Irish brand set to shake up Britain’s frozen food sector

Samuel Dennigan

Strong Roots is a new frozen food brand which has just launched to the UK Market and is looking to revolutionise the frozen food category.

Currently a big hit in Ireland, the Dublin based company was set up by food entrepreneur, Samuel Dennigan.

The projected turnover is projected to add £7 million in the next 12 months, as Sam hopes to capture a share of the UK frozen food market, currently worth an estimated £303.2 million a year.

The brand launched in Ireland in 2015 into a stagnant market and it is currently trading with around 1200% year-on-year growth. Strong Roots now has mass distribution in the Irish supermarkets and aims to have a similar impact in Britain.

With turnover set to increase to over £10 million in the next 12 months and new partnerships with Waitrose and Whole Foods Market – Strong Roots looks set to break the mould in the UK frozen food market.

Business Leader Magazine recently sat down with Samuel Dennigan to discuss his company’s origins, his journey and the future of the frozen food market in the UK.

Can you give our readers an overview of your history and background as an entrepreneur?

“Since the 1930’s, my family has worked in the market and gardening area of North Dublin, producing, packaging and selling the local area’s natural goods. I grew up watching them work in the industry knowing that I wanted to also be involved and eventually I took over the family’s stall at the Dublin Corporation Wholesale Market in the early 2000’s.

“It was here that I started to gain experience in every part of the supply chain and the changing tastes of Irish consumers, suppliers and retailers. I’d meet customers every day and they were telling me that they wanted something new, fresh, tasty and nutritious and I knew I could create something that would fulfil these needs.

“In 2015, I decided to part ways with the family business.  I spotted a gap in the market for premium frozen vegetables and established Strong Roots to provide these customers with new and healthy options – to bring them back to the frozen aisle, and show them that frozen can be as good, if not better than fresh.

“In April 2015, Strong Roots was accepted into SuperValu’s Food Academy – the largest food accelerator programme in Ireland. By October that year, we had launched our first product into Irish supermarkets: Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

“Over the course of 2016, Strong Roots grew its market share and its range to include three new products: Kale & Quinoa Burger, Ripened Avocado Halves and Garlic Roasted Sweet Potato and in 2017 we expanded into the UK, showing up in Waitrose and Whole Foods Market freezers.”

Ripened Avocado Halves

Why did you enter the frozen food market? Was there a gap in the market that you spotted?

“As I have grown up working in the fresh food sector I have become increasingly frustrated with the limited shelf life fresh food has to offer and the amount of waste there is as a result. Due to this frustration, I decided to look to frozen alternatives. I could see a gap in the market and a demand for healthy delicious vegetables in a cost effective convenient format and thought frozen vegetables and vegetable based meals could be the answer.

“Not many people realise that there are usually actually higher nutritional values in frozen vegetables compared to fresh which has been proven in many studies. Also, our products can stay fresh for up to two years as a result of freezing. The nutritional qualities remain the same, the product is a great convenient option for families wanting to eat healthier and most importantly it means we are helping to reduce food waste.”

Can you give an overview of Strong Roots?

“Strong Roots is an innovative, award-winning healthy frozen food brand, revolutionising the frozen food aisle. We launched in the UK in 2017 into Waitrose and Whole Foods Market with a delicious and nutritious range of vegetables and veggie meals – helping those with busy lifestyles cut corners in the kitchen and enjoy healthy food easily.

“Strong Roots prides itself on working with the best producers in the world to source the finest vegetables and all of our products are fresh, tasty and bursting with goodness. The range includes Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries, Kale & Quinoa Burgers, Ripened Avocado Halves and Garlic Roasted Sweet Potatoes, all of which are a great source of fibre, vegan friendly, have no artificial flavours and are perfect whether they are enjoyed on their own or part of a balanced meal.

“Strong Roots carefully freezes all of its vegetables from the moment they are picked to guarantee freshness and ensure nutrients are not lost in transportation. The whole line can be stored in the freezer until it’s ready for baking, delivering in flavour and nutrition whilst being as convenient as possible.”

Oven Baked Sweet Potato

Are there any financial statistics showing growth?

“Following its launch into Ireland in 2015, Strong Roots saw an initial turnover of £2.5 million in its first year. We hope to continue to develop and expand the business and increasing this turnover to £10 million in the next 12 months reaching £100 million by the next five years.

“Strong Roots has had a great response since its launch and last year single handily increased consumption of frozen food in the Irish market for the first time in approximately 15 years. The brand now accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the frozen food category in retail in Ireland and plan to do the same in the UK.”

How do you plan on taking on the UK market following success in Ireland?

“Strong Roots offers an alternative for consumers who aren’t currently shopping in the frozen aisle other than for ice cream. There is a current demand for convenient, healthy and delicious frozen vegetables and frozen vegetable meals and this is why we have seen such a great success in Ireland and are currently seeing the same results here in the UK.

“Strong Roots is encouraging a new kind of shopper, one that doesn’t usually shop in the frozen food aisle, but we are also seeing consumers who rely on health supplements or buy from specific health food outlets buying our products as they offer a delicious and healthy alternative to their usual brands.

“We offer a premium product and a delicious convenient way of consuming healthy foods and can’t wait to expand and grow our offering in the UK.”

Kale & Quinoa Burger

What advice would you give to anyone outside the UK looking to make the move you’re doing now?

“A key piece of advice would be to immerse yourself in the market you are working in. I have since moved to the UK and set up an office in London.  It is important to be where your customers are to understand the different buying behaviours and allow your team to be agile and responsive to the market and trend movements.

“Another piece of advice would be to ensure you have a solid team around you involving people you trust to deliver the jobs you need them to do. The people working for your business are equally as important to the brand’s customers, so take your time to ensure you have the best people working with you who are as involved in the business as you are.”

What does the term entrepreneur mean to you?

“The term entrepreneur to me means being able to start a business or concept from scratch and nurturing it through to success. A key part of being an entrepreneur is to be able to find solutions to problems and knowing when something isn’t working. Another important factor is being able to learn from mistakes and take strength from it. I loved starting my own business and it is something I have thrived upon.”

Garlic Roasted Sweet Potato

Can you see the frozen food market growing larger? Any plans for celebrity endorsements?

“Yes and yes. The frozen food market has a great platform to continue to grow. Buying frozen vegetables and frozen vegetable meals means less food waste as well as less meal prep without compromising on taste or nutrition. The frozen food aisle for so long has been very stagnate and we are now seeing more and more brands introducing exciting innovative alternatives helping to encourage more and more shoppers back down the aisle.

“We are also very open to collaborations, it is however really important that we find the perfect ambassadors for Strong Roots. Consumers are spending more and more time on their portable devices especially browsing social media platforms, celebrities, bloggers and social media influencers can be detrimental to consumers buying habits and crucial for brand engagement. We are currently in the process of identifying some key partners for Strong Roots that have influence with our target demographic – watch this space.”

What does the future hold for Strong Roots?

“Our key focus right now is ensuring we continue to successfully launch into the UK.  We have seen a great response from consumers so far and have further plans to continue to develop and expand our existing range of delicious frozen food.

“We are determined to also expand internationally and this is very much part of our overall business plan.”