The Clonakilty Gluten Free Kitchen came to life six years ago, when Cork businessman Eugene Scally opened the small in -house gluten-free bakery at his SuperValu store. After earning her stripes, Eugene’s daughter Niamh Scally now owns and manages the brand.
Niamh studied food marketing and entrepreneurship at University College Cork (UCC), followed by the Musgraves Graduate Programme and a stint of international experience with the Coles retail group in Australia.
Business developer Gillian Moore has plenty of hands on experience in agri food and business too – having recently achieved an MA in food business and innovation in UCC, along with work experience on a New Zealand dairy farm.
Gillian says: “Niamh saw a really good opportunity to build on the Clonakilty gluten-free brand and took it on in October 2020; transforming it into a fully fledged independent business in Bandon town. We are now supplying 13 Cork-based Centra and SuperValu stores with our products. We do plan to take the brand nationwide in the future, but are taking it slowly for now, building on and looking after the existing relationships we have.”
As more people become diagnosed with coeliac disease, the gluten-free business is growing from strength to strength.
“There are approximately 55,000 people living with coeliac disease in Ireland and another 500,000 with a mild gluten intolerance.
“A lot of people comment that coeliac family members can feel quite excluded at special occasions, when they can’t find a gluten free birthday cake, for example. We offer those coeliac consumers a choice of high-quality, artisan hand-crafted products.”
Gillian believes that understanding the severity of coeliac disease is important for this product line.
“The regulations and food safety requirements that we follow are very strict; from certified gluten-free ingredients to product testing and PPE equipment. We understand that just a crumb could make some people very sick.”
Niamh, however, assures us that whilst safety is paramount, flavour and quality ingredients are never compromised by their baker Jacek Chromik.
Combining their knowledge, Gillian and Niamh have found an alternative to the in store customer connection that they miss so much.
“One of the major drawbacks of COVID for us is that we can no longer carry out in-store taste tests. Instead, we have been doing ‘Surprise and Delight’ – where we ask our stores to put one of our loaves into their click and collect trollies. This is how we have kept in touch with our customers throughout the pandemic,” Gillian explains.
Understanding the importance of business relations, Niamh is grateful that her business is home to such a vibrant business district.
“We are so fortunate to be in the wonderful hub of food suppliers in west Cork. It’s a lovely support network and I am delighted to be able to contribute to this sector,” she says.
Never shy of hard work, Niamh tackles every job that needs to be done, from deliveries and product marketing, to sales and business management. And so it really is no wonder that Niamh has executed her lifelong dream of “becoming a businesswoman”.
“Since coming out of college I have been laying the foundations for this. And whilst some would think this was a bizarre time to start a new business, it has brought me so much joy and given me a focus,” Niamh says.
Clonakilty Gluten Free Kitchen is included on the Coeliac Society of Ireland’s food list for 2021. Follow the team on Instagram and Facebook to find out where you can buy their baked goods.