Why local food and drink is more important than ever

Local and Irish produce combines two things we are passionate about – quality food and drink, and independent family-run businesses. Local producers often start as small family businesses, growing sustainably and generating employment for local people. At the same time, Irish produce is renowned for being high quality, safe and delicious.

That’s why, through our 11 market-leading retail and wholesale brands, we support thousands of Irish suppliers of all sizes. Championing local producers goes to the heart of our values and our purpose of Growing Good Business, which inspires us to grow a sustainable business that benefits the wider economy and local communities.

The interesting thing about the past 18 months, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, is that we have seen a significant increase in consumer interest in local and sustainable produce. Staying at home and focusing more on our immediate communities seems to have accelerated the emphasis on localism – and this extends to the food and drink people want to buy.

Stark images like the pollution lifting in cities like Deli when lockdowns around the world were imposed really brought front and centre the damage being done to the planet, as well as optimism that this damage could be reversed. Today’s shoppers are much more savvy, they want to know where their food comes from, how it was produced and what it is packaged in. They want to know that they are making choices that are good for the planet, as well as for local communities, and for their families.

By working with local producers, we can give shoppers the reassurance they want – that the food they are buying will be safe, sustainable, ethical and, of course, delicious.

A study that SuperValu conducted earlier this year to gain feedback on our flagship Food Academy programme, found that consumer demand for Irish products (41%) is the number one driver of growth in Food Academy products.

Food Academy, which is now in its eighth year, is a unique food development programme run in conjunction with SuperValu, Board Bia and the Local Enterprise Office. It gives small producers a big chance, giving them that all important first supermarket listing in their local SuperValu store. Food Academy currently supports 290 Irish food and drink producers, making their products available 52 weeks of the year in their local SuperValu stores.

In 2020, there was a 15% growth in SuperValu Food Academy sales, with participants delivering €28m in retail sales. This again supports the view that consumers want local produce, and they enjoy the unique, artisan products that Food Academy suppliers provide. Shoppers can also feel they are playing a part in supporting small businesses from their area, positively impacting the local economy. This is where you can see the whole concept brought to life and how it benefits everyone – from the retailer to the producer to the consumer – to support local.

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