Irish food and drink start-ups are optimistic about their future, with 93% indicating they expect revenue growth in 2021, according to new research.
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, carried out by SuperValu, coincides with its announcement that 45 new Irish producers have completed the Food Academy programme, supported by Bord Bia and Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).
The research found that increased consumer demand for Irish products (41%) is the number-one driver of growth, followed by increased exposure and opportunities through the 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 Local Enterprise Offices. Programme participants receive training in food safety, market research and branding, marketing, finance, sustainability, and business development.
Thirty one LEOs deliver training across the country and LEO spokesperson, Oisín Geoghegan 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, LEOs can help them start-up through the Digital School of Food and the Food Starter programme, get them ‘market-ready’ through the academy programme and help them to grow even further through mentoring and financial supports.”
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, said:
“The combination of Brexit and Covid has truly tested Irish 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.
“The programme is a fantastic example for those with smaller operations to sell to a wider audience.”
Ciara McClafferty, trading director, SuperValu, said:
“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 research also shows that survey respondents believe the 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.
The academy currently supports 290 Irish producers, including 140 female entrepreneurs, generating €170 million in sales.
In 2020, there was a 15% growth in SuperValu Food Academy sales, with participants earning €28 million.
The academy supports 1,500 jobs in local communities nationwide.