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Striking up a major deal with UK giant Harvey Nichols


Aimee Beimers of Keen Nutrition

Aimee Beimers of Keen Nutrition

Aimee Beimers of Keen Nutrition

Keen Nutrition, which makes nut butters and spreads, has just announced a listing in Harvey Nichols' UK stores. It's yet another coup for the Co Down company, which produces healthy versions of spreads like peanut butter and chocolate spread.

The business was only set up in 2013 by Aimee Beimers, but it has already exceeded expectations.

The company has an annual turnover of £300,000 and Aimee revealed she has plans to develop the business further.

She is looking at the possibility of exporting her products to the Middle East and America.

But she is realistic that this will not happen overnight.

"The thing with Harvey Nicholls was a long time coming," she said.

"We met one of their buyers at a trade fair and got talking, there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing over the next few weeks and then nothing.

"However, a few weeks ago a different buyer got in touch and now we are going to be stocking their stores.

"It's very exciting.

"We have sent samples out to the Middle East as well, but I don't expect anything to happen quickly."

The mother-of-two was travelling to London once a week in her job as a digital strategist when she began working as a nutritional consultant.

It was while working in this role that she saw a gap in the market and Keen Nutrition was born.

"We were living in London and I was on maternity leave when we decided to come to Northern Ireland," she said.

"We thought we would only be here for a year so it was perfect, but things didn't quite work out like that and we're still here.

"It was when we were here and I was working as a nutritional consultant that I decided to start Keen Nutrition, as I felt I could make the biggest difference to a lot more people if I was making healthy food."

They now produce and distribute in the region of 20,000 units every month.

And while Aimee (right) does not expect their export ambitions to be realised easily, Keen Nutrition has expanded rapidly.

Just months after starting out, Aimee moved to premises in Bangor but quickly outgrew this and the company moved on to a larger building.

"I think that was a real high for me," said Aimee. "After everyone had left for the day and it was just me, I looked around and realised that everything in there belonged to me.

"That was an exciting moment.

"I do think we have had an incredibly fast growth for an artisan food company.

"We now sell in 360 stores all over the UK, but through that we have honoured our commitment to supply high quality, independent retailers.

"We want to work with them and promote them as much as they promote us and it also allows you to develop a much more personal working relationship.

"You have much more say over things like the marketing of your product and although it means dealing with a lot more people, I do think it is worth it."

She believes their products stand out in the market. "We make alternatives to peanut butters and chocolate spreads, so for example we make almond butter.

"Peanuts are an inflammatory, they are very acidic, whereas almonds are the exact opposite, so they decrease the inflammation and acidity in your body.

"With the chocolate spreads, we wanted to make an alternative and our version has a 30% sugar content while Nutella has 55%.

"It is actually the equivalent of spreading icing on your child's toast for breakfast.

"Parents think it is a healthy option, but that isn't necessarily the case.

The name Keen reflects the ethos of the company, while also including a nod to a personal challenge undertaken by Aimee and her husband, Kevin.

The pair spent 465 days travelling around Australia on a tandem recumbent bicycle, during which time they were repeatedly told they were "keen".

At the same time, the nay-sayers would come up with excuses as to why they would never do something so risky.

Aimee wanted to show that there are no excuses to eating clean and becoming more healthy. She developed her first recipes in the kitchen of her Crawfordsburn home before taking them to a local market. It was an instant hit and the business has grown rapidly in the intervening years.

"I think it was the right product at the right time," she said.

She also attributes much of the success of Keen Nutrition to the power of social media.

"We don't have a specific strategy, but if we catch ourselves stepping away from it for a few days we come right back to it."

"I don't think we would exist if it wasn't for social media."

Belfast Telegraph