When I did the first pop up shop in Dublin in May 2017, Maria Betts of Maria Lucia Bakes was one of the first producers to sign up. Not only did she donate produce as all funds went to the Coeliac society, she dedicated a whole day to doing tastings. Apart from having an amazing, multi award winning product and brand Maria is a great person to work with, she's personable and really listens to her customers. She's always adapting her line to meet the differing needs of those following a gluten free diet, an example of which is her oat free Ancient Grains product which for someone like me who also doesn't take oats, it's a dream. It's not surprising her products are now also available in many other countries outside of Ireland.
I was delighted to go behind the scenes and find out a more about Maria Lucia Bakes to share with all of you....enjoy !
How did Maria Lucia Bakes get started ?
Maria Lucia Bakes started in 2013. My friend was visiting who has a gluten intolerance. I'd been making my own granola for years so adapted the recipe to make a gluten free version for her to enjoy while she stayed with me. She was blown away by it and told me about her struggles to find good quality, tasty gluten free food in the supermarkets. After that I did my research and found that there was a gap in the market for a premium, high quality gluten free granola. I began selling at our local farmers market. We sold out on our first day so I knew I was on to something
Who are the team, can you tell me more about them and what’s the ethos/culture?
Our company culture is based on creativity, innovation, dedication and flexibility. We love nothing more than getting creative and thinking outside the box. This can be applied to a multitude of activities like marketing, new product development and collaborations. As a small company we pride ourselves on being flexible and able to launch new products to the market in a relatively short time frame. We love to bring out new products! These products are often based on customer feedback and new trends in the market. We have won awards for Innovation over the years and we will keep striving to bring our customers what they want. As a company we are also dedicated to producing clean label, good, wholesome food. We develop our recipes with that goal at the forefront. For example, we are extremely conscious of sugar content. We always aim to keep this as low as possible using only natural sweeteners in our products. Lastly, we believe in being flexible. This covers flexible working hours, flexibility to experience new aspects of the business and flexibility in skills and talent. There is always room to grow and improve and this only comes from challenging yourself.
Where is the company located ?
We are based in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, it was here in my home kitchen I began producing granola to sell at the farmers market.
Who does your recipe and product development ?
All recipe and product development is done in house by myself and the team. New product development is one of our favourite things to do! I have always had a passion for food and cooking so I develop and trial all recipes myself. They are then tested by our loyal customers for feedback and fine tuned in order to give the best nutritional profile possible.
And where does the recipe/production inspiration come from ?
Inspiration for new products comes from customer feedback which is very important to us, we really value it and take it on board. Our Ancient grains is a prime example of this. Many people at shows and instore tastings would ask us if we had any oat free cereals. 5% of the coeliac population in Ireland cannot tolerate avenin which is protein found in oats that for some people can mimic the effects of gluten. We developed on oat free granola to cater for these customers. We now have another oat free product called Macadamia and Coconut keto granola and we have an oat free porridge pot.
Where are your products sold ?
Our products are sold on our online shop www.marialuciabakes.com and Amazon UK. They can also be found in selected Tesco & Supervalu stores nationwide, in the Free From sections. They are also in Donnybrook Fair and selected Independent stores in Dublin and around the country.
Are you just in Ireland or other markets ?
We export to other markets including Norway, Finland, Italy, Singapore and the UK and many other countries via Amazon.
What do you think makes Maria Lucia Bakes unique ?
Being a small business means we are nimble and quick to respond to the feedback we get from customers. Customers today will not buy a product simply because it is gluten free, it must also taste great and be healthy. We strive to produce products that have that homemade taste and appearance with the health benefits of good, natural ingredients, all made in small batches.
There’s a lot of concern amongst coeliacs and those who are gluten intolerant about levels of sugar in products, how do you combat that in your recipes ?
We are very conscious of sugar content in our recipes. We never use refined sugars in our products, instead use natural sweeteners like honey and dried fruit. We have two completely unsweetened varieties called "No Added Sugar" and our latest product "Macadamia and Coconut" keto granola is also unsweetened. The flavour here comes from vanilla and cinnamon. These varieties are also suitable for diabetics as they do not cause your blood sugars to spike.
Thanks Maria, look forward to working with you again soon !