SuperValu, Ireland’s leading grocery retailer, is today celebrating 10 years of the Food Academy programme, with €230m of Food Academy products sold in SuperValu stores over the last decade. Food Academy producers are continuing to perform strongly, supporting 1,500 jobs through the programme which offers considerable benefits to both local communities and the national economy.
The Food Academy programme is a tailored business development programme for early to mid-stage producers, supported by SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office. More than 1,000 local food producers have completed the Food Academy programme since its inception, with over 300 Food Academy producers regularly stocked in SuperValu stores across the country, 52 weeks of the year. The initiative provides training in food safety, market research, branding, marketing, finance, sustainability, and business development through a range of dedicated workshops. Food Academy producers also have the opportunity to feature their products on SuperValu shelves nationwide, giving them real, tangible opportunities for growth in the market.
This milestone anniversary comes as new research by Bord Bia and B&A reveal that 90% of consumers choose to buy locally produced food, with more than 2 in 3 (68%) buying this category at least weekly. The main driver for purchasing locally produced food is a desire to support the local economy and jobs. Secondary drivers are that locally produced food is fresher, better quality and good for the environment. Consumers are seeking out locally produced products, with more than half of consumers expecting to buy locally produced products in the next six months*.
This year, 23 new Food Academy entrants are launching a wide variety of products including naturally leavened sourdough bread, low sugar fruit jam, organic microgreens & eggs, as well as products utilising spent grain to make protein snacks, and used coffee grinds to create a tan-removing soap.
Speaking on the 10th anniversary of Food Academy, Ian Allen, Managing Director, SuperValu said: “The Food Academy is a fantastic collaboration between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office which has gone from strength to strength over the last 10 years, enhancing and supporting the growth of Ireland’s food and drink sector. At SuperValu, we are passionate about food and supporting the development of Irish food and drink producers in local communities across Ireland – having proudly done so since 1968. The Food Academy programme is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to gain direct access to leading expertise to help them on every step of their journey – from start-up producer to securing their products on supermarket shelves.
Over the last 10 years, SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office have fostered a superb relationship through this programme and have been heartened and inspired by the innovation and leadership shown by over 1,000 Irish food producers who have participated in the programme since 2013. We are immensely proud of the success these brands have achieved in the last 10 years – some of whom include names like Lily’s Tea and Janet’s Just Delicious. At SuperValu, we are committed to supporting local communities and the €230m sales of Food Academy products in SuperValu stores in the last 10 years is not only remarkable, but it is a testament to the calibre and quality of Irish producers who have gone through the programme.”
Jim O’Toole, Bord Bia Chief Executive said: “Bord Bia has supported Food Academy since its inception and is pleased to work in partnership with SuperValu and the Local Enterprise Office to nurture innovative food and drink businesses. Food Academy plays an important role in serving the needs of Irish consumers, with recent Bord Bia research proving the importance to consumers of being able to choose locally produced food, drink and horticulture.”
Greg Swift, Head of Local Enterprise Office, Dublin added: “The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) work with a broad range of businesses. The food sector is an important sector and there are exciting and new innovations emerging linked to the changing demands of the consumer. The Food Academy programme addresses the challenge of product innovation, business planning, health regulation and the ultimate placing of product on SuperValu shelves. The LEOs have worked closely on the programme over 10 years with the strong support of Bord Bia and the SuperValu team. This is a productive relationship with the sole objective of delivering new Irish food businesses to the market, increasing sales, additional employment, and strong growth ambitions to the successful businesses.
*Source: Behaviour and Attitudes Research – Food Academy Pulse, March 2023. National representative sample of 1,014 individuals, age 16+.