Food Academy’s Irish food and drink start-ups are optimistic as 93% expect revenue growth in 2021

SuperValu supported by Bord Bia & Local Enterprise Offices launches 45 new Food Academy Producers in stores

12th May 2021: According to new research by SuperValu, Irish food and drinks start-ups are optimistic about their future growth, with 93% indicating they expect revenue growth in 2021. Despite the various challenges posed for the sector by the COVID-19 pandemic, 71% of producers plan to expand their workforce in 2021.

The research comes as SuperValu announced 45 new Irish food producers who have completed the Food Academy programme, supported by Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). The products will be on sale in selected SuperValu stores from today. The study shows that increased consumer demand for Irish products (41%) is the number one driver of growth, followed by increased exposure and opportunities through Food Academy (27%). At the same time, economic uncertainty and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are the most significant causes for concern for producers.

Now in its eighth year, Food Academy is a unique food business development programme between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices. Participants in the programme receive training in food safety, market research and branding, marketing, finance, sustainability, and business development.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, T.D. said: “The combination of Brexit and Covid has truly tested Irish food producers, our supermarkets and their supply chains. The industry has remained remarkably strong and resilient, throughout what has been a really challenging period, adapting and responding as things have changed. Ireland’s food and drink producers are known around the world for the quality of their produce. The Food Academy programme is a fantastic example for those with smaller operations to sell to a wider audience. Nearly 300 have gone through the programme so far, supported by the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu. Congratulations to the 45 new producers that will be selling their products in SuperValu from today. It’s a brilliant achievement and a great opportunity for all involved.”

Ciara McClafferty, Trading Director, SuperValu, said: “We believe in local business and are proud to continue to support local producers across the country. In collaboration with Bord Bia and Local Enterprise Offices, the Food Academy allows us to help new businesses grow and get the support they need. The survey shows that 98% of participants found the programme beneficial. The exposure to new customers, increased brand awareness, mentorship, and how the programme supports producers to grow sustainably, are invaluable elements highlighted by the producers. The programme allows us to use our experience to help small businesses through their journey. From the start up to getting their products on our shelves 52 weeks of the year.”

The research also shows that survey respondents believe the SuperValu Food Academy delivers value for their business, from the increased brand exposure, access to new customers, mentoring and sustainable growth opportunities.

The survey respondents also stated that the top two reasons they believe consumers choose to buy Irish, is to support local producers and the quality of locally sourced food and drink products.

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia said: “The partnership approach of the Food Academy programme has created a real opportunity to cultivate sustainable small food and drink businesses by supporting them through the initial challenging phases of growth. The producers receive a combination of commercial and marketing insight from Bord Bia as well as expert advice in branding, market research and business development, which arms them with the tools to strengthen their chances of success. These innovative and dynamic food businesses play an integral role in Ireland’s agri-food sector both locally and nationally, so it’s really encouraging to see a new wave of start-ups and entrepreneurs optimistic about the future.”

 The 31 Local Enterprise Offices deliver Food Academy training across the country and Oisín Geoghegan of the Local Enterprise Offices, said: “As the new research shows, Food Academy producers are optimistic about the industry’s future with the majority forecasting sales growth and new jobs this year, which is an encouraging sign.  And for small businesses in the sector, Local Enterprise Offices can help them start-up through the Digital School of Food and the Food Starter programme, get them ‘market-ready’ through the Food Academy programme and help them to grow even further through mentoring and financial supports.”

 The Food Academy programme currently supports 290 Irish food and drink producers, including 140 female entrepreneurs, generating €170m in sales. In 2020, there was a 15% growth in SuperValu Food Academy sales, with participants earning €28m. The Food Academy programme supports 1,500 jobs in local communities nationwide.

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