The best of 2018!

As another year of trading draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back at some of our favourite products of the year across a range of segments; whether they are new innovations or essential icons, we celebrate their unique positions and offerings in the Irish market


Brand Central

21 December 2018

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2018 was the year of the Alcohol Bill and the Sugar Tax, and it shows. As the months progressed, brands one-by-one opted to release healthier options, sugar-free options, alcohol-free options and all manner of other alternative options. 2019 promises more of these developments in store, in the home and on the move, as awareness of the risks of unhealthy and unbalanced diets become more prevalent.

There’s plenty of time for that though; as we close out another year, we decided to take a look back at some of our favourite products of 2018, whether they were new to the market or relaunched favourites that occupied a new niche in an ever-evolving marketplace.

Pure flavour

In a year that was, in many ways, defined by an accelerated focus on healthy options in all segments, the McEneaney family of county Monaghan was only delighted to introduce its new range of flavoured Celtic Pure waters. A Hint of Fruit was developed with the entire family in mind, made with no sugars or artificial sweeteners, using only natural flavours. It also benefits from added vitamins B12, B6 and Biotin, which contributes to healthy hair and skin. These elements are what makes Celtic Pure’s A Hint of Fruit unique in the Irish market.

The Hint of Fruit range includes a 500ml bottle available in four varieties:

  •  Lemon & Lime
  • Apple & Elderflower
  • Strawberry & Watermelon
  • Orange & Raspberry

Each flavour is sold individually as well as multipacks of six for convenience. Celtic Pure also offers a 250ml range for kids (Apple & Blackcurrant; Strawberry & Watermelon), sold in convenient ten packs to suit daily lunches or days out.

The new Celtic Pure range will meet the Irish consumer’s desire for healthier soft drinks, while newly designed labels and vibrant packaging reflect the brand’s values more closely.

The range is already available nationwide in Dunnes Stores, Spar, EuroSpar, Supervalu, Centra, Mace, Londis, Gala & Applegreen.

McDonnells made a splash this year with its playful and memorable TV ad

Cult of curry!

“Margaret, we’ve the hall booked till 11!” A memorable quote and without a doubt, one of the most memorable marketing campaigns of 2018 was that of McDonnells Curry Sauce. The tongue-incheek campaign lifted the lid on the underground practices of the ‘McDonnells Curry Cult’, and those that give themselves openly to a life filled with ‘Chippus Currius’ and finding ‘The Secret of Fulfilment’.

Inspired by the cult-like status which the brand has enjoyed over three decades, the campaign’s goal was to reflect that enthusiasm in an eyecatching piece of advertising that uses storytelling, intrigue and comedy in equal measure to grab attention and get people talking.

‘The Cult of McDonnells Curry Sauce’ campaign was captured in a cinematic 60-second TV commercial which was supported across TV, video-on-demand, radio, social, outdoor, digital, print and shopper marketing. The campaign also came to life across college campuses in McDonnells’ largest outdoor sampling activation to date.

McDonnells is the only branded dry curry to drive growth in the category during the past four years (+7% CAGR*), through innovations including the ‘Spice Bag’ and ‘Slimmers’ ranges. 2019 will see even more disruptive innovation as the brand continues to bring more value into the category – including the launch of its new Gluten Free Curry Sauce.

The above-the-line (ATL) campaign will continue into 2019 with the addition of a new disruptive radio and social campaign. *(Source: Nielsen May 18)

Lifeforce’s nourish to flourish philosophy was a key inspiration for a range of brand activations during 2018

Force of nature

2018 has been an exciting year for Lifeforce, with a new campaign launched to drive awareness of the brand’s ‘Nourish to Flourish’ philosophy – helping to fuel consumers with the right food to give ‘Lifeforce’.

This year, Lifeforce also hosted its first ever ‘pop-up shop’ to showcase the brand to new consumers as well as working with new brand ambassador partners including Roz Purcell, Megan Williams and Jess Reddin to drive awareness of the Lifeforce range nationwide.

Events were a key part of the brand too, with Wellfest and Taste of Dublin providing a platform to speak to new customers and gain very important feedback on the brand.

Lifeforce also launched a new range of ‘No added Sugar’ coated rice cakes in 2018 – a first to the Irish market – which drove new shoppers into the rice cake category.

With all this success, 2018 was just the start of the journey spreading the Lifeforce philosophy across the country. Here’s to the exciting road ahead in 2019!

Available in a €1 hanging bag range and a €2 mix-up of classic favourites and unusual jellies, Sonas Sweets have certainly lived up to their namesake this year by delivering happiness in spades across Ireland

Sweet year

2018 has been a great year for Sonas Sweets and Ampersand, which launched Sonas Sweets in January 2018 to a great trade reaction. The Sonas Sweets range of confectionery consists of a variety of premium jellies and sweets with a €1 hanging bag range and a €2 mix-up of classic favourites and unusual jellies, all packaged in colourful and cheerful packaging.

The name Sonas means “happiness” in Irish, and Sonas Sweets certainly brought a touch of happiness to both retailers and consumers alike. The brand offered high retail margins to the trade and a selection of colourful branded stands and dump bins which brightened up stores, maximised sales and increased footfall into shops. The Sonas Sweets range was also a hit with consumers for its super price points and superior sweet offering and the opportunity it gave to “share some happiness” with family and friends with a delicious range of fun and tasty treats.

Since its launch in January, Ampersand has grown sales of the Sonas Sweets brand and gained nationwide distribution throughout the convenience sector through the various retail groups. Ampersand was also delighted to have received a nomination in the National Convenience Store Awards for the ‘C-Store Best New Product of the Year’ with the new confectionery brand.

Over 400 retailers across the country voted for the awards and Sonas Sweets was selected as one of the favourite new brands launched on the market in 2018 by retailers within the convenience sector.

The Ampersand team worked hard to achieve such great results and accolades with the Sonas Sweets product launch and the ‘C-Store Best New Product of the Year’ nomination validates and celebrates these efforts. Everyone at Ampersand is thrilled to have such a fun and fast moving brand in the portfolio and they are very excited about the future. Happy days ahead!

To stock Sonas Sweets, call the Ampersand sales team on (01) 4130150 or get in touch via or

Schweppes Elderflower is a lighter offering of tonic with a sweet and refreshing natural flavour

Flower power!

2018 has been an exciting year for Schweppes, with the introduction of an elegant new bottle shape and an extended range of natural-flavoured variants, including the popular new Slimline Elderflower tonic.

With its delicate balance of bitterness, acidity and citric sweetness, Schweppes tonic remains the signature taste of the brand. Now, the new Schweppes Elderflower Slimline variant offers a lighter tonic, containing no sugar or calories but with a sweet and refreshing natural flavour.

After Schweppes Elderflower went from strength to strength in the on-trade after launch, it was introduced to the grocery channel earlier this year, offering more choice for shoppers looking for mixability options at home.

Elderflower, alongside the entire Schweppes range, saw extensive support throughout the year, with an above-the-line Christmas burst, digital e-retailing, and activation plans including exciting valueadded promotions with cocktail kits, botanical kits and balloon glasses given away in-store.

Schweppes remains the number one mixer brand across the island of Ireland, with a 40.3% value share of the category*. In the grocery channel, the Schweppes range is available in Tonic, Slimline Tonic, Ginger Ale, Bitter Lemon and Elderflower across 1 litre, 12 x 150ml, and 4 x 200ml packs. *(Source: Nielsen IOI Sales October YTD)

Cold fusion

Fuze Tea is a premium iced tea with a unique fusion of tea extracts, fruit flavours and botanicals which delivers a fresh, contemporary taste, offering a refreshing alternative within the iced tea category.

Following a successful launch in 2012 across 14 international markets, Fuze Tea saw accelerated growth to billion-dollar status in less than three years. The brand successfully launched in Ireland in January 2018. The two new blends available on the Irish market are Fuze Tea Peach with a touch of hibiscus and Fuze Tea Lemon with Lemongrass.

The tea extracts in Fuze Tea come from 100% sustainably sourced tea leaves. Fuze Tea is also reduced in calories, and is sweetened with natural sugar and stevia extract in response to consumers’ increasing demands for different products. The two variants are available in 500ml PET bottles across the grocery and convenience channels.

Meanwhile, thanks to targeted above-the-line investment in outof-home advertising, Fuze Tea has seen positive distribution gains in the market, and now holds a 20% share of the impulse iced tea category.

Fruity family

The new Thick and Fruity range of yoghurts from Glenilen Farm comes in a variety of flavours including Strawberry, Apple and Blackberry and a LimitedEdition Raspberry and Passion Fruit, and is available in a large 450g sharing tub, individual 140g single serve pots and a handy 4 x 125g multipack – perfect for lunchboxes!

Like all Glenilen Farm products, the Thick and Fruity live yoghurt range is made on the family farm in West Cork and is simple, natural, bursting with real fruit, has absolutely no additives or preservatives, just an authentic farmhouse taste. It contains only four simple, natural ingredients including natural live yoghurt which is great for gut and digestive health, 20% real fruit as opposed to the average 9% in most fruit yoghurts, a little sugar to sweeten and a little corn flour to thicken.

The Glenilen Farm Thick and Fruity range is currently available nationwide in SuperValu, Tesco, Dunnes Stores and a range of independent stores with an RSP of €1.99 for the 450g pot, and €2.59 for the 4 x 125g multipack.

Art and science of coffee

Another area that has seen monumental growth in Ireland in recent years is the coffee segment, both in takeaway offerings and take-home brands. Sitting perfectly in between both of those is Nescafé Azera Nitro, which launched in March 2018. Nescafé Azera Nitro is a refreshing and smooth coffee drink infused with nitrogen for a smoother taste, available in Americano or Latte flavours. Made with coffee sourced through the Nescafé Plan, every serving of Nescafé Azera Nitro helps to secure the future of coffee.

Best served chilled, consumers will be enthralled upon opening a can of Nescafé Azera Nitro. The refreshing sound that occurs as the nitrogen is released; infusing through the coffee, is not only satisfying but builds anticipation before the first sip. The benefits of the nitrogen will truly come to life through a unique, smoother and creamier tasting coffee.

Nestlé Ireland beverage marketing manager, Carol Anne Deasy said the Nescafé Azera Nitro launch was really exciting earlier this year. “This range promises to bring our premium Nescafé Azera brand to the forefront of the fast growing chilled coffee segment,” Deasy said. “In the year when we are celebrating the 80th birthday of Nescafé, the launch of Nescafé Azera Nitro shows how our business is continually innovating and evolving with the times.”

In addition to retail, Nescafé Azera Nitro Americano will be available for the catering and hospitality trades exclusively through Nestlé Professional. This means Irish consumers will also be able to enjoy smooth nitrogen infused coffee on tap at their favourite pub and bars, cafés, and casual dining restaurants this spring.

Nestlé Professional business executive officer, George Vezza said that with Nescafé Azera Nitro, the brand can offer its partners even more choice for their customers. “The unique Azera Nitro coffee drink will be served from a lightweight, easy to use tap,” Vezza said, “which mesmerizes consumers by the settling effect caused by the nitrogen as it is poured in to a glass.

“Non-alcoholic beverage options are increasingly important for the UK and Irish consumer,” Vezza added, “especially younger generations. Nescafé Azera Nitro means Nestlé Professional can help our partners across all the catering and hospitality sectors make the most of these changes with our novel, attractive and great tasting chilled coffee drink.”

Taste explosion!

Carb Killa is a tasty new high protein, low-sugar bar from Grenade that can satisfy any sweet tooth and also curb those cravings, at home or on-the-go. Carb Killa bars are the ultimate indulgent, guilt-free treat. An ideal chocolate bar alternative, Carb Killa bars are packed with up to 23 grams of protein and contain less than 1.5 grams of sugar.

Available in a range of chocolate-covered mouthwatering flavours, including Peanut Nutter and Cookies & Cream, these tasty treats are a must-have for all health-conscious consumers looking for a little indulgence without compromising on health or goodness.

Innocent has been a conscientious objective since it was founded, and recently became a certified ‘B Corp’

Pure and simple

This year Innocent, Ireland’s number one chilled juice and smoothie brand, introduced its new Dairy Free range with four great recipes – Almond, Hazelnut, Oat and Coconut. Each recipe contains just three to four ingredients with no stabilisers, no gums or “funny business”. The dairy free range is magic on muesli, splendid on cereal and perfect in porridge. A newly certified B Corp (a certified business that equates purpose with profit), Innocent has had a sustainability focus since its foundation. Its drinks are made from natural ingredients, and it donates 10% of profits to charity every year. Innocent has a range of healthy and natural products from Super Smoothies, Super juices (juice with added vitamins and minerals), smoothies and juices for kids, NFC juice, Coconut Water and Bubbles (a blend of fruit juice and lightly sparkling juice). With a strong commitment to sustainability, Innocent’s new ‘better bottle’ now has 50% rPET, with the aim to have 100% renewable plastic by 2022.

The new range of Dairy Free is available in Dunnes, selected Tesco, Eurospar, Fresh and Donnybrook Fair stores. For more information, go to



Win-win gin

Non-alcoholic grew rapidly as a segment in 2018 thanks to the addition of products like Noki & Co’s alcohol-free gin and tonic

Yet another healthy option for Irish consumers in 2018 was the alcohol-free gin & tonic from Noki & Co Ireland, launched by RTM Beverages. The 0% ABV drink is currently available in 275ml bottles and contains just 60 calories per bottle.

“The reaction to this product launch has been extremely exciting,” said a spokesperson for the brand. “As a category, alcohol free is growing at a rapid pace as consumers are becoming ever more health conscious. Recent changes to the drink driving regulations have also been effective in encouraging consumers to not consider drinking any alcohol when driving.

Noki & Co Ireland keeps consumers at the heart of everything it does. “It was obvious to us that there were limited interesting choices available to anyone out in a social setting but not consuming alcohol for any number of reasons,” the spokesperson said. “While the alcohol free beer market has a number of choices available, there was not much available for the non-beer drinker.”

Noki & Co. provides the nondrinker with an authentic G&T experience, without any of the side effects of alcohol. It is now available to the Irish on and offtrades. Further information is available at

Yogurt with style!

Throughout 2018, Müller invested significant time and money in its category vision to ensure it fully understands its consumers going forward. Now, the brand’s objective is to continue offering delicious products that are motivated by health, inspired by taste and create everyday moments of pleasure.

For example, this year the brand revealed Müller Quark Yogurt, which is designed to shake up the thick yogurt category. By combining traditionally thick Alpine Style Quark with deliciously creamy yogurt, Müller Quark Yogurt appeals to new shoppers as well as aiming to attract lapsed buyers from this segment.

In addition, Müller also launched Müller Corner Plain, its first ever Müller Corner product with unsweetened natural high-in-protein Greek style yogurt, with a fruit compote on the side. The brand also launched Müller Corner Lactose Free, its first step into the free-from sector – demonstrating how it intends to continue to meet the needs of consumers well into 2019.

The Rockshore team explain that the new beer’s brand identity was born from the memory of weekend trips to Ireland’s Atlantic coast

Sea life

Created by brewers at St James’s Gate, Rockshore Irish Lager enjoyed a successful launch this year and is ahead of projections with 2.9% value share amongst lagers and 1.6% value share amongst LAD (July – September 2018).

At an event to launch Rockshore on the Irish market, Niki MacCorquodale, Diageo Europe’s head of beer innovation, reflected on the growing demand for variety within the beer market. “People are increasingly looking for choice,” MacCorquodale said, “particularly among beers and lagers offering a refreshing and light taste.

“Undoubtedly,” she said, “one of the most captivating parts of Ireland, the west coast is home from home for many of us. From weekend trips with mates, to the salty spray of the Atlantic sea, when the people, playlists and pit stops matter more than anything else in the world, at that moment in time.”

This is where the inspiration for Rockshore’s brand identity was born.

The launch was supported by a heavyweight TTL marketing campaign encompassing TV, outdoor, digital, PR, influencer engagement and experiential, including the Galway Races, Dublin Horse Show, Battle For The Lake in Achill and pouring rights at the Ed Sheeran concerts in Phoenix Park.

A love of fruit

Sunshine Juice Ltd, the makers of the Walshe’s Really Fresh and Veg Out brands of cold pressed fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, lemonades and fruit salads, is celebrating 20 years in business this year.

Founded by Paul Walshe in 1998, the company is based in Tinryland, Co. Carlow and employs 50 people. It is the largest freshly squeezed orange juice producer nationally and the only BRC, Grade AA approved company in Ireland, creating fresh fruit and vegetable juice, smoothies and fresh fruit salads in one facility.

Walshe’s Really Fresh range stems from a simple love of fruit among the founders

Sunshine Juice Ltd offers a wide range of award-winning fresh fruit and vegetable products meeting the increasing demand of today’s health conscious consumer seeking a tasty, easy option of consuming one of five a day fruit and vegetables as part of a health balanced diet. The variety of Walshe’s Really Fresh fruit salads also offers consumers a convenient option for a healthy breakfast or snack.

“2018 has been another great year for us,” says Paul Walshe, “with a Gold Blas na hÉireann Award win and six Great Taste Awards. These wins are a testament to the drive and passion of our incredible team and continued support of our loyal customers and peers.”

“Stemming from our mission ‘For the love of fruit,’” he adds, “we ensure that the juice is kept fresher for longer while still retaining the nutritional goodness of its ingredients. The health benefits of these less-processed and no-heat techniques means no additives or preservatives need to be added to our juices.”

Innovation has been key to the company’s success, responding to customer trends and demands like introducing agave in its homemade lemonade range as an alternative to sugar. The company has also developed a new range of 100ml vegetable juice shots called ‘Veg Out Extreme’ in three exciting flavours, Apple & Charcoal, Beetroot & Ginger and Orange & Turmeric. Each shot is filled with high levels of freshly pressed, healthy ingredients such as ginger, turmeric and chili that are known for their health benefits.

Walshe’s Really Fresh and Veg Out brands are distributed, using its newly-branded fleet, to a wide range of retail stores, five-star hotels, and wholesalers nationwide.

Working with other local producers and companies, Sunshine Juice Ltd uses locally sourced fruit and vegetables instilling confidence and trust among its local community and customers. As a member of Love Irish Food and Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme, the company is on a mission to support local business and to use Irish ingredients all year round, when available in season. A new Veg Out website and online store is also launching soon and plans to connect to a new international market are on the horizon. Watch this space.

For more information, email or call (059) 913 7630.

Coffee craze

By offering an authentic coffee experience, Urban Sips has enraptured the nation! Exclusively available in select Costcutter stores, Urban Sips is a premium barista style coffee produced from Grade 1 Arabica beans from Nicaragua, Columbia and Ethiopia. These beans combined, produce a blend with an excellent overall body, pronounced aromas and a clean, velvety texture.

Since its launch, Urban Sips has been a strong revenue driver in Costcutter stores across Ireland

Urban Sips has acted as a revenue driver in the Costcutter portfolio, with retailers witnessing a baseline volume increase of 52% on coffee sales since launching the coffee offering. Delivering on the brand’s mission, to convert tea drinkers to the premium brew, Urban Sips has acted as a valuable addition to the brand portfolio.

Leading into 2019, Barry Group aims to increase its national distribution of Urban Sips, adding an additional 50 extra Costcutter retail outlets and expand its national distribution model. This objective is in response to the growing demand of consumers looking for high quality coffee that is easily accessible.

To keep up-to-date with Urban Sips’ ongoing developments, follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram or visit

Wicklow gold

Achieving recognition in the Great Taste awards, winning the Great Taste producer Award in 2017 and now winning the Gold at Blas na hÉireann reinvigorates us on our quest to become the most flavoursome cooking oil in Ireland.

2018 was a great year for Wicklow Rapeseed Oil, which was selected as first place in the Oil category at the annual Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards in Dingle.

Wicklow Rapeseed Oil originated when farmer’s son Keith Symes studied agricultural engineering before advancing his studies through mechanical engineering. Eventually, he built his own cold press production on the family farm just outside Wicklow. Keith’s passion for Rapeseed extended into the development of the Wicklow Oil brand. After two years of research, he perfected the flavour which is dependent on Wicklow’s fertile soil to ensure it results in a light and nutty flavoursome and 100% natural cooking oil.

Keith Symes, founder of award-winning Wicklow Rapeseed Oil

Wicklow Rapeseed Oil is available with an infusion of natural flavours to add taste to cooking, marinades and salad dressings, and also as a 2-Cal One Spray cooking oil. This spray keeps calories low while ensuring it is a one-ingredient, high quality cooking oil which retains the health benefits and light and nutty taste of Wicklow Rapeseed Oil. The 2-Cal One Spray is endorsed by Unislim leaders nationwide.

Keith Symes, the man behind Wicklow Rapeseed Oil, says he takes great pride in the brand. “The national recognition of the light flavour and quality product is a huge commendation for me and my team,” Symes says. “Achieving recognition in the Great Taste awards, winning the Great Taste producer Award in 2017 and now winning the Gold at Blas na hÉireann reinvigorates us on our quest to become the most flavoursome cooking oil in Ireland.”





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