Food Academy to support 207 jobs in the Mid East Region

140 people employed by producers from the Food Academy Programme in the Mid East region, which is run by the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu with 67 new jobs expected over next 12 months.

A survey by the Local Enterprise Offices shows that 29 small food and drink producers in the Mid East region, members of the Food Academy Programme who employ 140 people, have made the break-through into the retail market. Those same businesses expect to create a further 67 jobs over the next 12 months, bringing the total number of jobs supported to 207 across the Mid East.

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 Nutraplenish from Kildare in the Mid East 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 Local Enterprise Office Laois. 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”.

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. Evelyn Reddin, Head of Enterprise with Local Enterprise Office Laois 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 research undertaken by the Local Enterprise Offices, Food Academy producers in the Mid East region already support 140 jobs. Over the next 12 months, these producers are planning to create an additional 67 new jobs overall.”

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 Kilbeggan Organic Foods in Westmeath (Midlands region), HiRó by Róisin in Dublin City (Dublin 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 Emerald Oils in South Tipperary (South 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.

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