By SAM BUTLER
Spear & Arrow, a recently established small food enterprise in Larne, County Antrim, has launched a nourishing bone broth that has health benefits, especially for the digestive system, thanks to Invest Northern Ireland’s Innovation Voucher programme.
The small business was set up in November 2019 by former civil servant Lynette McHendry in response to her own serious health issues and launched its first bone broth product at the start of this year.
Lynette explains: “I needed a new focus in life that would benefit my own health and also encourage others to make healthier choices.
“A cancer diagnosis turned my life upside down and led me to focus on my own health.
“I decided on a career change that led to extensive research into areas such as nutrition and gut health.
“I discovered the natural health benefits of bone broth and saw a business opportunity to produce and market my own product.
“Research has shown that around a quarter of consumers globally suffer from digestive health issues.
“Gut health, furthermore, is increasingly being linked to physical diseases and mental health issues, so it’s no wonder that more and more consumers are seeking food and drink products to help them keep gut health in good shape.”
Bone broth is low in fat and high in protein, Lynette continues. “I use bones from Topping Meats in Larne sourced from local, Northern Irish, grass fed cattle to produce the broth that is natural and free from additives, preservatives, salt and sugar.
“The bone broths can be heated and consumed as a warm beverage, or it can be added as an ingredient to a wide range of cooked meals.”
In November 2019, Lynette turned to the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) at Loughry Campus, Cookstown, for help in developing and manufacturing the broth.
CAFRE helped her secure a £5,000 innovation voucher from Invest NI. The vouchers allow companies to team up with a college or university on an agreed project in areas such as new product development.
Lynette worked alongside CAFRE’s Meat Technologist Hayley O’Neill on a range of activities, including reviewing recipes and conducting pilot scale trials using specialist equipment at the college’s Technology Centre.
Prototype products were developed and support also provided to the company in establishing processing, packaging, shelf life, essential nutritional information and establishing ingredients.
“The help I received from CAFRE through the Innovation Voucher was invaluable. I learned a huge amount about developing and running a small food business with an original product.
“It helped me in shaping the product which is essentially gelatine and not stock based. This makes it easier to store and for adding to a wide variety of soups and meals,” Lynette adds.
“The support I have received has undoubtedly helped me take my idea forward and make it a reality.
“The Invest NI funded Innovation Voucher supported my trials at Loughry and has contributed to a successful launch.”
Encouraged by the work with CAFRE, Lynette pushed ahead with her business plan that featured taking a small production unit at LEDCOM business start-up hub near her Larne home. She decided on the quirky Spear & Arrow identity for the business.
“I wanted a brand that was different, appropriate and catchy,” she explains.
“I remember reading about cavemen making bone broth with the bones of animals they hunted with spear and arrow. Spear & Arrow reflects this tradition and also demonstrates the heritage of natural bone broth over many generations,” she adds.
Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI’s Director of Innovation, Research & Development, said: “It is great to see Spear & Arrow use an Invest NI innovation voucher to collaborate with CAFRE and develop a market ready product.
“By focusing on the needs of her customers, Lynette has developed a product which will support her business to grow and remain competitive for the future. I think Lynette’s story is truly inspiring.
“We want more local businesses to build for the future by recognising the many benefits of engaging in innovation and take advantage of the full range of Invest NI support on offer.
“I would encourage businesses across Northern Ireland to get in touch and see how we can support you to grow your business.”
Spear & Arrow bone broth is now on sale in specialist food stores in many parts of Northern Ireland.