While “normal” eaters are well catered for when it comes to buying prepared sauces, the choice for vegans and vegetarians is poor and largely confined to tomato-based sauces in one form or another. Spotting this gap in the market and also encouraged by the growing sales of plant-based foods, chefs Gavin Cassidy and Eoin Lennon decided the time was right to create their vegan sauce company Porter & Nash.
Cassidy and Lennon have over 50 years’ experience in the food industry between them. Both trained in catering in their teens and met as mature students at TU Tallaght while topping up their qualifications with a culinary arts degree. As part of their course they had to develop new food products and it was during this process in early 2018 that the idea for Porter & Nash was born.
The main ingredients in the sauces are roasted root vegetables combined with the nutritional powerhouse that is Irish grown kombu seaweed. The sauces are gluten-free, have no fat and are low in salt and sugar and can be used as a cooking liquid or as a normal pouring sauce. They are aimed at the food service sector and scratch home cooks.
“The products have the appearance and texture of a meat based gravy or sauce and while they are aimed at vegans and vegetarians they are equally suitable for meat eaters,” says Gavin Cassidy. “The volume of plant based products coming onto the market is growing but these products are often criticised for being dry and lacking in strong flavour. Our sauces can elevate them to a whole new level and will be of particular interest to nutritionally conscious but time poor consumers who are looking for a flavour lift for their daily dishes. They will also appeal to the home cook who wants to introduce a depth of umami flavours, a variety of nutrients and add a professional look to their dishes when entertaining.”
Cassidy says they decided to try their hand at entrepreneurship because they had a good idea backed by sound culinary know-how. “The product is right on trend with the growth in veganism and the recognition of the nutritional value of seaweed. We felt that if we didn’t give it a go we’d always regret it,” he says.
The company launched its first three products on the market last September and ultimately there will be nine products in the Porter & Nash range. The first three are a roasted garlic and thyme gravy, a roasted veg sauce and a caramelised onion and balsamic sauce. Currently, the products are mainly available through SuperValu outlets as Porter & Nash took part in SuperValu’s food academy, which supports local producers.
“After the course we did a lot of R&D on our recipe for scaling, packaging and shelf-life,” Cassidy says. “We use HPP (high hydrostatic pressure processing) as our method of preservation. It’s non thermal and works by putting water pressure on the pouches to prevent bacterial growth after filling and sealing. At the moment we are still making the products ourselves but we are now reaching a point where it’s getting so big that we’re looking at outsourcing as the next step.”
The start-up has been tightly bootstrapped with around €55,000 invested to date which includes personal savings and support from Enterprise Ireland through its New Frontiers entrepreneurs programme which Cassidy attended at TU Dublin Hothouse. Porter & Nash also used an Enterprise Ireland innovation voucher (which links companies with academic institutions) to help it with product testing and nutritional analysis. The company has recently been approved for EI competitive start funding. Cassidy says that in an ideal world he would now like to raise around €250,000 to fund the rapid growth the founders have planned for their business. This includes exporting, with Germany as Porter & Nash’s first target market.
Source: The Irish Times