The humble Pizza -particularly the frozen variety- is the ultimate in cheap and cheerful food; which is not surprising considering its origins in Italy as a delicious easy to prepare ‘peasant’ food. Little wonder 35 m Frozen Pizzas are sold every year in Ireland and 250m in the UK. Further afield a staggering 2 bn pizzas are sold every year in America
Four years ago, Martin Hanan had a simple straight forward business idea; a designer gourmet pizza that contained the finest of premium artisan ingredients, from Burren Smokehouse Salmon to Gubbeen Irish Cheese.
Considering the economic climate at the time, his prospects of success selling an over the counter premium food product looked very bleak indeed.
Regardless, Hanan travelled the country selling to one shop at a time. Four years on, Cork City based, Alternative Pizza Company now produces 2,000 frozen pizzas a week with plans to double capacity this year.
With turnover having long exceeded his best expectations, the Alternative Pizza Company is now in the process of exporting to the world.
The Alternative Pizza Company was originally founded in 2004 by chef, Dave Flynn. Hanan later join the firm and stayed until it changed hands.
However, when the new owners went into liquidation he decided to buy the company, lock stock and barrel. Martin Hanan takes up the story:
“When I became involved in 2005, I helped them to build up the business, and at the time we were selling to Harrods in London. The company was then bought over and I sold my shares and left. The new owners went into liquidation in 2008 and in 2010 I purchased the brand and recipes and website from the liquidator.”
Under Martin Hanan’s management the company went from strength to strength and now has a very healthy turnover:
“Our unique selling point is that we use all natural Irish ingredients; ingredients such as dry cured bacon from Enniscorthy. We don’t use any preservatives or additives and the pizzas are handmade.”
“We have four core pizza products: Spicy Pepperoni which is made of Gubbeen Cheese is the most popular. We also have other pizzas which we can run up at short notice such as Smoked Salmon and Goats Cheese for the Christmas market and Bacon and Cabbage pizza.
The costs of making the pizzas are just too big so they are outsourced to a company in Derrylin, County Fermanagh.”
“This year I expect to sell over 100,000 pizzas. I have over 100 customers in Ireland; high end independents such as Donnybrook Fair and Fallon and Byrne. I supply ten Dunnes Stores outlets as well and high end customers in the UK. I am also supplying a retailer in Hong Kong called Dairy Farm which is bigger than the entire Irish grocery market.”
Martin Hanan left school at 17 and by the age of 19 was exporting containers of sausages to the UK. He later started selling hand wipes to airlines and eventually opened a factory in Cape Town, South Africa, manufacturing a range of wipes for the catering industry and opticians who retailed them as reading glass wipes.
Although he once employed 22 in South Africa, he is now a one man company and competing very successfully against colossal pizza manufacturers who are forever engaged in savage cost cutting drives in the hope of dominating the market:
“They are always running offers such as buy one and get one free and incurring huge losses; so I have had to be a guerrilla marketer. It has taken me three years to get this formula right. I have a solid export focused plan to build this Business from 2000 Pizzas a week to 10,000 pizzas a week in a 48-month timeframe. As for the future, I see great potential overseas for premium Irish food,” added Martin Hanan.
As the old saying goes ‘if you can imagine it you can do it.’
Sunday Indo Business