OMG Organic Micro Greens Microgreenway, Stuart Wilson’s small company in Portadown, grows microgreens and is contributing to the growing market trend here towards plant-based foods which are now seen as being wholesome, nutritious and an essential daily requirement, particularly for supporting immune systems that are now being battered as never before by a range of potentially deadly viruses.
Stuart, who has long been dedicated to organic and natural foods, explains: “Microgreens are young vegetable greens, leafy, sprouted plants that we grow using conventional techniques in soil with nutrients at our facility near the County Armagh business hub.”
He continues: “Microgreens are usually harvested 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.
“Essentially, they are young vegetable greens that fall somewhere between sprouts and baby leaf vegetables.
“Microgreens have an intense and aromatic flavour and a higher concentrated nutrient content than ordinary vegetables and come in a variety of colours and textures,” he adds.
Enterprising husband and wife team Stuart and Iuliia, a pharmacist who is originally from the eastern Ukraine, began growing microgreens in their home kitchen before sales from shoppers at food markets for the nutritious packs encouraged them to switch to separate and much bigger premises in Portadown that offered greater scope for faster growth and further expansion.
The scale and versatility of microgreens mean that they can be grown in a wide variety of locations, including outdoors, in greenhouses and even by families on windowsills for their own consumption.
The small venture they launched during the first coronavirus lockdown is now proving an outstanding success at food markets, with delis and greengrocers, health shops and increasingly with larger stores across Northern Ireland and into the Republic of Ireland.
Customers in the Dublin area, in particular, are developing steadily as awareness increases of the many natural benefits and tremendous versatility of microgreens in terms of richer flavours and greater nutrients of his attractively packaged and convenient health foods.
Stuart plans to focus on measures to boost sales in this much larger marketplace that’s also a springboard to the wider Republic.
Leading chefs here, he continues, are now regularly featuring his nutrient rich microgreens in their meals in top hotels and restaurants.
And a recent and hugely significant contract with La Rousse Foods, one of Ireland’s leading food distributors, has fully justified the move to the new premises.
La Rousse is among Ireland’s biggest suppliers of a wide range of foods to hospitality outlets in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Stuart started the small business when he saw an opportunity to grow microgreens on his return to Northern Ireland from a period travelling abroad.
“We began our journey in microgreens wanting to provide healthy food for ourselves and it quickly progressed to deciding to try to supply these to everyone across Northern Ireland and especially during these times when we need to keep ourselves as healthy as possible,” continues Stuart, who has vast experience in materials handling and warehousing with industry leaders such as Northern Ireland’s Henderson Group in Newtownabbey.
“We were encouraged to develop the small business by family and friends who had experienced the microgreens we had been growing at home for some time. “We’ve grown our product range and now supply healthy and nutrient-rich organic microgreens that are bursting with flavours to compliment most dishes.
“The real treat with microgreens is that they’re extremely healthy and are deemed a superfood,” adds Stuart.
The small company, which currently has three people on its staff and hopes to increase employment soon, now markets microgreens all year round.
“The current health circumstances with Covid-19 mean it’s more important now to stay healthy throughout the year than ever before.
“People here and in the Republic are steadily becoming more conscious of what they eat and its influence on health and overall wellbeing.
“Our microgreens are perfect for this growing awareness among people here and abroad,” Stuart adds. The ambitious and market-led company has created an impressive portfolio of microgreen mixes grown and packaged at the County Armagh plant.
The range is:
Immune Booster – Pea, Red Cabbage, Pink Kale, Broccoli & Beetroot microgreens; Spice Mix – Daikon Radish, China Rose Radish, Mustard, Pok Choi & Mizuna; Fit Mix – Sunflower, Daikon Radish, Fennel, Kale, Alfalfa and Amaranth The recently introduced Broccoli Microgreen, Stuart continues, features up to 90 times more nutrients.
“The big game changer is the amount of ‘Sulforaphane’ in the mix, a powerful antioxidant.”
Microgreenway, furthermore, supplies other microgreens such as coriander, basil, onion, rocket and has plans to develop many more.
It is also developing a relationship with food nutrition experts at Queen’s University in Belfast on product innovation and longer shelf-life.
“While we are exploring opportunities in the Republic and especially around the Dublin region, there’s plenty of scope here, too, to grow our existing sales,” adds Stuart.
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