With a focus on bringing joy to others, Alice Tevlin had a desire to bring healthy, wholesome food to the world. And thus, Rua Food was born! A zero-waste, clean-eating-focused business, customers can enjoy a delectable sweet treat that feels good on the outside (they taste delicious!) and on the inside. Aiming to be gluten free and as plant-based as possible, you won’t notice the difference with these tasty treats. We had a chat with the owner of Rua Food, Alice Tevlin, all about her background and what brought her to starting up Rua Food.
Have you always had a great love of food?
Always. I became a latchkey kid when I was about 12 and was always making – and burning – food in my parents’ kitchen before anyone else got home from school or work!
Can you tell me about your own background in the food industry?
I left a job in banking in 2014 to do the Ballymaloe 12 Week Certificate Course, which was a life-changing experience. Once I left there I did a stage at Chapter One in Dublin before heading off travelling around the world, eventually settling in Melbourne and working in a few places there. Once I got back to Dublin in 2018, I wanted to work for myself for a little while – not realising I would still be at it five years later!
What inspired you to set up your business? Did you notice a gap in the market?
Rua started as a freelance catering gig while I figured out my next step. I was catering small events, making salads for a few Cafés and making meals for friends and a few elderly people in my area. Then during lockdown, everything changed. Cafés in my area needed treats and I was very keen to make them as accessible as possible so I began making cookies and other treats without gluten or dairy in them for people to enjoy with their coffee on their allotted daily walk.
How did you set up the business and how has it been growing over time?
I started the business on my own, in 2018 from my home kitchen. When I needed help, I would call a few chef friends I know and pull in as many favours as possible. Now Rua employs a close-knit team of five like-minded and passionate foodies! I started with just one product and now we produce eight different all natural wholefood and plant-based goodies from our kitchen in Churchtown, Dublin 14
Where do you source the ingredients used to make your product(s)?
We try to source as many Irish ingredients as possible. Obviously that is not always the case, as with our chocolate, though we do ensure our chocolate suppliers use sustainable, best practice methods of sourcing the products and paying those who work for them appropriately.
Can you tell me about some of the benefits associated with your product(s)?
We try to ensure that our products are as healthy as you can get in a delicious sweet treat. As in the case of our newly launched Lactation Cookies (an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie we have just brought to market), they are super tasty while also being plant-based and containing galactagogues – active ingredients to promote the production of milk in those who are breastfeeding. These key ingredients are linseed, oats and brewer’s yeast.
How important has social media been for you in spreading the word?
Social Media is incredibly important for any small business. It gets the word out and helps you share and connect with your customer. I would be lost without it, especially as a business without a brick-and-mortar store. Last week we launched our new Lactation Cookies on social media and the response has been amazing!
What makes your product unique?
Each and every one of the eight all natural wholefood and plant-based sweet treats are all free from gluten and plant-based, where possible. Rua also has a zero waste ethos and not an iota of food gets thrown away. Whether that’s using our Hazelnut Brownie offcuts in their Hazelnut & Chocolate Truffle Bites, or making the call to change the shape of their Tracker Bars to Tracker Balls to eliminate any potential waste when cutting the bars into rectangles, every single business decision I make is carefully considered.
What, do you think, are some of the most interesting dishes that have been created with your product? Do you have any favourites?
As we produce finished products, they’re not often recreated into something else. Though, as a breastfeeding mum myself, I am just so obsessed with our Lactation Cookies and also our Peanut Butter Bites which are actual heaven with a cup of coffee.
Are there any other small Irish food producers you admire?
Too many to name though one sticks in my mind: Cream of the Crop with its Bananitas and Zero Waste Gelatos. Creating commercial products using surplus foods is an incredibly generous thing to do and is certainly not easy. Founder, Giselle Makinde, is such a wonderful person with a big heart who is trying to keep as much waste food from our bins, and those of large producers and the supermarkets. They should have her on payroll.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since going into business?
We’re facing it right now. The rising costs of every single ingredient and all other expenses relating to running a food business is sending entire, established businesses under daily. It’s really hard to see a way out. How can we be expected to pay these prices and how can the consumer keep enduring price hikes? It keeps me up at night. I thought having a baby would be the biggest challenge but it’s a walk in the park in comparison to the cost of living crisis.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date with this business?
I would say awards like winning a Silver Medal at the 2020 Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards for our Golden Toasted Nutty Granola and other accolades, but really the biggest achievement is creating an amazing team who care about the business and go the extra mile for Rua, especially while I have been stuck at home with a newborn!
Could you ever have imagined doing anything else with your life?
This is the life I imagined. This is the dream. Maybe I’m delirious with tiredness right now and missing life in the kitchen but having a food business is the alternative to my old corporate life. I could never have dreamed this would be the reality. I’m lucky enough to live this life. I don’t need anything else.
What does the future hold for your business?
Hopefully we will continue to grow and spread out further across Ireland and beyond. I think our products are really special and I want to bring them to more and more people.
What do you sell?
Here is a list of our products:
|Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookie|
|Salted Double Chocolate And Pistachio Cookie|
|Chocolate Chip And Raspberry Cookie|
|Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Bite|
|Golden Toasted Nutty Granola|
Where can people get your product (shops, restaurants?)
You can find Rua in many cafes around Ireland (I have listed a few below) and they can also be purchased online for nationwide home delivery from ruafood.com
|One Kinda Folk, Ranelagh and Leeson St|
|Green Beards, Donnybrook and Ranelagh|
|Brew.204, Harolds Cross|
|Dublin Barista School, Dublin 2|
|Lennox Street Grocer, Portobello|
|Marlowe & Co, Dublin 8|
|Flower & Bean, Cork St, Dublin 8|
|Parklife Café, Kimmage|
|The Hopsack, Rathmines|
|Perch, Leeson St and Glenageary|
|La Hoya Greens, Terenure|
|The Cosy Bean, Churchtown|
|Thru the Green Coffee Company, Dundrum|
|Tribe Coffee, Rathgar and Firhouse|
|The little Cactus, Stoneybatter|
|Bump & Grind Drive Thru Coffee, Ballyfermot|
|Butcher Boy Coffee House, Skerries|
|Dash Coffee, Phoenix Park|
|Brew 21, Rathcoole|
|Gulp Coffee, Meath|
|BlackDog Coffee, Meath|
|Unwind Coffee Co, Kilkenny|
|Wilder & Gold, Longford|
|Seven Wanders Café, Sligo|
|Pig & Leaf, Dingle|
A Chat with Alice Tevlin, Owner of Rua Food