Emily McDaid caught up with Maria Doran, founder of The Skinny Sauce Company, to discuss her product and plans for the future.
A self-confessed ‘crash-and-burn dieter’, an ambitious young entrepreneur from Belfast, has just launched The Skinny Sauce Company.
Her sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan sauces – including Sweet Chilli and Sweet Curry – contain between just three and seven calories per 15ml serving. The first sauce (Sweet Chilli) recently became available to pre-order online, with more coming soon.
“At the moment, we have no competitors. No one yet has done completely sugar-free,” said founder Maria Doran, a recent graduate from Queen’s University Belfast.
I was struck by her story – even before she started university, she already had a feather in her cap, being a finalist in the 2012 Young Apprentice competition (the one on BBC1, with Sir Alan Sugar). After graduating, she immediately dove into her own venture.
She credits her father with being a “silent partner”, and his 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry have helped with manufacturing and distribution decisions.
“I’m a firm believer that you try everything in life,” said Doran. Her energy is literally bouncing down the phone line from London, where she’s making some packaging and distribution deals – she’s made me believe, too.
How did you come up with the recipes?
The recipes weren’t made overnight. I made them at home but I needed to make them commercial. The Down Sauce Co helped me with crucial steps like improving the products’ shelf-life, so I give them a lot of credit.
How are they sweetened?
We only use all-natural sweeteners.
What about bottling?
We do all the bottling with The Down Sauce Co in Downpatrick. I designed all the labelling, with the help of Kaizen Print.
Where do you want to see your product in five years?
Stocked at the premium retailers. I want to be selling online, have a strong social media presence and be a multimillion-pound business.
So you’re not targeting Tesco, then?
The most important thing to me is the quality of our product and the strength of our brand. Other brands put cheap and nasty ingredients in their sauce for their profit margin. We’re all natural. I’m seeing Skinny Sauce Company products at places like Selfridges, or Holland and Barrett.
How will you grow? Will you seek funding?
It’s a very exiting time and I’m so positive about this brand. I’m speaking to private investors but if that doesn’t work out, I’m also considering a Seedr campaign.
What does it mean to you to be an Invent finalist?
It means the world to me and I’d recommend that anyone should apply. Invent has catapulted my business along. Being a start-up entrepreneur can be very lonely, so being part of that community is important for me, and to win the funding would open the door for me to launch two more sauces. The tech mission to the US would open up a whole new market for us.
Anything else you want to say?
We might be skinny sauce, but we’re big on flavour!
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch
The annual Invent competition is run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, and aims to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2017 will take place on Thursday 5 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund and the chance to attend a Northern Ireland tech mission to California.