Fingal’s “Food Academy” Producers set to double employment
Some 44 new jobs have already been created in small food producers in Fingal as a consequence of the “Food Academy” programme, according to the Fingal Local Enterprise Office. And this number looks set to double before the end of 2017, to over 90 food-production jobs in Fingal. The Food Academy Programme, which is run by the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu is hailed as a great success for local job creation.
A survey by the Fingal Local Enterprise Office shows that 12 small food and drink producers in Fingal, members of the Food Academy Programme who employ 44 people, have made the break-through into the retail market. Those same businesses expect to create a further 32 jobs over the next 12 months. But further intakes onto the Food Academy programme, mean that the jobs created will more than double to over 90 food production jobs before the end of next year.
At an event organised by the Local Enterprise Offices this week, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Ms. Mary Mitchell O’ Connor T.D. met with food producers from eight different regions, including HiRó by Róisin from the Dublin region. All eight companies are among the 281 producers to have successfully made the break-through into the retail market.
Run over a series of workshops, the Food Academy programme is an initiative of the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu to nurture new start-ups in the food and drink sector and it focuses on areas such as business planning, understanding consumer trends and raising finance.
Minister Mitchell O’ Connor encouraged more ‘early-stage’ food and drink producers to apply for the programme through Fingal Local Enterprise Office. The Minister said: “The Food Academy Programme has been running very successfully for the last three years by the Local Enterprise Offices in partnership with Bord Bia and SuperValu. This programme has already enabled almost 300 small food businesses to start and grow, creating valuable jobs across every county and region. One of my priorities as Minister is creating an environment where job growth can thrive, particularly in rural Ireland. I want to thank Bord Bia and SuperValu for their support and I want to thank the LEOs for their endeavours in developing this opportunity”.The businesses receive one to one mentoring and also pitch for a chance to trial their products in a SuperValu store. Since the programme began in 2013, over 1,100 products have been successfully trialled and are now on sale through the Irish supermarket chain. According to SuperValu, consumers in Ireland are expected to spend €25 million on Food Academy products in their stores in 2016.
Start-ups and small businesses in the food and drink sector are supported by Local Enterprise Offices through measures such as financial assistance, mentoring and on-line trading supports.
Oisin Geoghegan, Head of Fingal Local Enterprise Office is also the Chair of the LEO National Food Committee that runs the Food Academy. Speaking at the announcement of the jobs growth in the food sector, he said: “By equipping owners and managers of local food businesses with industry knowledge and skills, they have a better chance of succeeding in business. The goal of the Food Academy programme is to help more food producers to start selling through supermarkets, as well as through farmers’ markets and to provide them with the supports, information and advice to scale up and achieve this retail break-through. According to our research, Food Academy producers in Fingal already support 44 full-time jobs. Over the next 18 months, these producers and a new intake will at least double this figure to more than 90 jobs”.
Paul Reid, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, complimented all involved in the Food Academy initiative, stating that it was an excellent example of successful public-private partnership, between Bord Bia, Supervalu and the Local Enterprise Offices: “In Fingal, we have a strong tradition of excellence in food production. The Food Academy programme is particularly beneficial in enabling our small and artisan food producers to become suppliers to the largest retail chain in Ireland”.
Aidan Cotter, the CEO of Bord Bia, highlighted how the programme helps new food producers understand market positioning and ‘Unique Selling Points.’ He said: "Bord Bia is delighted with the success of the Food Academy programme. The partnership approach with the Local Enterprise Offices and SuperValu has created a real opportunity to cultivate sustainable small food companies by supporting them through the initial challenging phases of growth. These small innovative and dynamic food businesses play an important role in Ireland’s agri-food sector both locally and nationally. The producers receive a combination of commercial and marketing insight from Bord Bia as well as expert advice in branding, market research, distribution and business development, which arms them with the tools to strengthen their chances of future success. The programme has consistently delivered tangible benefits resulting in job creation and sustainable local food businesses.”
The businesses on the programme receive one to one mentoring and also pitch for a chance to trial their products in a SuperValu store. Since the programme began in 2013, over 1,100 products have been successfully trialled and are now on sale through the Irish supermarket chain. According to SuperValu, consumers in Ireland are expected to spend €25 million on Food Academy products in their stores in 2016.
Commenting on the announcement, Martin Kelleher, SuperValu Managing Director said: “As the number one supporter of the Irish food industry, we are committed to sourcing from local suppliers and helping to create the next generation of Irish food entrepreneurs. By supporting these Food Academy producers, we are bringing community based start-ups to market and providing them with the potential to grow their business as well as providing employment within the local community. We are proud to nurture the energy and passion of these entrepreneurial producers, which in turn contributes to the prosperity of local economies across Ireland.”
The Minister also met with Food Academy producers behind other Irish brands, such as Emerald Oils in Tipperary (South East region), Kilbeggan Organic Foods in Westmeath (Midlands region), Wellnice Pops in Limerick (Mid West region), The Galway Food Company (West region), Irish Fish Canners in Donegal (Border region), Loughbeg Farm in West Cork (South West region) and Nutraplenish in Kildare (Mid East region).
The Food Academy Start programme is delivered through the Local Enterprise Offices in local authorities and details around the next programme are available through www.localenterprise.ie/Fingal