This year Focus Friday is teaming up with the SuperValu Food Academy to bring you the best new Irish food producers, and tell you all about their products. Today, we chat to Pauline from Kookee Handmade Cookies and Dry Mixes.
Hi Pauline! Can you tell us a little about Kookee?
We currently produce two ranges, a Bake at Home Dry Cookie Mix and a Bake in Store Cookie Mix. At present we have 11 flavours in total, 9 of which are available in gluten/wheat free.
Our flavours are:
-Triple Chocolate Chip,
-Double Chocolate, Oatmeal and Raisin
-Cinnamon and Nutmeg
-Coconut and Cranberry
-Oatmeal and Chocolate
-Pecan and White Chocolate
-Macadamia and Dark Chocolate
We supply coffee shops and deli counters with our Bake in Store cookies, which allows them to offer a freshly baked product to the consumer. This also allows the stores to offer a gluten-free Grab and Go option, of which there are very few available.
The beauty of our Bake at Home mix is its extreme versatility. To keep with the homemade taste of the range, the consumer adds one egg and 100g of butter to each mix. However, all our 11 flavours can be made using an egg replacement, allowing them to be egg-free, and eight of our flavours can also be dairy-free by adding a dairy replacement. This allows us to market our range to meet several needs from egg-free, dairy-free to gluten-free. Alongside these options I regularly post baking ideas on my blog with alternative uses for the cookie mix, including ideas such as the Brookie (half cookie / half brownie) or the Cookie Crust Crumble.
What inspired you to create Kookee?
I have always had a love for baking and cooking and much of my professional career was in the food industry. My most recent position was as a purchasing and stores manager for a food manufacturing plant. Back in 2007, we had two kids under five and a baby on the way. After many assessments we were told that our son was Autistic. The next two years followed with a blur as we got more information on his diagnosis. We began therapy and ultimately I gave up my job and became his full time carer.
We discovered very early on that he was struggling to be part of the family and didn’t interact with his siblings, so I set about looking for ideas, most of which failed miserably. But one Saturday I made up a basic cookie dough mix and sat all three kids at the table. At first he didn’t join in but he watched as the others rolled and cut out shapes and then got to eat their masterpieces. After a few weeks Cian finally joined in, and with a heightened sense of touch this was by no means easy for him. The weeks passed and the cookie mountain grew. We started giving away cookies as birthday presents and gifts to family and friends. Soon I started receiving orders and people wanted to pay me to bake cookies.
This then gave me the idea of starting a business from home and still working as my son’s carer, and so Kookee was born. The flavours grew over time, through trial and error and requests from friends.
One friend, who had two Autistic boys, decided to put them on a gluten-free diet and asked me would I try and create a GF cookie for them as a treat. This then fuelled the now eight gluten-free flavours that we create.
How has your product evolved since it has launched?
At first I primarily sold only my Bake in Store cookies. The feedback from customers was extremely positive and many asked where else they could get the product as they would also love them at home. This prompted me to look further into the Bake at Home and cookie dough products currently available on the market. I noticed a lack of choice in flavours, no gluten-free options within this category and all had a sugary crispy texture, unlike our range which is soft and moreish. Food Academy also steered us in the right direction and we’ve carved a valuable niche in the market.
Who is your customer?
We thankfully appeal to a wide audience from the working man who wants a coffee and a treat but doesn’t want a cupcake, or a mum who wants a treat for her child and knows our product is not full of anything harmful. We deal with a lot of mums of Autistic children who have put their child on a gluten-free diet but still want something nice for their lunch box. We cater for coeliacs, vegans, dairy intolerant and egg intolerant people. We appeal to the family who wants to bake together, or the teenager who wants to have a baking party with her mates. We have customers in Malta who have our product shipped out specially for a child who is dairy and gluten intolerant and can’t find anything else that matches our standard.
What tips would you give to someone who is starting out and wants to launch a food-related product/business?
A few key things:
- Research your market, know your competitors and find your USP (unique selling point).
- Focus on your product and brand and don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and make changes if they are needed.
- Grow your business at a pace that suits you and your needs.
I would also highly recommend taking part in the Food Academy Programme working alongside Bord Bia, Local Enterprise Offices and SuperValu. This programme is targeted perfectly at start-ups and SMEs, and gives you honest feedback from leading industry experts that otherwise would be difficult to get.
Where can you buy the range and how much will it cost?
Currently you can get your hands on our Bake at Home cookie mixes in over 20 SuperValu stores, and five independent stores, and our Bake in Store cookie range is available in over ten stores.
Our mixes sell for €3.95 and will make 12-15 cookies. We have flatlined the prices across our full range so that standard and gluten-free are the same price. Our cookies can be picked up for as little as €1 in some stores making them a popular snack choice.
What does the future hold for your business?
We are very excited about the future of Kookee. We have plans in place to build a bespoke production plant and have started taking on staff to meet the ever-growing business. We have many more Supervalu stores to visit along with independents and interest from other major retailers. We plan to increase our domestic presence first then we will investigate the export market.