Entrepreneur Noel Allen is making quite an impact in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland with the novel snacks he’s marketing very successfully under Noisy Nuts.
Noel, from Ballygowan, recently signed a deal with online retailer Amazon Prime to sell and deliver his products in Britain and further afield and has also attracted the attention of leading retailers there.
“Business is really good at the moment and there’s a number of promising opportunities being followed up,” he says.
He’s been among the enthusiastic supporters of initiatives by leading promotion body Food NI, which has been backed by Invest NI, in Britain and the Republic. For instance, he’ll be among eight local companies, mostly artisan and smaller enterprises, taking part in the big National Ploughing Championships on the Food NI pavilion in Carlow next month.
In addition to his popular nuts, he’s soon to launch another original snacking range.
“I’ve taken part in virtually every Food NI initiative, especially Balmoral Show, and done good business. I’ve committed to take part because it’s the best and most cost-effective way to increase awareness among consumers about the quality of my original products,” he continues.
A self-confessed workaholic, Noel has also signed up with petrol forecourt retailer Applegreen to sell his nuts and has backed this up with a hectic series of promotional tastings in the stores across Northern Ireland.
His peanuts are highly original. The difference between Noisy Nuts and other peanut snacks is the inclusion of self-seasoning foil sachets in a handy cardboard tub. Each sachet features different flavours.
Noise results when the seasoning is sprinkled over the peanuts and the tub shaken to ensure the distinctively rich flavouring coats all the nuts – hence Noisy Nuts.
What this also does is to change the flavour of the nuts in each of the range of six tubs he has developed.
What made Noel, who played a key role in the market success of Boost drinks here, decide to try to develop new flavours for the popular snack?
“The idea came to me while I was enjoying a craft beer from a local brewery,” he said. “I love craft beer and have been keen to sample as many of the excellent brews now being produced here … in moderation, of course.”
Noel helped drive Boost to a market leading position in Northern Ireland during seven years as the brand’s marketing manager, a role he gained showing typical enterprise.
He had studied the success of Boost in Britain as part of his college course in visual communications and subsequently approached the company’s managing director successfully for a job. He also studied Coca Cola as part of a scholarship in business and marketing at the Mount Union University in Alliance, Ohio.
The seasonings he has developed are designed to accentuate the characteristics of individual craft beers. He continued: “I know that success depends upon me. Hard work in the market is the only way for me. I don’t have any significant funding for advertising which means it’s up to me to make the snacks work.”
He’s passionate about his small business idea and puts his heart and soul into building sales. “My light bulb moment came when I noticed that the nuts changed the taste of the beer and this led me to think seriously about creating a versatile snack to go with the drinks.
“I came up with the idea of flavourings, various seasonings created to match the beers, the India Pale Ales, lagers and stouts. I then had to find a way to deliver the seasonings within an overall pack of peanuts.
“While it seemed like a great idea, I realised that it would only work if there was a market opportunity for such an innovative snack.
“The first stage was to carry out desk research into the craft beer and snack markets. The craft beer segment grew by 14 per cent last year, and is projected to expand by a further five per cent at least this year.
“With 400 different craft breweries in the UK – 40 of them in Northern Ireland – and more than 3,500 different craft lagers, ales and stouts on sale, I knew there was a serious business opportunity.
“Craft drinkers are all about taste, different tastes from beers largely brewed by hand by enthusiasts.
“Noisy Nuts gives them a tasty snack that will enhance their drinking experience,” he adds.
He was encouraged by wife Sarra, an experienced manager in advertising and marketing, to push ahead with the smart idea. His structured approach to the new business idea also benefited from his own experience in marketing in the food and drink industry
He had to source a supplier of peanuts and create the recipes for the seasonings. And then he had to develop the packaging, create the branding and arrange for the products to be packed … all as cost-effectively as practicable. “I had a lot of balls in the air at one time … and still have,” he explains. “It was challenging and exciting.”
The result is a six-strong range of snack tubs of peanuts which are available with different self-seasoning sachets in flavours such as pickled onion, chilli and lime, chilli beef and Thai sweet chilli.
“Consumers can pour the whole seasoning sachet in and shake the tub giving a strong flavour or season as they wish to fit with their beer drinking taste. Either way makes a noise,” he continues.
Another feature of the new snack range is a recommendation with each flavour on the type of beer it suits best.
He’s creating a lot of noise in the snack marketplace and attracting the attention of top retailers here along with local pubs and hotels. And he aims to become even noisier in the months ahead!