Posted by Denise McNamara, Connacht Tribune in News.

Galway business takes European honours for its visionary healthy meals

It took chef Owen McArdle eighteen months to take apart a simple tomato sauce and build it together again to create a tasty alternative without sugar, salt and additives and packed full of fibre and protein.

While FeedThePulse sauces have yet to hit the shelves—and the company has no website or social media presence—the business was chosen as a runner-up in a European competition for innovative thinking in the world of nutrition. Their award in the Unilever Foundry and Food Vision Trailblazer event won them a place on the Food Vision programme held recently in Cannes, France.

“We only started trading yesterday so it’s all very new,” revealed matriarch HelenMcArdle, whose husband Owen and two sons Greg and Dan are the chefs in McArdle Catering, based in Claregalway. Elite sportsmen and women in the county may recognise that name—McArdle Catering are responsible for preparing matchday packs for Connacht Rugby and Galway GAA.

Owen, Helen, Dan and Glen McArdle of FeedThePulse Super Sauces. Photo via Connacht Tribune.

Owen, Helen, Dan and Glen McArdle of FeedThePulse Super Sauces. Photo via Connacht Tribune.

Healthy meals such as a rap with chicken and pinto beans paired with quinoa or rice have been a staple of their sports lunches for teams. It was through this work they decided to pursue the idea of manufacturing their own brand sauces.

“We are not nutritionists, we are caterers. I contacted the west of Ireland heart charity Croí who spoke about the importance of low salt for blood pressure, low sugar for diabetes and low fat for a healthy weight and including protein and firbre for all-round nutrition,” explained Helen.

“Owen disassembled very normal sauces—tomato and basil, tomato and chilli, madras—and started from scratch, pulling out salt, sugar and fat. And then the fun started.”

Through a process of elimination and experimentation with herbs and natural ingredients and cooked very slowly to release the flavours, Owen created a sauce which fit the bill for people who wanted convenience that was both healthy and tasty. The fresh sauce will last 28 days and must be stored in the fridge. Due to hit the shelves of SuperValu in mid-May, FeedThePulse sauces contain ingredients such as chia seeds and pinto beans. A 360g jar which contains three portions will retail for €3.60.

“The struggle is huge to reformulate everyday dishes and make them healthier. Take two apples juices, one has 9g of sugar, the other 23g and unless you’re aware of that you don’t realise there’s such a difference.

“If people go for the healthier food it will change the industry as the bigger companies will start to follow suit. Croí will tell you that 10,000 people die in Ireland from heart disease and 80% of those deaths are preventable. Everything has to change and this is our little contribution.”

Helen worked in a family furniture business in Claregalway until the recession bit in 2010 while Owen built up McArdle Catering. Up until recently they ran the kitchen in Crowe’s Bar in Bohermore.

“I went to work with a tool box and he went off with an apron. The kids have spent their whole lives in the kitchen—they could cook before they could eat. It’s the boys who are the chefs though—the girls are like me and work outside the kitchen.”

Helen entered the online Food Vision competition which involved outlining their future vision of the food industry and how to tackle obesity and starvation. She wrote about the need to introduce the traffic light system into Ireland denoting the nutritional value of food. It should be so simple that even a six-year-old will follow it. FeedThePulse was the only Irish company to be placed.

The product side has been developed through the Food Academy Programme, run in conjunction with Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Network.

Helen is a participant on the ACORNS programme, which supports female entrepreneurs in rural regions and is funded by the CEDRA fund through the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.