Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed and Minister for Trade, Business and Employment, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, marked the fifth year of the Food Academy programme, which is expected to generate €50m in sales annually for emerging Irish food producers within the next five years.
Food Academy is a joint initiative between Bord Bia, the network of Local Enterprise Offices and SuperValu and was established to support early-stage Irish food businesses. Participating companies gain access to expertise in branding, market research, business development and distribution, to allow them to scale up and secure listings with SuperValu.
Since the programme’s inception in 2013, Food Academy graduates, supported by their Local Enterprise Offices, have sold €78m worth of produce in SuperValu stores and the 329 suppliers involved have grown to provide approximately 1,500 jobs.
A range of suppliers have substantially grown their business with SuperValu since graduating from the programme and have benefitted from the ongoing financial and mentoring supports from their Local Enterprise Office
For example, Absolute Nutrition, the award-winning nutritional snack company, supported by Local Enterprise Office South Dublin, has recorded approximately €85,000 in sales at SuperValu this year by tapping into the trend of consumers looking for paleo treats.
Similarly, SynerChi Kombucha, supported by Local Enterprise Office Donegal, produces a range of organic healthy Kombucha brews, an alternative to soft drinks, which are extremely popular with SuperValu shoppers who have spent almost €95,000 on them so far this year.
Commenting at the launch, Minister Creed said: “There is increasing consumer interest in high-quality, locally-produced food products. This interest has helped to boost growth of the sector in recent years ensuring that small food and drink producers are now more closely than ever associated with Ireland’s food and drink identity.”
Minister Breen added: “The Food Academy initiative has been hugely successful in facilitating and showcasing the very high-quality food products that local entrepreneurs are producing throughout the country. The success that so many of these companies have achieved reflects the very real interest and willingness among Irish consumers to support high-quality food and drink producers and this has been central to the support of some 1,500 jobs that contribute so strongly to Irish communities. I am confident that the new Food Starter programme recently announced will attract and encourage even more food entrepreneurs to join the Food Academy initiative in the coming years. This will further strengthen Ireland’s reputation as a producer of world-class food suppliers.
“I would also like to commend the work of the Local Enterprise Office network and Bord Bia for the work they put into the initiative. This is a wonderful example of the capacity of state agencies to work together with the private sector to the benefit of enterprise and of Irish consumers.”
Martin Kelleher, managing director, SuperValu said: “Working with over 1,800 Irish suppliers, SuperValu is uniquely placed to support more Irish food producers than any other grocery retailer. As our stores are independently-owned and operated, SuperValu retailers are able to provide emerging indigenous food producers with their all-important first supermarket listing and a route to market.”
Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, added: “Bord Bia is proud to partner with the Local Enterprise Offices and SuperValu to grow and support innovative food businesses through the Food Academy Programme. Over five years the programme has attracted a diverse range of producers from all across Ireland. Operating both locally and nationally, Food Academy producers have become an integral part of Ireland’s successful food and drink industry. As the programme evolves into the future, Bord Bia will continue to provide comprehensive market knowledge, consumer insight and branding expertise to Food Academy participants nationwide.”