Sweet Taste of Success for Downpatrick Business

Honest Wheat-Free Products of Downpatrick secured its first business in Great Britain for its innovative wheat and gluten-free cake squares by taking part in the Speciality and Fine Food Show at the Olympia Conference Centre in London on an Invest Northern Ireland group stand.

Contacts made by the company during the international show resulted in a deal with a distributor that has led to its products now being sold through a network of health food stores and coffee shops in Great Britain. The small company also distributes its range of handmade cakes in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The company’s successful recipes earned it top grocery industry prizes at the show, including the ‘Reserve for Best Speciality from Northern Ireland’ and a gold award for its date and pecan cake in the Guild of Fine Food Retailers Great Taste awards 2004

“It was our first time at Olympia and it proved to very beneficial in terms of new contacts we developed in the food industry and in the knowledge we gained about market trends, requirements and, above all, opportunities,” says Andrew Campbell, a director of Honest Wheat-Free Products.

“Our products attracted a huge amount of interest during the show and led to some very important new business. This has encouraged us to expand our operation and to move into a new factory,” he adds.

Michele Shirlow, Invest NI’s head of Trade Sectors, welcoming the company’s success, says: “Taking part on an Invest NI stand at a major international exhibition is a very cost-effective way for a smaller company to test its products in a new market.

“The show helped Honest Wheat-Free to pinpoint opportunities in the condition specific and niche foods sector that is growing rapidly worldwide. Some 4,000 buyers from all types and sizes of food companies attended the event, providing an ideal platform to reach a substantial number of potential customers,” she added.

The company, which currently employs three people, was formed in 2002 by Dorothy Campbell, who devised the unique recipe for the products initially to meet a demand from family and friends seeking tasty cakes but unable to eat products containing wheat or gluten. Encouraged by their enthusiastic response, she realised there could be a wider market demand and approached Invest NI for advice and assistance under the Business Start Programme and the ‘Innovation Credits’ scheme.

The scheme enabled Honest Wheat-Free to receive assistance in developing its products from the Manufacturing Technology Partnership in Belfast and the Food and Technology Centre at Loughry College, Cookstown. MTP, in addition, advised on a packaging process that has enabled the company to increase volume production of individual cakes while maintaining their handcrafted quality.

The company’s successful recipe earned it a top grocery industry prize - the Dried Fruit New Products Awards 2003 – winning the Alternative Lifestyle Category for its range of exotic fruit, Christmas spice, date and pecan, and apricot and cherry cake squares.

Another of its products, a mocha cake, received a silver award in the Guild of Fine Food Retailers Great Taste awards 2003.