In February this year, self-confessed insomniac Deirdre Hynds launched Unwind, a range of snack bars for evening time made with ingredients such as chamomile, l-theanine and Montmorency cherry to promote feelings of calm and boost the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Having experienced chronic sleep problems from the age of 17, Hynds says she has spent two decades “obsessing over different ways to get a better night’s sleep”. About five years ago, she added diet to the other solutions she was using (such as yoga, meditation and CBT) to manage her condition.
“As a natural-born night owl, I habitually snack in the evening and much more so since becoming a mum mid-lockdown,” Hynds says. “So, I decided to try and create a product that combined all of the ingredients that I already used myself to help with rest and relaxation into a delicious snack bar and that’s how Unwind was born.”
The all-natural Irish-made products are free from artificial sweeteners and positioned as an after-dinner nibble for those who like to eat something before bed time but don’t want an energy surge from a big sugar hit. There are three flavours in the launch line-up: malted milk, roasted nut and orange with dark chocolate.
Apart from launching the physical product, Hynds has also tapped into the current zeitgeist for a direct connection between products and lifestyle and has developed a series of “relax hacks” which consumers can access free through the company’s website or social media channels. “This is original content and includes sleepy stretchy yoga sequences, bedtime stories for grown-ups and guided evening meditations all designed to help our customers unwind even more,” she says.
Hynds originally studied literature at university before moving into the area of PR, marketing and, more recently, business start-ups. Her particular field of expertise is consumer psychology and branding. She has a master's degree in consumer psychology and business from Bangor University in Wales.
“The narrative surrounding sleep tends to be very negative and I wanted to do something that brought more positivity to people who were trying to improve this aspect of their lives,” Hynds says. “The relax hacks are almost as important to me as the product because achieving a better quality and quantity of sleep is a holistic pursuit. It comes as a direct result of taking the time to naturally slow down and relax in the evening. I don’t believe you can make one big change that will change things dramatically, but you can begin to feel more calm and relaxed though an aggregation of minor adjustments and improvements that enhance overall feelings of wellbeing.”
Health food shops
Since starting to work on bringing her idea for a sleep snack to life, Hynds (who is based in Banagher) has had support from Offaly Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland. She has also participated in the Bord Bia/Teagasc Foodworks programme. However, the bulk of the €100,000 that has gone into getting the business up and running has been self-funded. Unwind products are available online and in the 32 counties through 150 health food shops and specialist retailers.
Hynds worked with food scientist Sean Gilbride to develop her product and she also benefited from the mentoring available through Foodworks from food experts at Teagasc. However, like many small start-ups here across all sectors, Hynds had her work cut out to find a local manufacturer willing to make the products for her. She estimates the process took well over a year, mainly because those she approached were not interested in taking a risk on an untried product.
The big push now is to get Unwind onto the shelves and to build the brand’s profile with a view to looking for investment to ramp up sales and start moving into international markets.