Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD and Minister for Trade, Business & Employment, EU Digital Single Market & Data Protection Pat Breen TD today marked the fifth year of the Food Academy programme, which is expected to generate €50 million in sales annually for emerging Irish food producers within the next five years.


Food Academy is a joint initiative between the network of Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia 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 €78 million 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 to date 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.


This is all possible due to the collaborative nature of the Food Academy Programme, in which a cross government departmental programme engaging with the private retail sector has allowed Food Academy participants to get specialised local support. This comes through the assistance of the Local Enterprise Offices, SuperValu’s community retail model whereby their independent retailers can provide participants with a unique opportunity to sell in one or a small group of stores, and Bord Bia’s on the ground knowledge of the food sector nationwide.


Commenting at today’s launch in Bord Bia in Dublin, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD 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 for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen TD 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 amongst 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”


Also speaking at the event, Oisin Geoghegan, Chair of the Local Enterprise Office Food Committee, said: “The Local Enterprise Offices are at the heart of every community in Ireland when it comes to fostering start-ups and new business ideas so to have worked alongside Bord Bia and SuperValu on the Food Academy Programme to create so many jobs is a fantastic achievement for all involved. The local aspect of the programme ensures that anyone in the country with a great idea in the food and beverage sector has the assistance and the tools available locally to make their dream a reality and we will continue to support them as their business grows.”


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. This approach has helped suppliers like Jo Davey of Absolute Nutrition move from making nutritional snacks in her kitchen for her friends and relatives to establishing a successful food business with a unique offering that employs local people. This is exactly the type of result that the Food Academy is achieving through its partnership with SuperValu, Bord Bia and Local Enterprise Offices.”


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.”