Supervalu Food Academy

Two Donegal businesses have been accepted onto the hugely successful Food Academy programme, which supports early stage food and drink producers and small food businesses who are just starting out. Established in 2013, the programme is run by the Local Enterprise Office in partnership with SuperValu and Bord Bia.

James and Noreen Cunningham, of Donegal Farmhouse Cheese and Sia Kavourma of Tasty Kitchen will now be trained through their Local Enterprise Office in this specialist programme to help them grow in the retail sector. At the end of the programme, both businesses will have the opportunity to graduate onto the shelves of their local SuperValu stores, getting a potential listing in one of Ireland’s biggest retailers.

Food Coast Donegal

“We’re really excited to be taking part in the SuperValu Food Academy” Noreen Cunningham said. “It’s a great opportunity for our business. We started out in 2018, when we decided we wanted to bring an added value product to the farm. After some market research and development, we created Donegal Farmhouse Cheddar; it’s hand made from 100% local Donegal milk, pasteurised and suitable for vegetarians.”

“Our cheese is currently sold out, however, we are in the process of making more which will be available for sale again this November just in time for Christmas.” Noreen added. “At the moment we have just the one product – Kilard Cheddar – but we plan to widen our product range to other products; we’re currently focusing on increasing our stock of cheddar to have it all year around. We sell through local retailers across Donegal, in speciality farm shops, and via our online store.”

Food Coast Donegal

Sia Kavourma of Tasty Kitchen started her business selling a variety of dishes at the Letterkenny Farmers’ Market: “I had been making Thai curry pastes for years in big batches that I would freeze” Sia said. “Then I used to take the two-person portion out of the freezer to make a midweek meal in no time. I heard about a supermarket holding a competition for new products on the market and it got me thinking about my products. There was nobody on the market that was doing this and certainly not in this format. I approached the Local Enterprise Office for some direction and was guided towards the “Start your Own Business” and “Grow your Own Food Business” courses. They were invaluable and a great source of information. I decided, instead of writing up a business plan, I would just try out the business at the Letterkenny Farmers Market and I’ve been there ever since selling a wide range of products. I’m really looking forward to the Supervalu Food Academy and in particular to getting more information on how to get your product on the shelf and all that that entails.”

Sia Kavourma of Tasty Kitchen

Since the Food Academy began, producers that have come through the programme have sold approximately €140million worth of produce and supported 1,500 jobs across the country. The programme has graduated many well-known food and drink brands since it began seven years ago including The Happy Pear, Strong Roots, Dr. Coy’s Health Foods, Absolute Nutrition, Solaris Tea and Hope Beer. Donegal has had several Food Academy success stories including Derek Walker of Natnoot who grows certified organic wheatgrass and produces a range of cold pressed juice products that retail online and in SuperValu stores. Other Donegal success stories from The Food Academy include O’Donnell’s Bakery in Laghey, Simply Inish in Malin, and Wild Fuschia Bakehouse in Dunfanaghy.