Yorkshire native Hayley Milthorpe set up her business The Cultured Food Company in West Cork in 2014 after realising there was a gap in the market in Ireland for live fermented foods, which support and enhance digestion. She launched a range of raw unpasteurised sauerkrauts.
After qualifying as a nutritional therapist in 2013, Hayley started setting her business wheels in motion. I had always struggled with poor digestion, but it wasn’t until I had my children that I became really interested in providing nutritious foods to nourish my growing family,” she explains. “After three years in college, I was fascinated by how food could impact on your health. I was passionate about traditional diets and using food as a medicine and not relying on supplements.”
While researching and reading about the ancient diets our ancestors followed, Hayley came across fermented foods, as fermentation is an ancient form of food preservation.
She started incorporating foods like kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut into her family’s diet. As a practising nutritionist, she also saw the benefits her clients experienced from introducing these foods into their diets.
“Fermented food is a natural probiotic,” she explains. “We now know of the very important role that gut flora plays in our overall wellbeing…our digestion, our immune system, our mental health.”
Hayley started off making her products in her own kitchen and selling them at her local farmer’s market in Skibbereen.
The business took off and she moved into a shared premises in Ballydehob.
Very soon, Hayley’s products were being distributed to health food stores throughout Ireland and by the end of 2014 she was exporting to the UK.
After receiving a grant from her Local Enterprise Office, in 2015 Hayley took the big step of leasing and outfitting her own premises in Skibbereen.
The Cultured Food Company range is currently stocked in many health stores throughout Ireland, food delicatassens and SuperValu’s.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” says Hayley “I literally didn’t have any business experience when I first started but I’ve learned so much along the way and had fantastic supoort, especially from my Local Enterprise Office (LEO).
“I have felt overwhelmed at times but I’ve always felt that LEO is there to support me.
“It may be hard at times but it’s never boring. I love working on business development and strategy. Its always great developing new products, along with being out on the road talking to customers and attending food events.
“My main challenge right now is trying to understand marketing and how the consumer’s mind works!”
For anyone about to start their own business, Hayley’s advice is to take small steps. “If something goes wrong, take it in your stride, learn from it, don’t be too hard on yourself, talk to other food businesses. In West Cork in particular, people here are very good to talk to each other and offer support and advice.”
Hayley is very proud of what she has achieved in business. “When I reached the five year mark was when I realised that I have a successful business. It’s a productive and financially viable company and I created it!”
With her eye on the market, Hayley is always thinking about her next move and getting on top of the next healthy food trend. “I’ve loved the whole experience of developing a business and I’d love to do it all over again!”