About Us


How Many Beans? Is an association of 4 independent food industry experts with more than 130 years of experience gained in businesses from Multinationals to start ups.

Our expertise lies across the fields of Sales, Marketing, Technical, New Product Development, Operations, Finance, Regulatory Compliance and Business Management, having worked in roles ranging from Managing Director to entrepreneur and most positions in-between.

Our Origins

Our name comes from the phrase “He knows How Many Beans make Five”. Historically it has often been used to refer to someone who is both knowledgeable and experienced in a particular field. The organisation was formed when we were asked to work together to produce a workshop to help SME’s take their product from Thought to Fork. We have grown from this starting point to support people on the individual steps on that journey.

Meet The Team

Breeda Cotter

Founding Member

An experienced food technologist, with over 30 years’ experience working in various roles, NPD, process and commercialisation in the food industry. In February 2016 Breeda became an independent consultant working on various projects, is an enthusiastic and supportive mentor to food SMEs advising on concept selection, developing new products and process technology, supporting commercialisation to successful sales and developing business plans to maximise growth and profit. As a qualified expert trainer in food science & technology, food safety, hygiene and HACCP, Breeda is a guest lecturer at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, runs bespoke in-house training on site for the food industry.

Breeda says “My approach to cost effectively  developing products is a simple one. The first cost is the least cost”


Ruth Dolby

Founding Member

Skilled R&D professional with a Cordon Bleu and Home Economics grounding and over 35 years of developing food from farm to fork, including 15 years as a development and applications specialist consultant.

Ruth currently works with SMEs, large manufacturers, multinationals, major retailers, wholesalers and diversifying farmers. She is a founding director at Food Science Fusion and Associate of Nutrition at University of Nottingham. Her passion is in practical knowledge transfer and building effective cross-disciplinary ways of working for the food industry.

Ruth believes that “If it isn’t eaten it is not nutritious and if it is not commercial it is not a business” and she works with businesses to enable them to grow, to identify and then exceed their goals.

Read more about Ruth at Food Science Fusion Ltd

Ian Meadows

Founding Member

Running some of UK’s top food brands as well as co founding his own nationally distributed brand has provided Ian with an extensive knowledge of, and network in, the Food Industry. He understands the challenges of building a business from scratch having spent Christmas Eve unloading boxes of product into his garage.

Ian says “The challenges faced by companies large and small are the same, it’s just a matter of how much resource you can apply to solving them. Having access to someone with real world experience of finding solutions can really give a company the edge”

Valia Christidou - How Many Beans Team

Valia Christidou


An experienced R&D leader, with over 30 years food industry experience in new product, process and packaging development. She was responsible for the creation and launch of well over 300 new product ranges. Valia is a passionate foodie with an in depth knowledge of the food industry and a track record of delivering innovation, bringing positivity and creativity in everything she does.

Valia has been an executive board member and one of the custodians of the iconic brands of large household names in UK’s and Europe ‘s biscuit, snack and confectionary market including McVities, Jacob’s and Carr’s.

Valia says
“I believe that good food needs to not only delight, sustain and nourish consumers, but to also be science based and sustainably and ethically sourced and manufactured.”

Our Core Values


We each continue to work within the food and drink industry everyday, meaning that our knowledge and skills are up-to-date and in-keeping with any developments or changes.


We are meticulous and diligent in everything that we do.


Our team have over 130 years of combined experience within different sectors of the food and drink industry.


We pride ourselves on being professionals who are easy to talk to and always happy to listen.


Because of our wealth of skills and experience, we are able to provide different perspectives and innovative approaches to the challenges you face.


We can support you every step of the way, in group sessions, one-to-one, or at an agreed location.