Thinking business with Michael Murphy, ProU

After 20 years with Bord Bia, most recently as markets director, Michael Murphy (with his wife Jane) launched a unique, protein enriched yogurt called, ProU. This is their story. 

ProU Michael

Nutrition has always been a key focus in my life from a work, family and personal perspective. For years I was involved in the promotion of Irish food across the world and highlighting the nutritional benefits of Irish food was an essential part of that work.

I also have an interest in how nutrition affects me as a person. My mother, who had rheumatoid arthritis, would have to stay in hospital from time to time. I noticed that when she returned home, she tended to be in a more physically weak condition and as a consequence, I got quite interested in how nutrition can help alleviate this. 

“While attending a beef conference, the ProU idea began to form for me. I listened to a presentation on the vital role that protein played in the prevention of muscle loss as we age.”

The Eureka moment 

Traveling abroad, in particular around North America, allowed me to see what was happening in the whole area of health and wellness and how food could be used as an instrument to improve your health. 

While attending a beef conference, the ProU idea began to form for me. I listened to a presentation from a Professor at the University of Heuston. He spoke on the vital role that protein played in the prevention of muscle loss as we age. 

The Irish Osteoporosis Society states that from the age of 50 onwards, 50% of women and 25% of men will develop a bone fracture.

To counter this, people need an optimal intake of protein, Vitamin D, and calcium along with regular exercise.

“A 150g pot of ProU will give you all of your vitamin D for a day, 80% of your calcium and 20% of your protein, all in one serving.”

Strong and healthy

The loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging is called sarcopenia and is reflected in the body having less strength, balance, power, and coordination. Later in life, this can cause loss of independence and increase the risk of falls and fractures. 

ProU is the first product of its kind in Britain and Ireland to combine high levels of calcium, protein and vitamin D. It mitigates against the impact of osteoporosis and sarcopenia.

A 150g pot of ProU will give you all of your vitamin D for a day, 80% of your calcium and 20% of your protein, all in one serving.

Our primary market is for those in their 40s and 50s, who aim to proactively manage and get the best out of their active years. 

We also target young mothers, the elderly and of course, sports people. Vitamin D, calcium, and protein all help rejuvenate muscles post-workout.

Starting and growing 

We were fortunate to be accepted on the Bord Bia Food Works Programme. It helped immensely with customer validation along with technical advice on ingredients, recipes and commercial information on business plans, to ensure we were investor and market ready.

We also developed crucial relationships with people in the healthcare sector from GPs to consultants to dieticians. 

“I believe that people don’t only buy the product – they also buy from the person behind that product.”

We work with Glanbia, one of the greatest companies in the world with regards to sports nutrition. Partnering with Glanbia has been critical. We buy all of our dairy protein, calcium and Vitamin D from Glanbia.

We also very much appreciate the support of Killowen who is instrumental in bringing our product to the supermarket shelves.

ProU2

Challenges? 

Like any small company starting off – it has to be about letting people know that you exist. To overcome these problems we carry out in-store tastings, along with using social media. We also foster relationships with some major influencers.

I believe that people don’t only buy the product – they also buy from the person behind that product. We have a unique offering with a high point of differentiation, and that’s how I believe we are going to compete. 

My motivation?

My primary motivation is to create a product that quickly and conveniently helps people to manage their health proactively.

It’s about the feeling you get, out of bringing something excellent to market and at the same time – doing people a power of good.

Interview by Brendan Byrne.

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