When we first caught up with food entrepreneur Shane Ryan, he was working all the hours on his first start-up, in a bid to make eating healthy plant-based food easy for everyone. However, the venture proved much more challenging than originally anticipated, ultimately taking three roller-coaster attempts to get things up and running the way he wanted.
Ryan describes the failure of two ventures as painful. “At the start, so much of my own sense of self-worth was wrapped up in my business, so when things started going south, I saw it as a reflection on me.”
While the experience was hard to handle, Ryan says one of the biggest things he learned was about the importance of mental resilience. “It took me a long time to realise that I’m so much more than my work, and that it doesn’t define me as a person.”
While the past few months have been hugely challenging for everyone in the sector, Ryan believes that there has never been a more exciting time to get involved in food. “An outdoor summer in Dublin is going to lead to some really interesting stuff, like Dinetown and Baste BBQ for example, so there’s a huge opportunity for creative grafters to make waves.”
In creating his own food business, Ryan felt that he had a responsibility to push the boat out and see if it was possible to genuinely make a difference. This led to a commitment to donate one school meal to a child in the developing world for every single product sold, through a partnership with the charity Mary’s Meals.
“It’s not something we do with money left over,” Ryan explains, adding that he built the donations into Fiid’s cost structure alongside other costs such as packaging, production and logistics. “We’re seeing the results of that commitment now as we approach one million meals donated. It’s one of my proudest achievements.”
The food entrepreneur is also making inroads on sustainability. “We know that as a business we’re not perfect, but we are proud to have 0% food waste in our supply chain. We extend the shelf life of our bowls naturally through a cooking process, so they last for up to 12 months without any additives or preservatives, while maintaining the quality, taste and integrity of the ingredients.”
Recently, the Irish plant-based food company shifted their sustainability journey up a gear, by making their entire range of products carbon neutral. “By neutralising the carbon footprint of our meals, we’re helping them make another concrete contribution to fight global warming,” says Ryan.
The entrepreneur remains optimistic about the future. “We make really delicious food and what we’ve done is shown people that you don’t need to compromise if you want convenience.”