A busy mum of five, with another baby on the way next month, Aisling Hanley certainly knew a thing or two about babies before she started developing her one ingredient baby food ‘Keenwah Quinoa’.
Made from 100 per cent organic quinoa, Ms Hanley says her frustration with the lack of choice and bland commercial processed white cereals available on the supermarket shelves for a baby’s first introduction to food, led to her beginning the Keenwah Quinoa brand and business.
A health conscious mother, the Galway woman said she wanted to give her babies the best start in life, noting that the first year of life is “crucial for growth and development”.
“I know how important it is to fuel their growing minds and bodies with nutritious foods. Organic quinoa baby food is an excellent alternative to baby rice,” she adds.
Ms Hanley says quinoa is an “ideal” first food for babies.
“I know myself that parents are looking for simple one ingredient foods to introduce to their weaning babies to identify allergies,” she explains.
“Quinoa organic baby food is so easy to use. It requires no cooking, just stir in milk or water for an instant yummy nutritious creamy meal.”
According to Ms Hanley, the biggest benefit of Keenwah Quinoa is the nutrition. “It has been hailed as a superfood so it’s full of protein, iron, potassium, thymine, and there’s omega acids in it too.”
And it’s not just for babies. “Even for my older kids now I’d stir it in to pasta sauces or into pancake batters. You can keep using it for the entire family. I’ll throw it into soup or you can put it into smoothies, hot or cold, and it’ll just dissolve and it just makes things creamier and thicker.
Ms Hanley is no stranger to the food industry, having started a farmers market in Headford selling the bread she baked in her kitchen. Demand soon grew and she started supplying local Galway shops before moving into a commercial premises and establishing her own bakery in 2008.
A small traditional family bakery, Aisling’s Artisan Bakery now employs six fulltime staff, supplying shops in Galway and Mayo, including Joyces Supermarkets, Mace, SuperValu, Centra and Dunnes Stores. Although she says the business world wasn’t new to her, she didn’t expect the process behind developing Keenwah Quinoa to be so difficult.
“It was such a learning curve and completely different to starting up the bakery,” she says, before adding that the legislation surrounding baby food is very different to the legislation that was involved in setting up the bakery.
“I had to get an organic licence because it’s organic, I had to get an import licence because you can’t grow quinoa in Ireland so it was imported and this was all new to me. I was very naïve, I didn’t think of any of this.” Ms Hanley also took part in the SuperValu Food Academy Programme, which works with small local food producers to grow their business.
The Food Academy Programme is an initiative of SuperValu, Bord Bia and Local Enterprise Offices around the country, and Ms Hanley credits it for bringing her product “from an idea to a reality”. “I couldn’t recommend it more. It should definitely be a first port of call for anyone with a business idea,” she says.
She says the programme connects you with the right people, providing an invaluable support network. “There was plenty of times I felt like throwing in the towel but they were always there to support you and pick you up again.” Keenwah Quinoa is now available from Joyces and SuperValu stores.
On a personal note the ambitious mum-to-be says she will be “going into hibernation” for a little while after her baby is born next month but has big plans for the future, saying the quinoa baby food is just the first in a line of quinoa products.
“The plan is to roll it out nationwide and there’s also export potential there. I’m talking to distributors in London at the moment because it has good export potential, there’s nothing like it in Ireland or the UK presently and it has a long shelf life which is very good if you want to export.” For more information visit www.keenwahquinoa.com or check them out on Facebook. For more on Galway Local Enterprise Office, see www.localenterprise.ie/Galway.