Forget fad diets and “influencers”: when it came to setting up Country Munch, Eoin Sheehan found his inspiration closer to home.
“It all stemmed from my grandmother. She lived to be 92, travelled to six out of the seven continents, visiting Australia at the age of 80.
"She was the fittest, healthiest woman I ever knew. She lived in the country on the farm and ate the food from the farm,” he explains.
“She was never on a fad diet, never worried about carbs, proteins or fats, never worried about any supplementation.
"It was just honest, basic nutrition. That’s what I love – and that’s what I want to bring back.”
Eoin is co-owner and CEO of Country Munch, a healthy meal delivery service based in Co Limerick. The 21-year-old is the business’s head chef, along with being a student and helping run his family’s suckler farm in Pallaskenry.
Sitting in the reception area of the local leisure centre (given the nature of the interview, it seems an apt location), Eoin explains there are three strands to Country Munch: the meal delivery service, corporate catering and sweet treats, which are being sold just a few feet away.
With people leading increasingly busy lives, meal prep services are not uncommon in Ireland now, but most are located in and around Dublin.
Country Munch was set up on the back of spotting a gap in the market in Limerick and Clare.
In his teens, Eoin was something of a health and fitness fanatic and, with a particular love for cooking, used to share his recipes on social media.
“People started to ask do I cook meals for others. Initially, I said: ‘Absolutely not, that’s ridiculous.’ And then more people asked.
"I suppose the entrepreneurial instinct kicked in, and I thought: ‘Right, I could probably make some money out of this.’”
In six weeks, Eoin went from cooking four meals to 40 meals and now the business continues to grow, as it prepares to move into an industrial kitchen and take on a courier.
He has also gone into partnership with two other co-owners, who deal with the business end of things, leaving him free to do all the cooking.
Country Munch is a healthy meal delivery service, but not specifically for weight loss. The food is cooked in a healthy way, but the idea is that the meals are tasty too.
“Fad diets are something that I would like to combat with Country Munch. We’re not selling gimmicks, there are no tricks or secrets with us.
"Our food won’t make you lose 40 pounds. It has to be part of a balanced diet.”
Relationship with food
In terms of his own relationship with food, Eoin says that he has seen both ends of the spectrum, from being very overweight to having a super-restrictive diet as a bodybuilder.
“I was overweight throughout my teens, but I played rugby, so it was overshadowed by that. I played until I was 17 and then I started losing weight, just to get the attention of girls,” smiles Eoin.
“I went on and competed in bodybuilding, coming second in Ireland in the teenage category.
"That was the peak of my bodybuilding phase – but also probably when I was at my worst eating wise. I was 8% body fat, the leanest I have ever been, but it was just unsustainable.
“I started to put on weight again, to become normal again for me, but it was very hard to put on weight, it was just a sense of ‘you’re getting fat again’.”
Soon after this, Eoin began to get more passionate about cooking, and this improved his relationship with food.
He learned to enjoy the flavour of what he was cooking, without overindulging or being too strict.
Farm to fork
Last Christmas, Eoin reared and sold 25 turkeys. He viewed this as an initial test, as it is his ambition in the future to produce all of the meat used in Country Munch on the farm.
“I don’t want to be a full-time farmer for the rest of my life, but I would love to use the farm as part of the business,” he outlines.
“I want to produce my own meat on the farm. I’m going to invest in bullocks soon. The turkeys were like a trial run.”
As well as a good knowledge of food production, another thing Eoin has taken away from farming is the work ethic.
Growing up, he was used to seeing his father working from dawn to dusk, as he held down both a full-time job and ran the farm.
Eoin himself is also quite busy at the moment, balancing Country Munch with completing the final year of his chemical and biochemical engineering degree at the University of Limerick, and he decided not to make things any easier on himself approaching exam time.
With the week before exams being the busiest time for students, he decided it was an ideal opportunity to hold a sale to attract new customers, which he did, along with landing himself a massive workload.
“My study week was rough enough, the meals were cooked first and then I went incognito for a few days,” laughs Eoin.
But the engineering student never plans on using his degree once he gets it. Eoin wants to pursue his passions – and those are most definitely for food.
Prices range from €6.50 to €9.50 per meal. At present, Country Munch is running a limited service as it waits to move into a new premises and will operate to full capacity from May. To find out more about Country Munch, visit www.countrymunch.com