Eight new Wicklow producers will be soon be stocked on shelves around the country as part of the Food Academy programme — a joint initiative between the network of Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu.
Food Academy 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.
The programme is expected to generate €50 million in sales annually for emerging Irish food producers withing the next five years.
Wicklow’s Local Enterprise Office has been involved with Food Academy since it’s inception and have seen 20 of their clients join the programme and supply SuperValu stores around the country.
Wicklow Brewery, Le Paysan, Coolattin Cheddar, MONT Pilsner Lager, Sukhis India, Melody Street Foods, Nutriquick Healthy Meals and Rohan’s Sauces are the most recent graduates of the Food Academy from Wicklow that will soon be stocked in the Irish supermarket chain.
Janet’s Just Delicious and The Happy Pear, both based in Wicklow, were two of the first companies to participate and today their products are available in Supervalu stores across Ireland— both companies were supported by LEO Wicklow and they now directly employ over 135 staff.
Sheelagh Daly, Head of Enterprise, Local Enterprise Office Wicklow, said; “The Food Academy Programme has been extremely popular for us in the last five years; it created an opportunity for local food entrepreneurs in Wicklow to avail of specialised mentoring and guidance that previously hadn’t existed in the food business. Those who have a great food or beverage idea now can see a clear path from idea to shelf.”
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.
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.
This year’s Food Academy was launched last week in Bord Bia in Dublin — speaking at the launch Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael 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 for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat 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 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 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.”
SuperValu Managing Director Martin Kelleher 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.”