An innovative smoothie drink that is free from dairy and cholesterol, has no added sugar and is low in fat was launched by Jackaboo, a recently established Killyleagh company, on the Invest Northern Ireland stand at the big Caffe Culture exhibition in London last week.
Jackaboo, which has received initial funding from Invest NI to market the smoothies, was among 11 companies showing a range of ‘coffee-house’ food and drink products at the show held at Olympia.
Jackaboo was formed by Cathy Smyth, a landscape designer, who spent five years searching for a non-dairy smoothie and decided to develop her own drinks.
An intolerance to dairy products meant that she couldn’t take traditional smoothies that derive their creaminess from milk products.
Cathy began working on her own recipes and was helped by food technicians at Loughry College in Cookstown. The first challenge she faced was to find a dairy substitute that offered comparable creaminess. The solution was organic wholegrain rice.
“Working at home in the kitchen, I came up with the idea of blending organic rice with fruit purees to provide the creamy taste. My objective was to take the moo out of smoothie...and we’ve managed to achieve this after almost five years of research and product trialling,” she said.
The next step was to find out what consumers thought. So she began test marketing the smoothies at farmers’ markets across Northern Ireland.
Positive feedback from consumers led her to set up a company to make and manufacture the smoothies. Invest NI’s Southern Regional Office in Newry weighed in with some initial funding and the business, Jackaboo, featuring a very distinctive branding, was born.
The smoothies are also being produced in packaging that is completely recyclable. To encourage this, each pack carries the legend ‘Drink me, then recycle me’.
The new smoothies are currently available in two flavours; strawberry and raspberry, and mango and orange. A further five drinks are being developed by the company, which has outsourced production to a major beverage business in Wales.
Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, said: “Jackaboo is a good example of the innovative food and drink products now being developed by smaller companies often working with technicians in the incubator kitchens at Loughry College.
“We are helping the company to identify opportunities in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, such as those developing from healthy eating trends in particular. Our four marketing advisers are working with this small company to enable it to realise the potential of its products and they have already brokered meetings with potential retail and food service clients in Great Britain and the Republic. Participation at major niche food exhibitions such as Caffe Culture is also an excellent way to present new products.”