Niamh and Ruairi Dooley from BiaSol, pictured in Dead Centre, Brewery in Athlone.

BiaSol selected as a finalist in Small Firms Association Awards

Ballykeeran siblings Niamh and Ruairi Dooley are finishing the year on a high after their start-up company developed during the first lockdown was recently named as a finalist in the 'Emerging New Business' category of the Small Firms Association Awards next April.

BiaSol, which is focused on creating innovative foods that maximise nutrition and minimise waste, recently launched its first product - Super Milled Grains – that makes use of spent grain utilised in the brewing process to make a “nutrition boost” product high in fibre and protein that can be added to foods.

“It's fantastic, we are delighted to be recognised for our work over the last year and a half as a two-person team,” Niamh Dooley told the Westmeath Independent recently, explaining that she and her brother set up BiaSol as a way of combatting food waste, improving nutrition and bringing their family closer together in July 2020.

Having been let go from her job with a nutritional project based in schools once the pandemic struck, she agreed that the start-up was the ultimate lockdown project and “kept us sane” during a crazy time. With a degree in food science behind her and over two years in Vancouver where her eyes were opened to sustainability and health, Niamh, and brother Ruairi, whose background is in IT and finance, set about researching sustainable food sources and came to the realisation that repurposing food waste was a viable way to make a positive impact on the environment and create healthy products at the same time.

“We just knew the product had to have good nutrition and fit the better-for-you concept and be sustainable. Initially, we looked at cricket flour which is very high in protein, but we realised it wasn't for Ireland yet,” she recalls.

Encouraged by the rapid growth of craft brewing across Ireland, the pair came across the idea of repurposing brewers’ spent grain - a by-product of the industry that accounts for 85% of all brewing waste – normally just given to cattle, to create a range of nutritious zero waste products.

“We just thought we need to get that (spent grain) into the food chain. We now work with four breweries in the Midlands – Dead Centre in Athlone, St Mel's Longford, Ballykilcavan in Laois and Brú in Trim,” says Niamh. From there, BiaSol was born, the name Bia is the Gaeilge for food while the Sol, is short for solutions, and Niamh stresses that they are aiming to be an innovative food solutions firm.

Having had difficulty getting a food spec premises in Athlone, the siblings developed their product in the food campus in Ferbane with the support of Enterprise Ireland, before moving into a new unit in Church Road, Tullamore. She describes their first product BiaSol Super Milled Grains as a “fast and simple way to add a nutritious” boost to your favourite meals given that it is high in fibre and protein.

“We get it (the spent grain) quite wet because it's been through the brewing process, then we dehydrate it and mill it into an ingredient. There is nothing added,” the Ballykeeran entrepreneur says of the wholefood product.

“The advantage to consumers is mainly that it is high in fibre and high in protein. One tablespoon will give you 10% of the recommended daily intake of fibre. It's a nutritional boost and a flavour enhancer for smoothies, porridge, soups,” says Niamh, who says the flavour is malty and nutty with a rich, dark colour.

As well as being high in fibre and protein, the Super Milled Grains also contain prebiotic fibres (which stimulate the growth and/or activity of good bacteria in the large intestine) and healthy minerals; calcium, zinc, and iron.

Along with the consumer product, BiaSol is also selling wholesale to cafes and restaurants, like Thyme, Athlone, who use the product in baking, giving a depth and flavour to recipes, which she says they really like, that and the fact it is a natural product.

“I think people are more aware of what is in their food and if you look at the back of a packet and you can't pronounce the ingredients, then it's better to leave it there. Go for natural and wholefoods,” she suggests, saying they hope to launch other products like a baking mix in 2022.

Asked her hope for their first product, Niamh says: “I'd love to see spent grain as a staple product in people's kitchens”.

For the more long-term, she hopes they will develop new products using brewers spent grain and other sustainable products in the future with Ruairi.

BiaSol Super Milled Grains is currently available in The Bastion Kitchen, Athlone, The Good Life, Athlone and Mother Earth in Tullamore. It will launch nationwide in outlets from January.

A full range of recipes and serving ideas are available on the BiaSol website,