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An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD today launched the 2nd Food Academy Start Programme at the National Ploughing Championships, encouraging start-up food producers to register for the programme. According to organisers, nearly 200 Irish small food businesses will benefit from the 2nd Food Academy Start programme resulting in the creation of a further 150 jobs after the participants secure retail sales worth €5 million with SuperValu.

Food Academy Start is a joint initiative by Bord Bia, SuperValu and the Local Enterprise Offices to assist small food producers grow their business from start-up to their first retail listing through a workshop and mentoring system. Today, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny met some of the 85 graduate food businesses that have completed the Food Academy Start programme and as a result, secured their first retail listings with 133 SuperValu stores. These companies will continue to be supported by the Food Academy in order to further grow their sales and progress to become provincial and national suppliers.

SuperValu is able to afford the participating companies the unique position of starting their journey on a small scale, as a result of its community retailer model, whereby stores are independently owned. This allows store owners to source directly from local suppliers, allowing them to stock locally produced artisan foods that are not available in other supermarkets.

Commenting at the National Ploughing Championships, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said: “The Food Academy Start programme is great news for the 200 small companies who will have a chance to participate and grow their business as the 85 companies here today can attest. I commend Bord Bia, SuperValu and the Local Enterprise Offices all over the country for collaborating on this important initiative which will create 150 jobs. The Government is highly supportive of the agri-food sector as it is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and will continue to be as we work to secure economic recovery by prioritising job creation and investment.”

Martin Kelleher, SuperValu Managing Director, added: “At SuperValu, we are committed to quality and supporting local suppliers – that’s why Food Academy, which gives small businesses a big start, is so important to us. Our independent retail model, whereby stores are independently owned and operated by local entrepreneurs, means that our retailers are uniquely positioned to support small food start-ups as they grow their business. Food Academy participants were able to start their journey by supplying their local SuperValu store and now we are helping them grow to the point where they can supply more stores in their local community. As a result of this growth, these food start-ups will create a further 150 jobs in the year ahead, a vital boost for communities around the country.”

Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia, commented “With revenues of €475 million, small food businesses play an important role in Ireland’s agri-food sector by enhancing our reputation for dynamic, high-quality food. Food Academy Start is a unique opportunity to help cultivate sustainable small food companies by providing them with access to expertise in branding, market research, business development and distribution. This combination of both commercial and marketing insight assists in supporting producers through the challenging initial phases of growth and strengthens their chances of future success. It is encouraging to see the tangible benefits of the programme to date in delivering sales of €5 million.”

Vincent Reynolds, Head of the Local Enterprise Office, said: “We are looking forward to working with the next wave of Food Academy Start participants to help them establish their food businesses. Anyone who is interested in this fantastic opportunity should contact their Local Enterprise Office to find out how they can take part in this collaboration between industry and State agencies, which will ultimately boost employment in communities across the country.”

SuperValu serves over 2.6 million customers every week and has 222 stores nationwide. 75% of everything on SuperValu’s shelves is sourced or produced in Ireland. SuperValu continues to source locally wherever possible and purchases almost €2 billion worth of goods from Irish suppliers which help to sustain 30,000 jobs in the Irish economy.

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