Invest NI welcomes major award for local small business

The success of Jacquelyn Stewart, from Warrenpoint, in winning a prestigious national award for her wheatgrass juice business, Squeeze Juice Café, has been welcomed by Invest Northern Ireland.

Jacquelyn won the Kraft Foods Leading Edge Leading Light Award in London for her success in transforming her business into an online operation that now exports to the US and Europe.

Invest NI assisted the company to increase the export potential of her wheatgrass juice through an Innovation Voucher and Technical Development support.

Olive Hill, Invest NI Director of Technology and Process Development, said: “This is a tremendous achievement for Jacquelyn Stewart and her export-focused business. The award celebrates remarkable talent in the food and grocery industry and recognises those who have gone the extra mile and made a real difference to the industry during the past year.

“Our support enabled the company to gain advice and guidance from experts at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast to extend the shelf-life of the juice and thereby to increase its export potential. It’s immensely encouraging to see this small and ambitious business now shipping juice regularly to customers in Europe and the US.”

Jacquelyn Stewart said: "I was amazed to make the shortlist in the first place and couldn't quite believe that I was one of the three finalists. As a small, independent business this is great recognition for the work I have done in producing and marketing my natural Wheatgrass Shot. I am absolutely delighted to have won this award. PR is important to all businesses but for a small operation like my own, winning an award like this is an invaluable boost for building brand recognition.

“Invest NI’s innovation and technical experts have been extremely supportive over the past year.”

The award was one of thirteen IGD Food Industry Awards announced at the IGD Convention in London. These awards recognise achievements of companies in food manufacturing, farming, retail, distribution, wholesaling and foodservice.

Presenting the award Maurizio Brusadelli, president of Kraft Foods UK & Ireland, said: “In an industry full of talented people doing exceptional things all three finalists distinguished themselves as future leading lights in the industry in their willingness to go the extra mile, develop themselves, make a difference and add value to both their company and the wider industry.

“Jacquelyn Stewart stood out with the challenges she had overcome on both a personal and business level. Her passion and commitment to the product and her determination to build her business sustainably is truly inspirational and marks her out as a Leading Light in every sense of the word.”

When faced with the closure of her juice bar outlet, Jacquelyn extended the shelf life of her 100 per cent natural wheatgrass juices from two hours to twelve weeks and has made the move to retailing juices online. This has considerably expanded her customer base, with the company now selling over 500 shots a week and exporting to US and Spain.

Jacquelyn received a prize of £2,000 and a trophy. The IGD Food Industry Awards recognise the best-in-class and demonstrate some of the most exciting new thinking in our sector.

Squeeze Juice Café delivers worldwide and currently has customers in NI, UK, ROI, Spain, Belgium and US and 85 per cent of customers order wheatgrass shots more than once.