SUPERVALU has graduated a new class of micro firms from its 'food academy' - which means a host of new home-grown products are arriving on its shelves.
The seven-year-old business incubator, run in partnership with State-funded Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and Bord Bia, gives food and drink start-ups professional assistance in developing their product and image for a retail debut in local SuperValu outlets.
The 15 new product lines unveiled yesterday include seaweed burgers from Plantruption, cold-brew coffee from Maisha Coffee, Indian starters from Lets Chaat, and salad leaves from Larkins Hill Farm.
The firms' founders since October have received training and mentoring from SuperValu, LEO and Bord Bia officials on market research and branding, food safety, marketing, finance and business development.
"Over the last six months, with the help of SuperValu's Food Academy, I've been working steadily to develop a unique product," said Aisling Cullen, whose firm Thanks Plants has developed a handmade line of meat-free sausages.
"Without the help of Food Academy, I would not be where I am now," Ms Cullen said. "It has given huge support to all the producers involved, and I recommend it for any new producer starting out."
Flavours for Thanks Plants' vegan sausages include apple and sage, and sun-dried tomato and herb.
SuperValu said its academy has supported product development at 620 start-ups since 2014. The grocer said those small firms have created about 1,500 jobs and generated €140m in sales for SuperValu at its 223 outlets nationwide.
"We have been supporters of local for 40 years and it's part of our DNA," said SuperValu marketing director Martin Kelleher.
"Our independent retailers can provide producers with their all-important first supermarket listing, helping them to create employment in local communities," he said, calling the food academy "a great way for us to help new businesses to grow and get the support they need".