I have supported SuperValu Food Academy since its inception over ten years ago and continue to prove that we are still happy to support our local producers…
I remember when I first heard about the SuperValu Food Academy scheme I was so excited about the support and opportunities it provided for local food producers in Ireland. I started Flavor.ie the year before and am already a big fan of local producers, researching, sourcing, cooking and having a lot of fun doing it. I've always believed that Flavor.ie's mission is to show that this amazing food and drink cabinet from a small producer can be enjoyed every day at home as it is in a fine dining restaurant. Food Academy has the same vision and goals, and with every new group of producers that join the program, I always check in on what's going on and showcase those who are innovative and creative and delicious. Of course, for me as a food writer, it helps a lot to find some interesting and compelling stories!
time flies! Ten years on, the program shows no sign of slowing down! This year, 23 new entrants will take up the challenge. Not everyone will be on all shelves all the time, and some may find that the big retail and FMCG industries are not for them. He believes that those who prevent mass retail never fail. Instead, they emerge from the program with more knowledge, information, new skills, and insight into how to create great products that are easy to market and win loyal customers. It is important to understand all of this, even if the manufacturer himself decides that he prefers to grow his business more slowly, focus on small independent distributors, sell in the marketplace or only online.
The scheme itself is administered by Supervalu and is supported by Bord Bia and a network of local business offices across the country. In a recent study by Bord Bia and B&A, results show that despite the current cost of living crisis, Irish shoppers still want to buy locally produced food and drink.
90% of consumers choose to buy locally produced food, with 68% of them buying such food at least once a week. The main motivation for deciding to purchase such items is the desire to support the local economy and employment. Second, locally produced food is perceived to be fresher, of better quality and more environmentally friendly.
Since its inception, Food Academy has helped over 1,000 small businesses complete the program, and over 300 Food Academy manufacturers regularly stock Supervalu shelves. This in turn supports 1,500 jobs in the country and contributes significantly to the development of local communities.
This week I received a basket of #verygenerous goodies from some of this year's Food Academy participants (see left!). I'll be trying and testing them over the next few weeks and posting my thoughts and suggestions on my Instagram page. But I'm so impressed with the variety of products in my cart that I want to give you an idea of what they are.
I'm particularly excited to see offerings that represent the diversity of people and cuisine in Ireland today. I am a firm believer that we learn through food and that food creates bridges and understanding. We need it as much as possible. Some of these names may already be well-known brands, which shows that Food Academy is useful for brands at any stage of development, and there is always an opportunity to learn more and grow!
So let's take a deep dive into what's in store for this year's Supervalu Food Academy...
Chipsy Joe's Farm：Instagram：joes_farm-crunchy
Joe's Farm Crisps was established in 2014 when they diversified their vegetable business from a family farm in Killeagh, East Cork, Ireland.
All vegetables are grown by Joe and everything is produced on the farm. Their Carrot Parsnip Beet Chips were a Food Academy inductee this year and I'm so excited because I've already fallen in love with this product! All of their products are gluten-free and the bags are resealable.
Bear's Distillery: Instagramwinery
Beara Distillery is a family owned distillery based in Castletownbere, making it Ireland's most westerly distillery. They will be launching their first product in 2017, a clear gin with a unique taste and brand of the sea: nothing heals like salt water and sea breeze, they say! Shortly after, they launched a pink gin with additional botanicals including fuchsia, a flower most associated with West Cork's wild bush.
This pink denim is heading to college and I can't wait to turn it into a summer martini. Follow me on Insta when I do!
Kozi Ser Dublin Hills: InstagramCozy σε Dublin Hills
The husband-and-wife duo behind Dublin Hills Goats Cheese make their cream cheese in small batches using milk from fresh goats grazing on 50 acres in the foothills of Dublin Hills, using mildly pasteurized milk from their own herd. They are the only cheese maker in Dublin, and this smooth, flat white cheese is perfect for spreading on bread and drizzled with honey. To this end, the farm has 25 beehives managed by professional local beekeepers.
Strawberry season is finally here, and I can imagine honey-soaked strawberries in a thick layer of goat cheese will definitely make for an afternoon snack!
Tim's Desk: Instagramsteady doggerel
True to the principle that good ingredients take a little work, Tim's Table Lavosh Crackers are a versatile product that's well made with simple, good ingredients. Another husband-and-wife duo from Limerick prepare these cookies with a selection of Middle Eastern-inspired spices. Great for dipping, munching on, or as a salad base, they promise that once you start snacking it's hard to stop!
beans everywhere: Instagram@beanaround_ie
Bean Around follows the principles of the circular economy, producing soaps and exfoliating skincare products made from coffee grounds. All products are handmade, and peppermint and lavender soaps are part of this year's Food Academy tour. I got a sample of a peppermint bar, and as someone who ditched bubble baths for handmade soaps made with natural ingredients about three years ago, I'm no stranger to using ground coffee sticks, so I was looking forward to trying this. !
For those of you who use lotion tan regularly, you'll be happy to know that its knuckle exfoliating properties are also great for pre-sun prep.
I pre-ordered a jar of Le Paysan Bolognese from my local Supervalu store and was immediately awed by the deliciousness, texture, and French bolognese. It might sound weird, but I also love the fact that it comes in a glass jar, which makes it easy to keep fresh in the fridge for a few days after opening. The sample this time is a free-range chicken pate, but the range includes pork rigets (also very good!), smoked mackerel and smoked salmon pate.
Farma Feighery'ego: InstagramFarma Figuere
I love the story behind Feighery Farms Beet Juice - it all started with family and health and along the way brought this family farm to life. The beet juice is delicious (I've had it many times) and is sweetened with natural apple juice to balance out the natural earthiness of the beets. In the mouth, it's clean and satisfying. Plus, it has many health properties, such as being heart-healthy and rich in natural antioxidants and nutrients. If you've ever wanted to try beetroot juice but weren't sure if it was right for you, Feighery's Beetroot Juice is an original product worth trying - it's delicious!
blake always organic: Instagramblakesalwaysorganic
I love kefir and this milk kefir is really delicious! Kefir is a fermented beverage that dates back more than 2,000 years. I love the savory taste of this milk kefir, which comes in a single bottle, perfect for on-the-go, or added to oatmeal and chia seeds for a healthy overnight oatmeal, blended into smoothies, It can even be used as a bacon. This is a great way to get some extra, gut-friendly food from your high-protein breakfast!
Andrew (Irish) and Andrea (Mexican), founders of Garnacha, an authentic Mexican salsa company based in Skeleigh, are embarking on a six-month culinary tour of Mexico in 2022. Back home, they set out to explore the true flavors of Mexico, where an Irish woman resents how salsa has been relegated to nachos. Garnacha is a way to pay homage to the beauty and complexity of Mexico's pre-Hispanic culture and the legacy they leave us through food, and Garnacha is exactly the way they intend to do it! Their salsa is great for dipping, but can also be used in cooking or as a condiment to spice up a variety of dishes.
I can't wait to find new ways to work with their salsa - even if it's not actual Mexican food I'm thinking of, I'll take every opportunity to bring Mexican flavors to the food on my table!
Afro-Caribbean Cuisine / Zeebah's Foods: Instagramsesame food
I can't wait to try this product - Jollof Rice Sauce! Created by a Nigerian family in Sligo, these sauces are made in small batches and handcrafted from authentic family recipes. Just add rice and cook with jollof sauce - perfect for meaty prawns with chicken...absolutely heavenly! When I cook I make sure to post this on Insta... I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!
Janet is simply delicious: Instagramsimply delicious
Janet's Just Delicious is the new brand of the well known and loved Janet's Country Fayre. This time it was the pasta sauce of choice and I was sent basil and roasted garlic to try. While I'm usually not afraid to dive into the kitchen and make my own pasta sauce from scratch, it's not always an option for everyone - not even me! So I can't wait to try it out and see if it makes a great emergency locker item! As you'd expect from this brand, it's packed with goodies, and it's also certified celiac-friendly.
West Cork Cookies: InstagramWest Cork Cookies
There are few things in life like a hearty cake handcrafted in freshly cut Barry's cups! Every biscuit is handcrafted - something West Cork Biscuits have always done and will always do, without compromising on value. I received a sample of the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and I can honestly say Mr. Flavor and I devoured a lot in a short amount of time! What can I say, it's been a long day and tea is much needed!
Come to think of it, they might go really well with Dublin Mountain goat cheese, drizzled with Olly's honey (next), so I'll just have to go out and buy another pack to try...
Ollie's Farm: InstagramOllis Farm
Olly's Honey is scented with heather, the flowers that bees feed on when they head to the Dublin hills in late summer. This is real honey - all real, without additives and glucose fillers, all selected frame by frame. As such, it is a bit more expensive than standard honey, which in most cases is not honey at all. I have a soft spot for heather scented honey. In some ways it is a true taste of the Irish mountain landscape, ripe and full of summer promise. This will be great!
Second Street Bakery: InstagramSecond Street Bakery
Earlier this year, I featured the creator of the most amazing chocolate candies for The Echo. I can't tell you how amazing these things are! It doesn't look like much, but it tastes so good! Claire learned to make this beloved delicacy in San Francisco, USA, where she ran a successful pastry business for many years. Back in Ireland and Cork, she started making scones as a staple of her new business and let me tell you, they are delicious and addicting! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this product and I'm so glad Claire threw it at the food school!
Irish Craft Soda Company: Instagramdead brewery
Life gave us lemons, so we put them in this jar! The same goes for the folks behind Dead Center Brewing's "whipped" approach to this new craft lemonade. “Irish Craft Soda Company.” It’s an idea we’ve been pondering for years, but the lockdown (remember that madness?!?!) gave us room to act. We're basically asking why a craft brewery like ours pushes the boundaries and keeps rolling out promotions and is just killing people, but the soft drink industry stands there like it's waiting for a bus! "
Putting the technical genius required to brew great beer into a soda can is genius. I am so looking forward to opening my freezer can for a drink this summer!
Balichura Farma Milia: Instagramapple
A Ballyhoura Apple Farm product is never far from my kitchen, whether it's apple juice or apple cider vinegar. This new product combines their natural ACV with their mother and honey. One might think that the hive is in the orchard and the bees are foraging on the apple blossoms, making the whole thing a beautiful cycle of nature, food and us.
I haven't tried it, but I know this Ballyhoura Apple Farm Gilbert Murphy sub-brand is aged in oak barrels before blending for a milder flavor. I hope that when topped up with cold sparkling water, it's delicious as a refreshing and hydrating drink. Follow on Instagram to see how this idea goes!
I recently met Mimo and Seamus at the craft fair in Ballymaloe May, a lively and chatty duo who love their new culinary adventure! What started as a shutdown turned into a growing business, so much so that Seamus came back from early retirement to join his wife in the movement! Each pot is handcrafted and the product range is extensive. But it was O'Mimo's applesauce, chili and sage that caught Supervalu's attention. If you mix it with some soy and grated ginger and rub it on pork chops before cooking, it's downright game, says Mimo. I'm here for it!
Herb Lily: Instagramlily
See, I love my Barry, but I also love herbal teas. Besides jasmine, another of my favorite herbs is peppermint, and Lily's Tea is probably the best peppermint tea I've ever tried! Refreshing, energizing, stimulating, while soothing and relaxing the tummy, that's what a good tea should be. The tea is packaged in a 100% biodegradable pyramid bag with contents carefully selected and blended by Lily Chen of Termonfeckin, Fujian Province, China. Luckily, it's great tea!
famous: Instagramto clear
Natnoot in Donegal (I think this is Natural Nutrition's premium version?) grows organic wheatgrass, chills it and blends it with other ingredients into nutritious drinks and beverages. I admit I've never really been drawn to wheatgrass, but I'm always happy to change my mind! My sample was a mix of celery, kale, and apples, which sounds healthy to someone like me, but it might just be the start of a whole new lifestyle! There are other flavors available too, but I'll let you know how I do on Instagram first!
No. 41: Instagramlion.l_raw_cuisine
I love raw cacao so I can't wait to try these coconut cacao cups! They use raw food techniques and organic ingredients, then slow cook everything at 41ºC for 8 hours to preserve as much of the original flavor as possible. I can't wait to try it out as it could be a game-changer for the indulgent snack category.
Traditional Irish Cider: InstagramHeirloom Cider
Being a cider drinker in a western country is one of those stereotypes I fall into very easily! Based in Waterford, Legacy Irish Cider ferments dry cider using techniques passed down from three generations of cider makers, using local apples and natural yeast. It's hard to beat good cider on a hot day - I have good cider and I just need it for a hot day. And then, my friends, Out of Office will last a while!
Hopkins vs. Hopkins: Instagrambottling plant
Hopburgh Helles - All I know so far is that the design of the bottle is fantastic, Mr. Flavor said he got it on the first day of the beer calendar last year and it's very off! I also have a soft spot for Helles, and I'm afraid I'll have to fight my own way to have a decent chance. Wish me luck!
absolute nutrition: Instagramabsorb
I can't wait to try these Rawlo's. I frequent these at my local Superval, but I'm not a fan of high protein snacks, and I admit I didn't look closely. But now that they've been eliminated, I can't wait to challenge my own perception of Jo's Rawlo...how could I not when they're described as "smooth paleo caramel cooked in milk chocolate"... yum!
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