SuperValu has announced the launch of its Taste of Local initiative which showcases small Irish food and drink producers in stores across the country.

33 new Irish food and drink producers who have completed this year’s Food Academy programme will have their products available in the Taste of Local section in-store.

The Taste of Local initiative showcases the producers who have gone through the Food Academy Programme as well as highlighting hyperlocal products that are unique to local stores.

According to the new consumer research, the main reasons people buy Irish is to support local jobs (59%) and Irish businesses (54%). More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) said they agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of buying more Irish products. Some 77% of respondents said they prefer to buy local whenever possible, while nearly two-thirds (64%) said they have made a conscious decision in the past 12 months to buy more Irish and local products.

The Food Academy programme, which is delivered in conjunction with Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices, gives early-stage food and drink producers an opportunity to get their products on SuperValu shelves 52 weeks of the year. The programme has been an established part of the Irish food industry for nine years now and supports 1,500 jobs nationwide.

Currently, the Food Academy Programme supports 320 Irish food and drink producers. Their products are available 52 weeks of the year in their local SuperValu stores. Food Academy producers achieved sales of over €30m and 6% growth in the last year highlighting the continuous support from customers for local and Irish products. Food Academy producers have sold a combined €200m of produce in SuperValu since 2013.

Carmel Biggane, Food Academy Manager at SuperValu, said: “Supporting local, Irish communities and businesses is at the heart of everything we do at SuperValu. Food Academy producers are delivering consistently high quality, great tasting products that are at the cutting edge of innovation. Producers are very finely tuned to the needs of today’s consumer and embody a fantastic entrepreneurial spirit to deliver exciting brands for the future.

“We are delighted to launch another 33 new producers from this year’s Food Academy programme, which will be showcased in Taste of Local. This year’s new entrants have a wide range of products from plant-based offerings, organic produce, healthy convenience, sustainably foraged and harvested, as well as innovative non-alcoholic drink.

“Uniquely, our Food Academy programme supports producers 52 weeks of the year, so shoppers will be able to buy these great tasting products throughout the year, making a big difference to these small local producers. I’d like to extend our congratulations to the 33 producers who successfully completed this year’s programme, we look forward to seeing your products on our shelves around the country.”

Tara McCarthy, Chief Executive, Bord Bia, said: “Ireland’s food and drink producers are known at home and internationally for their high quality, distinctive products and sustainable manufacturing practices. Bord Bia is proud to be in partnership with SuperValu and the Local Enterprise Offices to deliver the Food Academy programme which enables small businesses to navigate through their initial growth phase. We believe that in a demanding trading environment growing companies’ skills and capabilities in consumer understanding, branding and business development provides them with a strong foundation. We wish the 33 graduates from this year’s programme continued growth and success.”

Padraic McElwee, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices added: “We are committed to fostering an environment of innovation and entrepreneurship and the Food Academy programme partnering with SuperValu and Bord Bia is an example of our commitment in action. We have a proud tradition of food entrepreneurship in Ireland and the high-quality of Food Academy producers is a testament to this. 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 specific business training and mentoring. It’s fantastic to see these 33 small businesses follow in the footsteps of so many others and we look forward to continuing to support them grow over the coming years.”

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