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30 Food Academy participants graduate to Food Academy Advance

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD today welcomed the announcement that 200 small food producers will secure retail listings worth €10 million with SuperValu, through the Food Academy programme in 2015. Food Academy is a joint initiative between Bord Bia, the Local Enterprise Office Network and SuperValu to support small food companies in Ireland.

Minister Coveney also announced that of the total Food Academy programme participants, 30 high performingsmall food companies will graduate to Food Academy Advance, the next stage of the programme. Food Academy Advance provides these companies with access to expertise in branding, market research, business development and distribution, to allow them to scale up and secure national listings with SuperValu. This combination of both commercial and marketing insight assists in supporting producers through the challenging initial phases of business growth and strengthens their chances of future success.

Speaking at the Food Academy Conference in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin today, Minister Coveney TDsaid: “Food Harvest 2020 has identified the long term potential of the Irish agri-food industry to support ‘smart, green growth’. Ireland’s artisan food producers are making a valued contribution to this growth. Structured support from Bord Bia and Local Enterprise Offices, in partnership with SuperValu, will ensure that high potential food entrepreneurs can scale their businesses in a sustainable manner, creating jobs and furthering Ireland’s credentials as a food leader both nationally and internationally.”

The results of a research study conducted with Food Academy participants were also launched at the conference. The main findings included:

  • Almost 85% of Food Academy participants expect to employ new staff over the next 12 months, with almost a quarter expecting to take on more than 3 new staff during this period;
  • Almost half of Food Academy participants expect sales to increase by 50% or more over the next 12 months;
  • Approximately 70% of small food producers expect to launch new products during the next twelve months;
  • 98% of participants found the Food Academy programme beneficial to their business development;
  • Gaining access to finance is the number one priority for Food Academy participants;
  • Almost 80% of companies participating on the programme plan to develop their brand through social media.

By virtue of its community retailer model, whereby stores are independently owned by local entrepreneurs, SuperValu is able to give Food Academy participating companies the unique opportunity of starting their journey on a small scale. Participants are able to secure listings with individual stores, helping them grow to a point where they are on a commercial footing to supply a network of stores. 

Martin Kelleher, Managing Director of SuperValu, commented: “At SuperValu we are committed to supporting local suppliers and building vibrant communities around Ireland. We are delighted to be able to work hand in hand with budding artisan food producers, providing them with the opportunity to trial their products in local SuperValu stores initially and then grow their partnership with us as they scale their business and supply more SuperValu stores, creating local jobs in the process. As SuperValu stores are independently owned and operated, our retailers are perfectly placed to support suppliers in scaling their business at a sustainable pace. At the same time, it allows our retailers to provide customers with a tailored local offer, stocking products which you cannot buy in other supermarkets.”

Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia, added “Bord Bia’s role in this partnership has been to design solutions for entrepreneurs to allow them to thrive in an environment that looks to support local. The Irish consumer is a discerning one and has in recent years grown to seek out and support local products and companies. The Food Academy model uniquely facilitates the promotion of these entrepreneurs to consumers in every county in Ireland, whilst equipping these young food companies to be consumer focused from the outset and to grow at a sustainable pace.”

Also speaking at the event, Vincent Reynolds, Chairperson of the Local Enterprise Office, said: “Food Academy provides a cohesive, structured support system for local food producers, to help them grow their businesses sustainably. It is an example of Government agencies and the private sector working together to create the right environment for food entrepreneurship in Ireland. The Local Enterprise Network with on-the-ground expertise and local contacts is perfectly placed to support small and medium enterprises to achieve a listing initially with their local SuperValu store and beyond to regional and national SuperValu stores. With that support, their growth is achievable, manageable and importantly, sustainable.”

SuperValu serves over 2.6 million customers every week and has 223 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.  SuperValu was recently recognised as the best promoter of Irish products ahead of any other grocery retailer, according to the ‘Where We Shop 2014’ research study by Checkout and Ignite Research.

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