From a juice bar to restaurants to farming. A brief history of Sprout & Co.
After leaving the multi-award-winning Ballymaloe Cookery School Jack Kirwan founded Sprout Food Company in 2013. That same year he opened a juice bar in the renowned boutique grocery chain, Avoca. The juice bar proved so successful that Sprout cold-pressed juices were soon stocked in all Avoca locations and well as independent retailers around Ireland.
A movement was born.
In 2014 Jack enlisted his brother Theo to join the company and after two years they opened the first Sprout & Co. Kitchen, serving healthy bowls of fresh vegetables in quantities generous enough to satisfy the hungriest patron. That first location was a unanimous success as Dubliners and tourists alike lined up for blocks, hungry for a bowl or a burrito-style veggie wrap.
Not content to rest on their initial successes Jack and Theo focused on developing more stores and spreading the gospel of healthy fast food. Within a few short years they were up to six locations.
Today the brothers, along with an experienced organic and biodynamic farmer, run their own farm on a 30 acre plot of donated land. Located 30 kilometers outside of Dublin the farm ships fresh greens directly to their restaurants daily, within 24 hours of harvesting.
What they do not grow themselves is procured from local farmers that share the same mantra of uber freshness that the brothers bring to their business.
In the field, it’s about learning how to grow the best hyper-seasonal, organic produce. In the office the focus is on data crunching to become the most efficient they can be at reducing waste, holding down costs, anticipating trends and keeping all those bowl munching customers coming back for more.
It’s a wrap!
We arrived in Ballsbridge, Ireland on a chilly December afternoon, checked into our apartment and went in search of lunch. We also needed to stretch our legs after the three hour bus journey from Belfast so we decided to follow the River Dodder to downtown Dublin.
Once in Dublin we walked along the south quay of the River Liffey until we noticed two gorgeous brick buildings housing various offices and restaurants. In the past these buildings, located in Dublin’s Docklands quarters, were used as warehouses for the numerous ships making their way up and down the river. Through the singular vision of a Dublin businessman they have been faithfully renovated, keeping the spirit of the original buildings alive while offering all of the modern amenities that todays businesses require. As an adaptive reuse project it works extremely well.
Located on the end of one of the buildings was Sprout & Co., a multi location chain of “farm to bowl and wrap” restaurants with locations throughout Dublin proper and Ballsbridge.
Judging from the enthusiastic, and apparently hungry, crowd of local foodies and office workers waiting in line we decided to give it a try. Due to the hyper-efficient way that Sprout & Co. sets up their restaurants the line moved very quick and within five minutes we were sitting outside at a large picnic table overlooking the river.
We ordered a spicy chicken wrap with guacamole and lettuce topped with a spicy jalapeno sauce.
It was “love at first bite”.
The food was uber fresh and we could tell that nothing had been refrigerated for more than a day. In addition to wraps the menu also included bowls that customers can custom order from their large, seasonal menu. Plenty of fresh juices along with bottled water round out the healthy vibe this place exuded.
Sitting in the sun overlooking the river we couldn’t help but comment “it’s too bad there isn’t there a Sprout & Co. located closer to our apartment.”
After lunch we spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring Dublin before heading back to Ballsbridge. Upon our return we were waiting at a crosswalk and looked across the street and, to our surprise, there was another Sprout & Co., a mere four blocks from our apartment. We immediately knew it would be our go to lunch spot over the next three weeks!
Having visited four of the six locations during our stay in Ballsbridge we came to value the consistency and quality of the food offered at Sprout & Co. Learning that the Kirwan brothers had begun farming much of their own produce brought our appreciation for their “food positive” ethos into much sharper focus.
By creating their own supply chain they are accomplishing many things at once, not the least of which is offering incredibly fresh food to their growing legion of customers while managing their raw goods costs and dramatically lowering their carbon footprint.
Plus, plus and plus.
Although the “fast casual dining” trend was largely started in the US and Canada, Sprout & Co. are setting the pace in the UK for a similar change of eating habits. It is a welcome change from much of what is typically considered fast food these days.
Great job Sprout & Co., and Sprout Farm!