Co Galway’s Foods of Athenry has been operating as a bakery and food business for close to
twenty years but it had to overcome more than a few challenges to become the successful operation it is today.
In 2004 Siobhan Lawless and her family made the decision to pivot from a full-time dairy farm into a full-time bakery. The following decade saw them navigate all sorts of ups and downs including a devastating fire in 2011, but they got back on their feet. Then in 2013 they started a successful partnership with Dunnes Stores, providing two granola products, and in recent years the range has expanded significantly.
Early in 2021 they launched two new Simply Better mueslis, Fruit & Nut and Nut & Seed, available in resealable recyclable bags. As with all the Foods of Athenry products the mueslis are full of high quality ingredients and created with Siobhan’s determination to go that extra mile for the consumer. “They’re
a blend of large Irish oats, barley and a malted toasted wheat flake which gives great crunch,” she explains. “We looked long and hard for a really nice malted flake and I would say that that’s a really great ingredient in those products.”
The mueslis were a hit, despite being launched during Covid 19 and the success prompted some new additions to the Simply Better granola line too. The first is a Honey, Almond & Apricot granola, made with lots of honey. “I based it loosely on the concept of baklava,” Siobhan explains. The second new
flavour, Cinnamon, Berry & Nut, has ousted Siobhan’s former favourite muesli from her breakfast table. “It’s really good, I absolutely love it.”
Originally planned as a Christmas product Cinnamon, Berry & Nut proved so popular that it has become part of the main line. It contains a warming blend of cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice along with treacle and honey and lots of colourful fruits and seeds. “It basically tastes like a crunchy gingerbread man,” Siobhan says. “It’s excellent as a topper on natural yoghurt or sprinkled on top of porridge. It’s also a great for baking - if you were making some muffins you could put a handful in and you’d get all your flavours and colours coming through.”
The most recent addition to their Simply Better range is a bircher muesli which launched just last month. “I made this in the way that I would make bircher at home, with the chia seeds to thicken it, seeds and then goji berries and freeze-dried raspberries for a spot of colour,” Siobhan explains. “I hope
people love it because we put a lot of effort and thought into it.”
Their partnership with Dunnes Stores is clearly a successful collaboration and everyone works well together. “Dunnes Stores have always been a pleasure to work with, they fully get what Irish artisan producers do,” Siobhan says. “I enjoy the process and they’re great to deal with.” Good communication seems to be at the heart of things and there is also a focus on creating interesting products rather than copies of what’s already out there. “With Dunnes you get a clear brief but there’s scope and space to be creative within that brief,” Siobhan says.
As for conjuring up the product themselves, Siobhan plans it all out before getting started. “I do this thing in my head: If I was such a thing, what would I look like? So with the original Christmas granola brief, I thought if I were a Christmas granola what I look like? I would be bright shiny and happy, cheerful and taste like gingerbread. And then you go from there.”
The Foods of Athenry ethos is about much more than simply making something to sell, however. As Siobhan says they care deeply about how those products make people feel. “We put joy into products and then hope that when consumers open them they feel it. I have great pleasure in knowing that people are buying our products, it makes me feel that the work was worth it. It’s all about bringing pleasure through food.”
In partnership with Dunnes Stores Simply Better