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Now in its fifth year our Food Academy programme continues to grow and support small family businesses across the island of Ireland, helping them to expand and make a positive impact on local communities.

This was perfectly demonstrated this month when Union Hall, a Food Academy participant, signed an agreement worth €920,000 with SuperValu to supply a range of oak-smoked fish products.

Based in West Cork, Union Hall Smoked Fish is a family run business, set up in 1987, specialising in smoked salmon, mackerel, tuna, and fish patés, made using traditional techniques in their bespoke artisan smoke house.

Union Hall participated in the Food Academy programme to gain valuable business and branding support to help grow the business and enable them to scale up production. The company now employs eight people and the deal will see Union Hall smoked fish products available in over 85 SuperValu stores nationwide.

Food Academy is a joint initiative between Bord Bia, the network of Local Enterprise Offices 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. We also have our Food Service Academy, now in its third year, which works with businesses looking to access the foodservice market working with our Musgrave Marketplace brand.

To date the two programmes have helped hundreds of Irish food producers, many of them small family-run businesses. In some cases, such as the Happy Pear, the businesses have gone on to become household names, with full food ranges and cookery books.

The Food Academy is just as valuable to us as a business as it is to the producers themselves. Working with and building relationships with up-and-coming food producers in Ireland gives our brands a unique difference and offers our customers a better choice in local food. We know provenance and traceability has become important for consumers, and that our shoppers and our foodservice customers want more choice when it comes to Irish food.

At the same time, we are supporting communities across Ireland, by encouraging regional businesses to grow and thrive, creating more jobs and positively impacting their local economy.

To mark the five-year anniversary of Food Academy, TV celebrity Hector Ó hEochagáin has been travelling around Ireland talking to local producers from the programme about their products – finding out the stories behind the products and the real people and families who make them. You can view the videos here.

Find out more about our Food Academy and Food Service Academy Programmes.

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