SuperValu is keen to shine a light on Irish-made produce, and through Food Academy, small businesses can grow from start-up or early stage to getting their products on shelf.
Many of those who have participated in Food Academy over the years have enjoyed huge success. Most recently, this includes five Irish producers from Food Academy who have been selected by SuperValu to feature as guest stars in Taste of Local fixtures in stores nationwide for three weeks, from 2 March.
Chicory Root Syrup from Homespun, Co Dublin
The health-focused brand offers a range of quinoa granolas, as well as a gluten-free, plant-based chicory root syrup, which has been chosen as their hero product and will now hit the shelves at SuperValu stores across the country.
Founder of Homespun, Erica Sheehan, said she was delighted to receive best in class training and support from SuperValu’s Food Academy programme and was thrilled to find out her product would be displayed nationwide.
She said: “I am thrilled with the opportunity for national distribution, as I am incredibly passionate about this product and it is amazing to have the chance to share it with even more people. Like many people, I have a serious sweet tooth, but I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, creating healthier alternatives of my favourite snacks.
“Our chicory root syrup is an all-natural product sourced directly from the root of the plant. It contains prebiotic fibres and is suitable for anyone cutting down on their sugar intake, as it has that sweet taste without triggering a high spike in blood sugar."
She added: “I joined Food Academy in 2016 and have found the experience to be far beyond my expectations, as the team provides you with more than distribution information, you also have access to people in buying, marketing, strategy and finance. SuperValu genuinely wants you to succeed and build on your capabilities. Many of my fellow producers have become friends and there is a strong community feel, we are always phoning each other for advice and learning from one another.”
Belgian Chocolate Chip Cookies from West Cork Biscuits, Co Cork
West Cork Biscuits offers a selection of handmade cookies and biscuits baked at its small Dunmanway bakery, including its Belgian chocolate chip cookies, which have been chosen as its Hero product and are now available at SuperValu stores countrywide.
Speaking about their selection for Taste of Local and their experience in SuperValu’s Food Academy, CEO Ger Devin said: “We joined Food Academy in 2015 and from that very first pitch meeting, I immediately felt great guidance and support from the team which remains today. SuperValu’s Food Academy gave our business a sense of security and opened doors for us, which allowed us to develop our distribution channels into other stores. You always get the sense that SuperValu want us not only to survive, but to thrive and succeed.”
West Cork Biscuits was set up in 2003 by Richard and Jane Graham, who are now retired. In 2010, Ger Devin stepped in as CEO after working with the couple through the Local Enterprise Office: “We believe in supporting local and most of our ingredients are sourced right here in west Cork. Our products are completely unique, as each biscuit is made entirely by hand as opposed to from a machine,” Ger added.
“We are delighted to be a part of Taste of Local, this is a brilliant chance for us to showcase ourselves on a national level and we are extremely grateful to SuperValu for the opportunity,” he concluded.
Curry Paste from Sing Li Foods, Co Louth
Sing Li foods offers a range of curry sauces and its original curry paste has been selected for distribution at SuperValu stores across Ireland.
Speaking about their Food Academy journey, Sing Li Foods co-founder Owen Fee said: “We joined Food Academy in 2015 and have found the entire experience brilliant, it has boosted our business and given us access to stores around Leinster. We have learned so much from the Food Academy’s mentorship in terms of sales, distribution and social media, and even food tastings.
“We started out running a chip van in Dundalk, our curry was particularly popular with customers who were always asking about purchasing the curry sauce to use at home and we began supplying to local shops and restaurants around Dundalk. Our curry paste is suitable for vegans and has a Chinese-inspired flavour – we were actually ahead of the big brands as one of the first to create a curry paste as opposed to a sauce.
“We are over the moon to be chosen for Taste of Local, we are mainly supplying to north Leinster stores and restaurants, so the opportunity to reach customers nationwide is amazing.”
Ginger Beer from Zingibeer, Co Dublin
“Dream come true” for a Smithfield father-and-daughter duo as their ginger beer is named as one of five Irish products chosen for national distribution as part of SuperValu's Taste of Local initiative.
Smithfield-based Zingibeer’s alcoholic ginger beer is now available in SuperValu stores nationwide, as it has been chosen for national distribution as part of the hugely successful Taste of Local initiative.
Speaking about their Taste of Local journey and their SuperValu Food Academy experience, co-founder of Zingibeer Rachel Byrne said: “National distribution is the ultimate goal for food and drink producers, so Taste of Local is a complete dream for us.
“I have always loved the Taste of Local section in my local SuperValu and admired the producers’ personal stories, so we were excited to join Food Academy in 2021. It was an amazing programme which gave us the tools we needed to run the business, on everything from marketing advice to taste panels. All of this helped to develop our ideas even further and taught us problem-solving skills and the importance of being dynamic in business, as you must often adapt to the unexpected.”
She added: “My dad has been in the brewing business all his life, but unfortunately when the pandemic hit, the off-trade alcohol industry became non-existent and he saw a gap in the market, as the only ginger beer available in Ireland was imported from the UK. My previous career was banking, but I was always fascinated by the food and drink industry, so I began helping Dad with branding and the all-important role of taste-tester while he perfected the recipe.
"Not only are we the only Irish-made ginger beer, but ours also has a unique flavour balance due to a twist of lemon zest which creates the most refreshing taste. Zingibeer is also completely natural and free from artificial preservatives, which is important as today’s consumers are more conscious of what they are drinking, so we’re providing a healthier alternative to the usual beer.”
Original Gravy from Porter & Nash, Co Dublin
Tallaght-based chefs Porter & Nash are celebrating a huge milestone in March as their unique seaweed gravy has been chosen for national distribution as part of SuperValu’s hugely successful Taste of Local initiative.
Porter & Nash – comprised of chefs Gavin Cassidy and Eoin Lennon – offers a range of vegan-friendly gravies with a seaweed twist, including an original gravy which has been chosen as its Hero product and is now on SuperValu shelves across the country.
Speaking about their Food Academy journey, co-founder of Porter & Nash Gavin Cassidy spoke about their Food Academy journey: “We joined Food Academy in 2019, as we were hoping to expand to more supermarkets around Ireland, but we found this experience also brought an amazing sense of community, as we were able to connect with other food businesses in the same position. The Food Academy team are so supportive, we can always give them a call to ask any questions or to discuss our plans, so you are never really on your own.
“We are both professional chefs with 50 years experience between us, and the roots of the business go back to 2017, when we put together a business idea as part of a college project. From researching products available in supermarkets, we noticed a lack of vegan gravies that are both healthy and flavourful. Our gravy is also fat-free, gluten-free, low in salt and sugar and all our vegetables are locally sourced. Our secret ingredient, fresh seaweed from the west of Ireland, adds great taste and health benefits.”
He concluded: “Eoin and I couldn’t be happier to be chosen for Taste of Local. As small producers, this is an amazing opportunity to be recognised on this scale by SuperValu.”