other healthy meals and snacks from Heavenly Tasty are already readily available from top retailers in the UK, Ireland and other parts of Europe. It’s
an inspirational and innovation-led small business that’s now a leader in a developing marketplace. The ambitious couple has achieved much in the 10 years following Shauna’s decision to start making her own weaning products when she couldn’t find the organic and allergy-free baby foods in shops here. Frustrated by the limited choice of such essential foods, Shauna, a devotee of all things organic, started making her own in her kitchen and then made them available to other mums here and subsequently in export markets. She received advice and assistance from business development agency Invest Northern Ireland.
“We started by producing a guilt-free range of organic baby weaning meals for the local market,” adds Shauna, who gained her first management skills working in her
father’s engineering business. James added expertise in sales and brand development within the food and grocery sector to what has developed into a formidable and progressive team and one of Northern Ireland’s most successful smaller businesses.