BiaSol is an ambitious family-run, Midlands-based start up focused on creating innovative foods that maximise nutrition and minimise waste.
This multi award-winning Irish brand is the brainchild of sustainability-focused sibling entrepreneurs Niamh and Ruairi Dooley, who have created a range of high fibre, zero waste products such as Super Milled Grains, cleverly using a by-product of the brewing industry.
We spoke to Ruairi about the success of BiaSol, their commitment to the concept of upcycling food and BiaSol’s plans to put more cutting-edge sustainable products on the market.
Tell us about the lightbulb idea behind BiaSol.
The idea for BiaSol grew from a simple project that Niamh and I started working on in March 2020. The first Covid lockdowns had begun and I was based in Melbourne and Niamh in Athlone at the time. To connect more regularly and take ourselves from the boredom the pandemic brought we kicked off a food project with a goal to add more nutrition to everyone’s diets in a sustainable way. The first idea was to start a cricket farm and produce cricket protein powder. That ended after some initial research – Irish people aren’t ready for eating insects yet!
Further research led us to become aware of brewers’ spent grain (the largest by-product of the brewing industry). After some lab tests, research and kitchen trials we knew we could set out to achieve our mission using this by-product.
What made you decide on Super Milled Grains as your primary product?
It always goes back to our purpose and what we set out to do. For Super Milled Grains, it was all about an easy, sustainable way for people to add fibre into their diets. The superior advantage it has over traditional functional ingredients such as flaxseeds and psyllium husks is that it tastes great. Now we can give everyone the opportunity to enhance flavour in a healthy way.
What ingredients do you use and how do you make Super Milled Grains?
Super Milled Grains only contains brewers spent grains, there’s nothing added or removed. These are the grains that were used to make beer, mostly malted barley, but there can be some wheat, rice, rye present depending on the beer.
We collect this grain from the breweries when it is wet and hot and bring it to BiaSol HQ in Tullamore where it goes through a process which dries the grains. Once the dried grains have cooled, we mill, pack and seal creating a fresh malt tasting food.
What are the health benefits of using Super Milled Grains?
There’s quite a lot actually and our research is still ongoing. From our testing we can highlight the following benefits:
40% of Super Milled Grains is Fibre which is very high, especially when foods only need at least 6% fibre to claim High Fibre according to the FSAI. It also contains both soluble and insoluble fibres which are important too.
Insoluble fibres can have a prebiotic effect. Prebiotics serve as food for ‘friendly’ microorganisms and bacteria living in the gut and stimulate their growth – this can have many beneficial health benefits including reducing risk of disease and having a strong immune and digestive system.
The soluble fibres include beta-glucans which help lower plasma cholesterol levels and help to normalise blood glucose and insulin levels. So, these fibres can help cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes.
20% of Super Milled Grains is protein which contains 8 of the 9 essential amino acids such as Lysine, Threonine, Valine, Leucine, Methionine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine and Histidine.
Iron – important for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.
Zinc – important for immune system and metabolism.
Calcium – important for healthy bones/teeth, blood clotting, nervous system.
Manganese – important for metabolism of amino acids, cholesterol, glucose.
B1 Thiamine, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, B9 Folate. B vitamins help the body process the energy from the foods it eats, helps normal brain functioning and helps regulate digestion.
In terms of flavour, what are the benefits of adding Super Milled Grains to dishes and bakes?
Super Milled Grains has a delectably malt and nutty flavour profile. The best thing about the grains is they are so versatile and can be used in breads, baked goods, soups, sauces etc. It really is a flavour enhancer/creator when added to dishes and bakes.
Can you tell us more about BiaSol’s commitment to sustainability and a zero-waste approach and why this is so important?
One of our core brand pillars is sustainability and that means acting sustainably enters the fray in all our decision making. We are food upcyclers and the first proud members of the Global Upcycled Food Association. Upcycling food is an ancient tradition based on the philosophy of using all of what you have. It’s about doing more with less and elevating all food to its highest and best use. Our population is growing, and food demand is expected to increase by 60% by 2050. We wanted BiaSol to help elevate this in some way.
Our production process is all about zero waste and circularity. For example, we use leftover boxes from local businesses to send out many of our online and B2B orders. It saves our neighbouring businesses having to flatten and recycle them and helps us use materials already in circulation.
Now that your product range has expanded to include Super Milled Grain-based baking mixes, what is your most popular product and why do you think that is?
It’s hard to say for sure as we have a wide range of customer profiles. The scone mix is most popular with over 40’s and the pancake mix is most popular with our younger customers.
Overall though the scone mix is probably the most popular. As with all our mixes they are high in fibre so a good way to keep fuller for longer. The scones are more savoury but at the same time can be enjoyed with some butter and jam.
Our customers really like the fact they can make a batch of these and then use them as a healthy snack throughout the week.
What are your favourite dishes to make with Super Milled Grains?
To be honest, at home, it goes in most things.
Breakfast: overnight oats, yoghurt, granola, porridge.
Lunch: we add it into homemade soup to add flavour.
Baking: sourdough, soda bread, scones, muffins, brownies.
If we have a family Sunday Roast, it’s added to our gravy instead of cornflour!
Tell us about some of the sustainable bakers and chefs currently working with BiaSol products.
Maurice McGeehan head chef at IRFU and known as “the no waste chef” has been an incredible supporter in our journey right from the start. He loves experimenting with our grains and has created some amazing dishes including a malt flavoured Ice cream.
Karen O’Donoghue, founder of The Happy Tummy Co, uses our grains because they are a sustainable source of fibre and protein. She adds our ingredients into her gut-loving loaves in Westport, Mayo. We have a great relationship with Karen and her support has been amazing in helping us grow.
What other Irish food businesses do you admire most and why?
Cream of The Crop Gelato, they upcycle fruit that would have gone to waste to create beautiful gelato! Food Cloud & Too Good to Go are tackling food waste, a huge problem very close to our hearts.
What are the secrets to your success as a food start up?
No secrets to be honest. I think forming great relationships is the most important thing on reflection. We would not be where we are without the help and support of our friends from the craft breweries, the mentors from EI and our customers who support the BiaSol mission.
I think food though in particular, is an easier place to form relationships. There are so many good people in the space.
How did you grow and expand your business?
A lot of hard work, long hours and tonnes of support. We face the challenge of having to educate everyone in the food sector about brewers spent grains. Most people haven’t heard of them before so it’s a long battle to win new customers and keep spreading the message. Thankfully it’s paying off now and it was only achievable with the help of the fantastic supports Ireland has to offer for new enterprises.
As a brother and sister team in business, how do your backgrounds complement each other?
The most common thing we are asked is always “how do you guys not kill each other?”. And the answer to why we haven’t is definitely because of our different backgrounds.
Niamh is the food scientist who looks after the production and research whereas I look after sales and finance and all the other boring admin bits.
Having a clear divide of responsibilities within BiaSol makes it easier. We both know what we are responsible for, and we try not to get in each other’s way. Unfortunately, the reality is we are siblings so the fuse can be a bit shorter than normal so there can often be a heated discussion.
What has been your proudest moment in business to date?
For me it was winning the competitive start fund with Enterprise Ireland. At that stage we had spent 12 months working on the idea and weren’t sure how we could finance it. Having the backing of Enterprise Ireland made our dream become a reality and at that point it was time to pack up my life in Australia and come home to help Niamh full time.
Niamh’s moment was winning the Irish Times Innovation Awards and being recognised for developing and implementing a new process which enables the repurposing of brewers’ spent grain back to the human food chain.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Our baking mix range launched on our website recently. But we’re looking to expand into other categories and we’ve some exciting projects in the pipeline. New foods that are better for you and the planet – that’s all we can say for now unfortunately.
Where can shoppers stock up on BiaSol products?
We are listed in about 50 stores nationwide now. A full list of our stockists can be found at https://www.biasol.ie/stockists.
Anything else you would like readers to know about BiaSol?
We are fundraising at the minute so if you or anyone you know is interested in joining the BiaSol journey then please get in touch with [email protected]
Collaborations – We love working with other businesses, chefs, bakers & influencers so get in touch with us if you want to help promote upcycled foods.