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  • Writer's pictureRoann Byrne

The Conor Sweeny Revolution: Welcome to Dae

How Dae Is Changing the Game for Allergen-Free Ice Cream One Scoop at a Time

Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream

Dae is "pushing the concept of what free-from products are"

"I understand the consumers' needs really well & luckily have the knowledge and skills to be able to produce these needs"

The Story Starts

You wake up. It's Summer of 2020, the heart of a global pandemic. You've just lost your job working in London's fine dining scene, and after emigrating home you're living in Killorglin, County Kerry. Like the rest of the world, you're on the sofa, watching Tiger King, eating ice cream. But you do something very different. You feel like the ice cream could be better. Do you go to Tesco? No. You decide to create really good allergen-free products. You spend a year studying the science behind what makes a great ice cream, and in April 2021 you launch your first product.

Sounds simple right? This is Conor Sweeny's story. And it's far from simple.

Conor Sweeny Dae Ice Cream

So how do you go from a Covid idea to an award-winning free-from and plant-based ice cream brand? You start with two things, skill and a clear market knowledge. Conor was a chef for a decade in the industry before diving into the world of food manufacturing. This meant he understood "the consumer needs really well & had the knowledge and skills to be able to produce those needs".

The Hard Parts

Three weeks after launching, disaster struck. The original packaging was custom-designed recyclable paper, with branding printed in vegetable ink, trying to be as green as possible. A supplier called and said customers were complaining about an odour. This was a serious issue, when taking a bite, the product goes up to your nose, meaning this packaging scent travelled down your airway and onto your tastebuds before having a chance to taste the ice cream. It turns out that when you froze the paper, coupled with the style of ink, and amount used on the design – it created a wet, mushroom smell. The team quickly went into overdrive, drafted dimensions, sourced new materials and tested. Within a few months of identifying the issue, they resolved it and ultimately improved the overall look of the product too.

Conor's Ethos

In balancing the core identity of the business, while embracing change and innovation, Conor's ethos is very clear...

"It's important to remember who our consumers are"

Dae Ice Cream

Dae is a free-from brand that creates delicious products suitable for everyone. Their goal is to put a smile on that child's face who has never been safely able to eat a cookie or a brownie. To bring that adult back to a childhood moment eating a specific treat they haven't been able to consume in decades. This is what Dae strikes to achieve. Conor is clear that "all innovation must have this concept at the forefront and if it doesn’t, the innovation will not be given the time of day".

A customer-driven ethos is unique and impactful, creating a beautiful synchronicity between buyer and seller. In providing products that adults and children can enjoy safely, they’ve built consumer trust and loyalty, as Conor describes "they latch on to us and support us immensely. It's cult-like at times!!"

Creating Meaning

In Dae, the founder & team are at the forefront of everything. They build content consumers can emotionally relate to, and bring them along on the adventure. Dae's customers aren't buying from a faceless brand, they are buying from Conor, Keith, Louise and Abby.

This face-forward strategy is a marketing technique called 'main characterisation' in technical terms, but to pull it off a brand must be authentic, genuine and people-forward.

Dae has that. It's more than just a faceless product, "it's real people".

Dae Ice Cream Corporate Event

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs?

"Study!" Be data-driven, "learn everything you can about your files. Look at all the data and make your decisions off of them".

"Give 100%, believe in yourself and get used to failing quick. No matter how hard you try things just don’t go your way and that’s ok. Dust yourself off and go again"

Biggest Lesson

All of the successes and mistakes along the way brought Dae as a business and its products to where they are today. Conor believes those moments are all important parts of the story, and wouldn’t rewrite anything.

"I am very fortunate to have studied food, working in all aspects of the industry, and truly live for the food industry. It's an obsession. Innovation is constantly evolving, I think it's important to focus on where you believe the industry is going and push the innovation you believe in".

Community & Connection

Dae's local community is as strong and diverse as its products, proudly producing in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. Throughout the year they get involved with local events such as Lá Mór by BAC le Gaeilge, Stoneybatter Festival & Eat the Streets. Conor is passionate about giving back, and takes in culinary students from TU Dublin Grangegroman for nine-week internships, learning about business, production and their world of food. During his time in D.I.T., he completed two stages, and felt "it was the most rewarding part of college", so "to be able to give a student a similar experience is incredible".

Dae Cookie Ice Cream

Personal Touch

Conor and the team love that they get to make people happy. The team often joke in the kitchen that they are 'emotion dealers'. It’s a privilege to be able to create happiness, the ability to change a bad day with Dae, and make someone smile.

The Future

The future of Dae is bright and big. Currently in the process of Bord Bia's Origin Green programme, Conor's vision and energy is unstoppable - with the goal of becoming "the go-to free-from brand in Ireland and the UK creating lines in areas such as breakfast, lunch and dessert". The business plan is clearly laid out, with goals and objectives to achieve them. Keep providing consumers with a product they want, a product which is great. Treat and pay staff a living wage.

"I never planned on starting a business but I had an idea which I believed in and went for it. I'm giving it 100%. If you have an idea, just go for it. Believe in yourself, work hard and try, because there is nothing better when you truly back yourself,and can look in the mirror and go 'Yeah, I did that' "

Who knows, you could be on this blog next?


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