In the latest instalment of ProfileTree’s Amazing Food & Drink series, we sit down with Ötzibrew’s Tricia McNeilly to discuss her own background in the food and nutrition industry, the inspiration behind Ötzibrew and the little-known health benefits of mushrooms. Check it out!
Opening up the discussion, Tricia shares some insights into Ötzibrew, the business she established roughly two years ago after completing Ulster Bank’s Entrepreneurial Spark programme. “This was a really great programme, and I did have to pivot from my work with another company on building a nutrition app which taught kids about the role of sugar in their bodies. That was put on the backburner, and the E-Spark programme required that I come forward with another idea,” reflects Tricia.
Tricia’s background in food & drink provided her with a number of ideas around building a business. After building and selling an international coconut drinks company from idea to shelf, the entrepreneur held extensive experience in the sector. “I also tell everyone that I’ve been eating and drinking for 58 years, so I’m an expert on the subject,” she laughs. After a reflective walk in the forest, she was struck in the head by an autumn pine cone, leading her into a journey of business discovery.
“The pine cone is representative of the pineal gland, which many describe as the ‘seeing eye’ of our bodies,” says Tricia. She delved into the subject, researching how the pineal gland could be effectively ‘cleared’ of toxins. It was swiftly identified that the key nutrient in clearing the pineal glands could be found in the chaga mushroom – described by Tricia as “the king of all mushrooms”. This represented the beginning of a long business journey, where this fledgling idea was to blossom into a solid business plan and a fully-marketed brand.
This fully-marketed brand was to develop into Ötzibrew – the mushroom-based hot drink alternative which is emerging as a rival to cultural mainstays such as tea and coffee. “This can boost your energy levels and protect your immunity from internal and external stresses as an adaptogen,” highlights Tricia. According to the brand’s founder, consuming such adaptogens can play a role in counter-balancing the harmful effects of air pollution, for example.
According to Tricia, entering the path to entrepreneurship was inspired by her own background, raised in a family of business owners. The inspiration behind the name of the business, however, came from a story of two hikers who walked across the Alps in September 1991. The pair came across a frozen corpse, which they mistook for a climber who had perished a year previously. However, after excavating the body they discovered that it was 5,300 years-old. “This man was carrying medicinal mushrooms in his pouch, and his name was Ötzi,” shares Tricia. Investigations determined that the man was killed by an arrow at the end of the Copper Age – facts which steered Tricia in creating a brand identity around Ötzibrew.
Running a food business is a full-time endeavour – and one which is made easier with ambition and drive, says Tricia. “I’m very lucky to have Matt Teague as my manager, and I’ve planted out a farm in Kilrea with David Cloughlin. I wanted to grow Lion’s Mane, which comes from oak logs. At that time he was thinning out an oak forest, and allowed me to use the logs to grow. Our output of chaga, shiitake and turkey tail mushrooms are now second-to-none,” she adds.
According to Tricia, one of her favourite elements of entrepreneurship is product development. “I like ideas, I like products and I like to bring health to people to make a real difference. The challenges are putting the right people in the right jobs, and I have great people on my team,” says Tricia. “Know your customer and know your products – that is the key.”
The Ötzibrew founder suggests that customer expectations have transformed over recent years. “Our customers are very health-focussed. It’s a bohemian market, and it straddles a number of markets. We are working with tea and coffee companies at the minute. We are even launching our product into space through a rocket launch, which is so exciting!”
For Tricia and the team at Ötzibrew, environmental sustainability forms a core element of the business model. “We are focused on being as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. This is why we try to do most of our work inside Ireland. Siberia is along-way off, and Ireland creates some of the best chaga in the world! Whilst Russia has more trees, in Ireland we can pinpoint exact locations for idea mushroom growth,” she adds.
“There are between 3-5 million species in the world, and we only know around 180,000 of them! Join us and discover the hidden health benefits of mushrooms!”
Ötzibrew products can be found at selected health clinics across Northern Ireland, as well as Eatwell on the Lisburn Road, Nature’s Way in Ballyhackamore and Nutmeg in Lombard Street. The products are also available online at www.otzibrew.com.
Tricia’s full interview can be accessed via the official Amazing Food & Drink YouTube channel, joining food business leaders from across Northern Ireland and beyond. To enjoy more industry-leading insights, follow the channel, and don’t forget to like and share. As always, to find out what the power of video marketing can do for your business, contact the team at ProfileTree today!