Copyright Michael Cooper
Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI Food Director, pictured with ingredients for Moon and Spoon’s new dish for children, Pirates Pie, with Donna Devlin and Tish Dorman, the Warrenpoint company’s founders.
Moon and Spoon of Warrenpoint, an award winning specialist in healthy meals for young children, is being assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to expand sales in the Republic of Ireland and further afield.
The company, based at Warrenpoint Enterprise Centre, has received Invest NI marketing support, to drive sales in the Republic beyond the existing level of 70 per cent of turnover.
Moon and Spoon develops the recipes for main courses and desserts, then packages and distributes the additive-free and low salt meals to nurseries and childcare facilities in Northern Ireland and the Republic, including key centres in Dublin, Drogheda, Dundalk, and most recently Galway.
One of Moon and Spoon’s leading customers, Rockmount Day Nursery in Ballynahinch, Co Down, recently won the prestigious All Ireland Excellence Award for its services, including meals, provided to children in the area.
Moon and Spoon’s meals, which rely heavily on vegetables and other natural ingredients, have all been given fun names to appeal to toddlers such as Snakes in a Bake (spaghetti bolognaise); Clever Clogs (cottage pie); Pirate’s Pie (fish) and Lippy Lentils (lentil shepherd’s pie).
The meals are geared to children from six months onwards and have been developed with chef Neil McFadden, who handled the banquet at the wedding of celebrity duo David Beckham and Victoria Adams, and a leading nutrition consultancy.
The company, which currently employs four people, was formed in March 2005 by school friends Tish Dorman and Donna Devlin. Both had successful careers – Tish in marketing and Donna in the hospitality industry – before deciding to enrol on the Invest NI Go for It programme and start their own small business from their experience in creating healthy meals for their own young families.
Announcing support for the company, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI Food Director, said: “Moon and Spoon is a superb example of a company which has identified and is developing the business opportunity presented by the growing demand from parents for wholesome, natural and nutritious meals especially for very young children.
“This enterprising company has come up with an ideal solution for busy nursery managers now being faced increasingly by demands from parents and the health agencies for healthier meals that encourage children to eat vegetables and fruit at the earliest possible age.
“As well as focusing on natural ingredients, the two directors have set out to, and are clearly succeeding, in making meal times fun by the names they have given to the dishes, an experience which may influence children as they grow older to make their own choices.
“Our support for companies such as Moon and Spoon is in line with our strategic focus on encouraging innovative and export-led businesses targeted at important and developing niche markets.”
Tish Dorman said: “Our decision to set up Moon and Spoon was motivated by our concern to ensure that our children enjoyed healthy meals and also by a desire to run our own business.
“We had both worked for companies before starting our families and didn’t want to return to working for someone else. We decided to combine our interest in healthier meals for children with our desire to start our own small business.
“Invest NI’s Go for it programme was immensely beneficial in helping us on the right road. Other support from Invest NI enabled us to turn our ideas into products and then to market them professionally here and especially in the Republic.
“We were also influenced by research showing that what children eat in their earliest years is crucially important in shaping their diet later on. The years between 0 and 5 are seen as the most important in a child’s growth but are often overlooked. Once children start primary school their tastes are already shaped.
Donna Devlin said: “If a child is weaned on to a healthy diet at an early age where fatty high, salted foods are avoided then the child quickly will form good eating habits for life.
“We start them off with seasonal, fresh, local produce used in wholesome, additive-free dishes which are then blast frozen to ensure that nutrients are retained. Salt is kept to the lowest possible level of, on average 0.70 gms per 200 gms. Nursery managers will soon be able to see exactly what goes into our food because we will be providing them with a nutritional breakdown of every tray of food we deliver.”