Linwoods, a health foods company based in Northern Ireland, is a family-run business that has evolved and grown over the past 5 decades. It’s now in its third generation of the founding family with children Patrick, Joseph and Ellen playing pivotal roles in the evolution of the business. We speak to Patrick Woods, Managing Director of Linwoods.
Growing from a local general store 50 years ago, Linwoods has seen many iterations over the decades. John Woods, the founding father of Linwoods, had a very entrepreneurial spirit. “He was always on the lookout for opportunities, problems and how we could solve them and create a business out of it. He would transport meat from Ireland to the continent and return with vegetables. He built hair sheds and mushroom houses and had a licence to import turf from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He noticed no fresh bread available on a Monday in Northern Ireland because nobody baked on a Sunday. So he started providing bread to stores on Monday mornings and later expanded to include milk. Eventually, he built a diary to keep up with the demand. So, our bread and milk were literally that for 40 years. We’ve always had something to do with food,” says Patrick.
A health threat changed John’s life and the business in 1984. He had to start looking after himself better. “He discovered how flaxseed can help him manage his heart and cholesterol better, and Linwoods was reborn so to speak.”
Patrick explains further that finding a sense of purpose evolved the business over time. “My focus is to refine and define our purpose and vision. It’s about more than flaxseed in a bag. It’s about helping people’s health and wellbeing.”
He further discusses building a business around a problem nobody else can solve. “It’s finding a niche, something that’s fundamental and will make a difference to people. Then you put your head down and build it. Look at the story of Nokia. It started as a sawmill in Finland, cutting down trees to make paper. After that, they expanded into making rubber, electricity generation, then made cables and finally moved into phones.”
Patrick talks about Linwoods’ marketing strategy and how they reach their vast consumer base. He tells a story of a customer who never brought their product until his physical trainer mentioned it to him one day. “This guy had seen our great packaging and product on the shelves, heard people talk about it. He even noticed some of our marketing campaigns. He never went as far as even testing the product until his trainer told him to. Now he is a loyal customer and advocate.”
Linwoods set out to build a community of millions of advocates. They started with a closed group on Facebook and eventually opened the community and expanded to other platforms. They work with personal trainers to create workouts, nutritionists to share recipes and a whole community of advocates and specialists.
The conversation moves to various platforms and which ones are the best to use. Patrick says, “What we do and don’t do are equally important. We will use Facebook rather than Instagram because our audience is slightly older. We also look at TV or VOD and the shows our audience consumes. They watch the BBC Good Food Show or Gardeners World. You won’t find them on TikTok or Instagram. These platforms are also less educational and don’t carry authenticity around recommending products or lifestyle changes.”
Finally, the discussion touches on the pandemic and how it impacted the Linwoods business. “Living in smaller, local communities in Ireland, we are all just ten minutes away from work. It meant that we returned to work faster than the rest of the globe. The pandemic was great for our business, all considering. Our online sales went through the roof. It pushed us to focus on our online store and supply chain.”
Listen to the TruevoTalks podcast to learn how Linwoods works with advocates, reviews and influencers to advocate their health ranges.