by Louise Doyle
ASK anyone what their favourite childhood drink was and the majority will say ‘Football Special’, which has its roots in Ramelton. However, a Donegal man ‘flying the flag’ for his family’s business in the US has said interest is growing in the product, with plans afoot to develop the brand in other international markets.
McDaid’s Drinks was established in the 1940s by the great-grandfather of Seamus McDaid, and has since enjoyed local, national and now international popularity.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week from America, Mr McDaid reflected on the growing success of his family’s business and revealed the exciting plans for the future.
“McDaid’s Drinks was established back in the 1940s by my great-grandfather and was developed by my grandfather and his siblings. Originally they were drinks distributors before becoming a contract bottler for Guinness. From this experience the family bought an old creamery in Ramelton and began bottling their own soft drinks, including Football Special. Today we employee six people in Ramelton.
“From our base in Ramelton we distribute all around Donegal and the surrounding counties. In turn, we use distributors to sell our products throughout Northern Ireland and further afield in Cork, Glasgow and even Australia. I look after all our sales and distribution in the United States.”
Seamus moved to New York when he was 21 after a stint in Australia working in the sports management industry. After working with an American Football agent for two years, he made the decision to leave that job and become involved in the family business full-time, which saw the company work in liasion with other Donegal-based companies to help promote their brand in the States.
“The advice I got was that to fully understand how large a business can grow you needed to experience business in the United States.
“Our product is being really well received in the United States. Initially, the focus of our operations was on the Irish Diaspora. That meant selling into shops that carry a range of Irish products. These stores are commonly located in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. By having a base in New York I am also able to service customers throughout the US who want to buy our products by purchasing them on our website www.football-special.com
“From the experience garnered selling our own brands we are now starting to work along side other Irish brands to help them grow in the United States. This month sees us taking in our first shipment from the Donegal Rapeseed Oil Company which I will help sell in New York. At the same time we are starting to roll out the second phase of the project by starting to sell Football Special to mainstream America as a traditional old-fashioned hand crafted soda.
“In the United States we are hoping to launch our smaller glass bottle in a six-pack soon. This is the traditional pack size for craft soda over here and once we are in this size we really hope to start having some larger drinks distributors carrying our products. We are also in the process of converting the label to Spanish and really targeting the product at the Hispanic market which is a venture that I am very excited about. In Ireland , we aim to continue growing sales outside of our traditional base in West Ulster. Belfast and Galway are two cities that we see as being places that we can make significant inroads. We also hope to continue our strong sales in Donegal. The consumer here has been incredibly loyal to us and for that I cannot thank people enough. Long may that continue.”
The son of Lottie and Edward McDaid, Seamus has four older sisters; Mairead, Orlaith, Roisin and Grainne and says he relishes time at home, adding how he is fortunate to be able to return to Donegal three times a year as he is currently splitting his time between operations in the US and in Ramelton.
Undeniably focused and immersed in the world of business, down-to-earth Seamus says that while enterprise is his passion, his family are his priority, and described his sisters and mother as having a “hugely positive influence” on his life.
“Your business must be your passion. I honestly believe that Football Special is the greatest drink the world has ever seen and anyone who knows me would testify to that. This belief and passion is what drives me on when sales are not as strong as I would hope, or when I get negative feedback in the marketplace.
“My friends and family keep me grounded and remind me that there are more important things in this world then selling minerals! My professional network gives me unbiased advise on the next steps in my business, and they are my most valuable resource when it comes to sounding out my ideas.
“Professionally, apart from my own father whom I admire above all else, I have always been a student of business so I pick up little pieces from lots of sources. I am a bit of a business junkie and am really fascinated by what makes businesses successful so I read a lot of different business books and websites.
“However, on a personal level, my sisters and mother have been a hugely positive influence on my life. They made growing up very easy as they paved the way for me in most things. Being surrounded by five confident, independent woman definitely shaped how I handle myself today.”
For more information see Football Special on Facebook.