Sharing joy with delicious and sustainable treats

Sharing joy with  delicious and sustainable treats
March 2024
Szilvia Szabó

Szilvia Szabó Author

Journalist, Editor
Journalist, Editor
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Bringing happiness with a little treat is the headline of Dublin-based Rua Food, which was born from a desire to bring healthy, wholesome food to a world too busy to cook.

Founder Alice Tevlin created a range of all-natural, gluten-free and mostly plant-based delicious snacks to supply cafes and businesses in addition to home delivery.

What sets these treats apart from others is not only the taste and healthy ingredients but also the sustainability elements of how they are made and distributed.

Alice left a job in in banking in 2014 to do the Ballymaloe Cookery School 12-week Certificate Course that covers a wide range of world cuisines and techniques and turned out to be a life-changing experience for her.

After travelling and living in Australia for a while, she returned to Dublin in 2018 with the intention of working for herself as a transition period, not anticipating that she would still be at it five years later.

Alice Tevlin, Founder of Rua Food

Alice says: “Rua started as a freelance catering gig while I figured out my next step. I was catering small events, making salads for a few Cafés and making meals for friends and older people in my area.

Then, during COVID lockdown, everything changed. Cafés in my area needed treats, and I was very keen to make them as accessible as possible, so I began making cookies and other treats without gluten or dairy for people to enjoy with their coffee on their allotted daily walks.”

The business went from strength to strength, and winning with their Golden Toasted Nutty Granola at Blas na hÉireann or Irish Food Awards was a moment to celebrate. Earning this recognition allowed Rua to use a well-recognised sticker on their packaging, which was a significant push to establish their presence on the market.

Alice created a range of all-natural, gluten-free and mostly plant-based delicious snacks. Image: Rua Food

Giving birth in 2023 brought her attention to the overwhelming challenges of managing every aspect of being a new mum and trying to breastfeed on top of everything else.

While Alice loves all the snacks they produce, she is proud that she could design lactation cookies to help support breastfeeding mums, using specific ingredients traditionally considered to increase milk flow, such as oats, brewer’s yeast, and linseed.

Becoming a mum also made her realise how much she appreciated the team running Rua. “One of my biggest achievements is creating an amazing team that cares about the business and goes the extra mile for Rua, especially when I was home with my baby.”

Another area that Alice feels she proactively wants to bring change is sustainability.

“When I created the Hazelnut and chocolate Truffle Bites from the waste of our Hazelnut Brownie, it was a step to mitigate food waste, but it was also a financial step. If you are throwing away food, you are throwing away money – profits! It is a no-brainer.”

“Sustainability is at the core of everything we create in Rua. Sometimes, it feels like you’re fighting a losing battle with costs and industry norms, but we continue striving for the best outcome for us and future generations.”

She emphasises that she never had to think twice about sustainability, saying that it is simply a part of business and a part of life.

“Being more sustainable means keeping costs down, minimising waste, and not wasting precious resources like time and energy. As a food producer, it is so important to put sustainability at the forefront of any conversation.

Between increased prices, climate anxiety, and fear for the future, any choices we can make now will not be in vain.”

However, according to Alice, the barriers to adopting sustainability include the need for more resources, more expensive compostable options for packaging, or simply taking the time to research.

Another challenge comes with supplying their food for retail, where managing packaging is a real hassle to comply with regulations and stay on the sustainability side. Right now, the basic solution is to use recyclable packaging.

"If you think about it from the retail point of view, the breakthrough would come if they considered being a sustainable business just as much as being health- and safety-compliant. ”

Working with wholesale customers, they could adopt a reusable system while compostable packaging is used with home delivery.

Referring to their sustainability commitments, she adds that they follow a zero-waste ethos to ensure that not an iota of food gets thrown away, which even influences designing products.

“I made the call to change the shape of our Tracker Bars to Tracker Balls to eliminate any potential waste when cutting the bars into rectangles.”

Besides the production, Alice also has to face managing the business.

The support from the Dublin Local Enterprise Office (LEO) immensely helped her overcome challenges by sharing advice and options for thinking about business issues, namely Cathy McPadden from the LEO, who has helped enormously in the past 12 months.

Alice Tevlin is passionate to create treats with healthy ingredients but also to add sustainability elements of how they are made and distributed. Image: Rua Food

“Receiving the Business Expansion Grant also helped with investing in machinery to speed up our processes alongside participating in the Green for Business program that pointed out areas to become more sustainable.

Also, once you are connected with the LEO, you become part of that community and embrace opportunities for extra exposure and networking, which is also very important.”

The plan for Rua is to continue to grow and spread out further across Ireland and beyond to bring this unique line of products to more people.

Szilvia Szabó

Szilvia Szabó Author

Journalist, Editor
Journalist, Editor