Meet The Producer
Loretta Kennedy, CEO
Can you give me a sentence that captures the essence of your brand?
MamaBear Foods is an award winning food brand with a commitment to taste, quality and sustainability We produce a range of healthy condiments including an award winning reduced sugar tomato ketchup.
How did your career pathway bring you to this point in the business?
At University I started in law but I didn’t finish my degree as I just didn’t have the love for it. I suppose quite early on I realised that if something wasn’t working then I was better off changing direction. I was always drawn to the written word and to psychology so completed my degree in English and Social Psychology through the Open University, did a Nursing diploma along the way plus gained qualifications in Counselling and life coaching. I suppose I have always been curious and have had a thirst for knowledge.. I never felt dropping out from my law degree was a mistake ora regret ( my parents thought otherwise) I saw it as a huge learning to trust my gut in my decision making and if something didn’t feel right, then it probably wasn’t. I suppose my career path has been quite unconventional in that I have never had a clear pathway in a career and have always combined working for myself with paid work. I ran a night club in galway for a while, worked in theatre and nursed, I taught English around Europe.
Living in Sicily really taught me how to cook, how to work with great ingredients. I met my partner in Sicily And we spent so much of our time there eating and drinking! I learnt to cook properly in Sicily. After I had children I realised that the job I had wasn’t working (on call 50 hour weeks) and again, changed direction. Having 3 siblings in food businesses definitely gave me the confidence to start my own. And fail if it happened. Thankfully my business has gone from strength to strength and I am now helping other entrepreneurs through mentoring programmes and life coaching.
When did you consider yourself a success?
Ha, I still don’t really. I suppose dropping my first batch of ketchup into my local Supervalu in Glanmire the night we got the first big cook done. It was still hot going on the shelves that night! I remember looking at my daughter helping me put it on the shelf with the store manager and really felt like I had achieved something. That I had gone from idea to an actual listing with an actual product with barcodes and labels and nutritional analysis. That I had done it. Pitching to Aldi and getting a listing with them 4 months after launching was also pretty amazing. It brought my focus from local to National and now I have my sights set on global.
What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
You have nothing to lose in life in pursuing your creative ideas and dreams. Be bold, don’t play small and trust your gut. And moisturise and wear SPF!
What challenges does your industry face?
Right now with a recession on the way I worry that people will choose cheaper versions of foods. The ingredients I use are expensive. Most food service has finished for the moment and it’s hard to know what that will look like once it gets back up and running. I have found it difficult to launch my new products in the middle of a global pandemic but to be fair my sales have been good. I have a loyal customer base who I am so grateful for supporting me through this time. It has kept my business afloat when I know so many businesses that have had to fold.
How do you push through your worst times?
I tell myself I am human and that I have one trip around this block to try out new things and ideas. If something is working, I go with it but if something clearly isn’t I push for a while and then I wait to see what happens. I trust in myself now. I have a really supportive group of entrepreneur friends and that is a huge support. Getting straight up advice from siblings who are in the food industry is also really great. A family member will be a lot more straight talking with you than maybe a friend who knows how emotionally attached you are to a product or an idea that just may not be feasible.
I ask questions and I listen but I stay true to my own values. Two years ago everyone was telling me to go with a plastic squeezy bottle. I knew it was the wrong move for my company and held to my No. Thankfully.
I mediate most mornings and that is my anchor. I read once that a good day doesn’t absolve you from your practice and so I do get up early most mornings to meditate and to journal. I ask for guidance regularly. If I don’t know something, I ask. And I’m not afraid to make mistakes. Or to cry!
Have you recently developed any new innovative products?
Yes, I have two new flavours I am waiting to get out into supermarkets.
Where are your products stocked?
Aldi Nationwide, selected Supervalu stores and independent stores around the country. Also, on Amazon and selected gift boxes.