Buying Local Still Matters

I've been a supporter of SuperValu's Food Academy since its inception a decade ago, and it keeps proving that we still like to support our local producers...

I’ve been a supporter of SuperValu’s Food Academy since its inception a decade ago, and it keeps proving that we still like to support our local producers…

I remember the first time I heard about SuperValu’s Food Academy Programme and feeling really excited for the support and opportunity it would create for Ireland’s local food producers. I had started a year prior, and was already fervently championing the local producers I was seeking out, finding, cooking with and enjoying very much. I always believed the mission of was to show that this incredible larder of food and drinks from small producers had as much right to be enjoyed at home everyday as in a nice restaurant. The Food Academy had the same vision and goal, and with every cohort of new producers that take up the programme, I always check out what’s happening and showcase those that are innovative and creative, but also delicious, too. It obviously helps enormously for me, as a food writer, if I can find a few with interesting and engaging stories behind them!

How time flies! Ten years on, and the programme shows no signs of slowing down! 23 new entrants will take up the challenge this year. Not everyone will stay on all the shelves all the time, and some may decide that big retail and the FMCG sector is not one for them. Those that opt out of mass retail are never losers, thought; instead, they come out of the programme with bags more knowledge, information, new skills and insights into how to create a great product that’s easy to market and gain a loyal customer following. This is all important stuff to know, even if the producer themselves decide that they are happy to grow their business slower, to focus on small independent stockists, sell via farmers’ markets or only online.

The programme itself is front by Supervalu and backed by Bord Bia and the network of Local Enterprise Offices around the country. In a recent survey conducted by Bord Bia and B&A, results showed that, despite the current cost of living crisis, Irish shoppers are happy to continue buying locally produced food and drinks.

90% of consumers choose to buy locally produced food and 68% of those buy this category at least weekly. The main driver behind the decision to purchase items in this category is a desire to support the local economy and jobs. Secondly, that locally produced food is perceived as fresher, better quality and good for the environment.

Since it began, the Food Academy has helped over 1,000 small businesses complete the programme with over 300 Food Academy producers regularly stocked on Supervalu shelves. In turn, this supports 1,500 jobs nationally and contributing significantly to local communities.

#gifted Supervalu Food Academy 10th Anniversary Hamper

This week, I was #gifted a very generous hamper of goodies from some of this years’ Food Academy programme entrants (see left!). I’ll be trying and testing them out over the course of the next couple of weeks and posting my thoughts and serving suggestions on my Instagram page. But I’m so impressed with the variety of products in the hamper that I wanted to give you a sneak peak into what they are.

I’m particularly happy to see products that represent the diversity of people and cuisines in Ireland today. I’m a firm believer that we learn through food and in turn food can build bridges and understanding. We need as much of this as possible. Some of the names may already be familiar and established brands, demonstrating that the Food Academy can be of use to brands at all stages of their development, and there is always an opportunity to learn more and develop more!

So let’s dive in and take a look in a little more detail at the products in this years’ Supervalu Food Academy…

Joe’s Farm Crisps : Instagram: joes_farm-crisps

Joe’s Farm Crisps was set up in 2014 when they diversified their vegetable business on their family farm in Killeagh, East Cork, Ireland.

Joe grows all the vegetables and everything is produced on the farm. Their carrot, parsnip and beetroot crisps is the product that is in the Food Academy this year and I’m delighted because I already love this product! All their products are gluten free and bags are resealable.

Beara Distillery : Instagram bearadistillery

Beara Distillery is a family-owned and operated distillery in Castletownbere, making it Ireland’s most westerly distillery. They launched in 2017 with their first product, a clear gin with a distinct maritime flavour and brand: nothing cures like salt water and sea air, they said! Soon after they launch a pink gin, flavoured with additional floral botanicals, including fuschia, the flower most associated with West Cork’s wild hedgerows.

It’s the pink gin that joins the Academy, and I can’t wait to shake this is into a summer-y martini. Watch my Insta for when I do!

Dublin Hills Goats Cheese : Instagram dublinhillsgoatscheese

Made from the fresh milk of goats grazing on 50 acres in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, the husband and wife duo behind Dublin Hills Goats Cheese hand make a cream cheese in small batches using the gently pastuerised milk from their herd. They are the only cheese producer in Dublin, and this pure white, smooth textured cheese is perfect spread on bread and drizzled with honey. To that end, there are 25 beehives on the farm managed by a local professional beekeeper.

It’s strawberry season at last, and I can imagine that honey-macerated strawberries on top of a thick layer of goats cheese is sure to be a winning mid-afternoon snack!

Tim’s Table : Instagram timstablelimerick

Working from the principle that good ingredients need little work, the Lavosh crackers from Tim’s Table are a versatile product made well from simply good ingredients. Hailing from Limerick, another husband and wife duo make these crackers, along with a tight selection of Middle Eastern-inspired condiments. Great for dipping, topping or as a base for salads, they promise that snacking is difficult to stop once started!

Bean Around : Instagram @beanaround_ie

Working on the principle of the circular economy, Bean Around makes soaps and exfoliating skincare products made using repurposed coffee grinds. All products are handmade, and it is their Peppermint and Lavendar soap that is part of the Food Academy journey this year. I received a sample of the peppermint bar, and as someone who got rid of shower gels almost three years ago in favour of handmade soaps using natural ingredients, am no stranger to using bars with coffee grinds in, so I’m looking forward to trying this one!

And for anyone who frequently uses tanning lotions, you’ll be pleased to know that the bars’ exfoliating properties will be just perfect for your pre-tan preparation, too.

Le Paysan : Instagram lepaysanwicklow

I picked up a pot of Le Paysan pate before from my local Supervalu store, and was instantly taken by it’s good flavour, enjoyable texture and French-style pate. It might sound odd, but I also liked that it is presented in a glass jar making it easy to stay fresh in the fridge over a couple of days after opening. This time around, the sample is for their Chicken Pate made with free range chicken, but the range includes pork rillettes (also very good!), smoked mackerel and smoked salmon pates.

Feighery’s Farm : Instagram feigherysfarm

I love the story behind Feighery’s Farm beetroot juice – it all began with family and health and in the process has reinvigorated the fortunes of this family farm. The beetroot juice is so delicious, (I have had it multiple times before), and has been back-sweetened with natural apple juice to balance the natural earthy flavour of the beets. It’s clean in the mouth and deeply satisfying. Plus it has a bunch of healthful properties, such as being good for the heart and full of natural antioxidants and nutrients. If you were ever interested in trying beetroot juice but not sure if it was for you, Feighery’s Farm Beetroot Juice is the gateway product to try – it’s emmensley enjoyable!

Blakes Always Organic : Instagram blakesalwaysorganic

I love kefir, and this milk kefir has a really great taste to it! Kefir is a fermented drink with origins that stretch back over 2,000 years. I love the tangy flavour of this milk kefir, and is served in single serving bottles ideal for sipping on the go, or pouring over oats and chia for a healthful overnight porridge, blended into smoothies or even used as a marinade for meat. It’s a great way to get an added high-protein gut-friendly boost in the morning!

Garnacha : Instagram garnacha_ireland

Andrew (Irish) and Andrea (Mexican), are the founders of Garnacha, an Authentic Homemade Mexican Salsa company based in Skerries who, in 2022, went on a culinary journey through Mexico for six months. When they returned, they decided to reveal the true flavours of Mexico to Ireland unhappy that salsa had been relegated to a nacho dip. Garnacha is a way to pay homeage to the beauty and complexity of Mexican prehispanic cultures and the heritage they have left us through their cuisine, and Garnacha is how they are going to do it! Their salsa is great for dipping, but it can also be used for cooking or as a condiment to enhance a great variety of dishes.

I’m looking forward to finding new ways to work with their Salsa – even if what I come up with is not a truly Mexican dish, I’ll relish any opportunity to bring the flavours of Mexico into the food on my table!

Afro Caribbean Kitchen / Zeebah’s Foods : Instagram zeebahsfoods

I am very excited to try this product – a sauce to make Jollof rice! Created by a Nigerian family based in Sligo, these sauces are small batch and handmade to an authentic family recipe. Just add rice and cook with the jollof sauce – perfect with jerk chicken meaty prawns… absolute heaven! I’ll definitely post up on the Insta about this when I cook it up… I’m already hungry thinking about it!

Janet’s Just Delicious : Instagram janetsjustdelicious

Janet’s Just Delicious is a new brand from the well known and loved Janet’s Country Fayre label. This time, it’s a range a pasta sauces and I’ve been sent the Basil and Roast Garlic to try. Although I usually have no fear about diving into the kitchen to make my own pasta sauce from scratch, that’s not an option for everyone all the time – even me! So I’m looking forward to trying this and see if it’s a good In Case of Emergency store cupboard item! As you can expect from this brand, it’s packed with good stuff, and certified coeliac-friendly too.

West Cork Biscuits : Instagram westcorkbiscuitco

Few things in life beat a handmade chunky cookie to dunk into a freshly brewed cup of Barry’s! Every single biscuit is made by hand – something that West Cork Biscuits have always done and always will, never compromising on value. I was sent a sample of the Oat and Raisin cookie, and frankly, between Mr Flavour and I, we snaffled the lot in pretty quick time! What can I say, it was a long day and there was much need of tea!

Thinking about it, they probably would have been really nice topped with Dublin Hills Goats Cheese and dribbled with Olly’s Honey (coming next), so I’ll just have to go out and get another packet to try that out…

Olly’s Farm : Instagram ollysfarm

Olly’s Honey is flavoured with heather from the bees who forage on the flowers when he moves them up into the Dublin Mountains in late summer. This is proper honey – all real, no additives or glucose filler, all harvested by hand frame by frame. This is why it costs a little more than bog standard honey, which, most of the time, isn’t really honey at all. I have a particular love for heather-scented honey; somehow it’s a real taste of the Irish mountain landscape, gentle and full of summer’s promise. This is gonna be a good one!

Second Street Bakeshop : Instagram secondstreetbakeshop

I featured maker of the most incredible chocolate toffee brittle for The Echo earlier this year. I cannot tell you how incredible this stuff is! It looks like not much but tastes of everything! Claire learned her skill making this favourite San Francisco treat in the US where she ran a successful confectionary company for years. Coming back to Ireland, and Cork, she began making the brittle as the flagship product for her new business, and let me tell you it’s so good and so addictive! I love, love this product and so delighted to see Claire flying it in the Food Academy!

The Irish Craft Soda Co. : Instagram deadcentrebrewing

Life gave us lemons, so we stuck them in this can! So goes the “give it a lash” attitude to this new lemonade craft soda from the people behind Dead Centre Brewing. “The Irish Craft Soda Co. is an idea we’ve been knocking about for ages, but the lockdown (remember that madness?!?!) gave us the room to really push on. Basically, we asked why craft breweries like ourselves were pushing boundaries, releasing specials constantly and just being deadly, but the soft drink scene was standing around like it was waiting for a bus!”

Applying the kind of technical brilliance needed for great beer brewing and putting it into a soda can is a stroke of genius. I for one cannot wait to crack open my chilled can and drink in the summer!

Ballyhoura Apple Farm : Instagram ballyhouraapple

Ballyhoura Apple Farm’s products are never far from my kitchen, be it the apple juice or the apple cider vinegar. This new product blends their natural ACV, complete with the mother, with honey. One presumes the hives are in the orchards and the bees feed off the apple blossom, which makes the whole things just a beautiful cycle of nature and food and us.

I haven’t tried this one yet, but I understand that this sub-brand of Ballyhoura Apple Farm, Gilbert Murphy, is aged in oak barrels for a mellower flavour before blending. I am hoping that it might be quite delicious topped up with chilled sparkling water for a refreshing and hydrating drink. Watch the Instagram to find out how that idea goes!

O’Mimo’s : Instagram omimos.chillimadness

I met Mimo and Seamus recently at Ballymaloe May Craft Fair, and the pair are a lively and chatty duo who are loving this new food adventure they are embarking on! What started as a lockdown project has morphed into a growing business, so much so that Seamus has come out of early retirement to join his wife on this crusade! Every pot is handmade, and there is a wide range in the product line. But the one that has caught the attention of Supervalu is O’Mimo’s Apple, Chili and Sage sauce. Mimo says it’s pure savage altogether if you mix it with some soy and grated ginger and slather it on some pork chops before cooking. I am so here for that!

Lily’s Tea : Instagram lilystea

Look, I love my Barry’s, but I also adore herbal teas. Aside from Jasmine, my other best favourite herbal is peppermint, and Lily’s Tea is probably the best peppermint tea I have tasted! Fresh, vibrant, invgorating, yet soothing on your tummy and relaxing, it’s everything a great tea should be. The tea is presented in a pyramid bag which is 100% biodegradable, and the contents are carefully selected and blended by Lily Chen, who is Termonfeckin via the Chinese province of Fujian. Lucky us – this is a fabulous tea!

Natnoot : Instagram natnoot

Based in Donegal, Natnoot (I’m assuming this is a catchier version of Natural Nutrition?) grow organic wheatgrass, cold press it and blend it with other ingredients into nutritional drinks and shots. I’ll admit, I’ve never been drawn to wheatgrass anything, but I’m always open to having my mind changed! The sample I have is blended with celery, kale and apple which sounds far to healthy for someone like me, but maybe this is the start of a whole new lifestyle! Other flavours are available, too, but I’ll let you know how I get on with this one first via Instagram!

41o : Instagram lion.l_raw_kitchen

I love raw cacao, so I am definitely looking forward to trying these Cacao Coconut Cups! They use raw food techniques and organic ingredients, then slow cook everything at 41ºC for 8 hours to preserve as much of that raw goodness as possible. I’m excited to try this because it could be a game changer in the indulgent snacks category.

Legacy Irish Cider : Instagram legacyirishcider

Being a cider drinker from the West Country is one stereotype I am happy to step into! Legacy Irish Cider is based in Waterford and uses locally grown apples and natural yeasts to ferment their dry cider using techniques passed down through three generations of cider maker. It’s hard to beat a great cider on a hot day – I have the great cider, I just need the hot day. Then, my friends, the Out of Office is going on and staying on for a wee while!

Hopkins & Hopkins : Instagram brewers_bottlers

Hopburgh Helles – so far all I know about this is that the bottle design is awesome and Mr Flavour says he got this on the first day of last years’ beer calendar and was quite partial! I am also quite partial to a Helles, and I fear I may have to wrestle with himself to get a decent try. Wish me luck!

Absolute Nutrition : Instagram absnutfoods

I’m excited to try these Rawlo’s. I’ve spied them often in my local Supervalu, but not really being one for high-protein snacks, I’ll admit I’ve not given these a closer look. But now they have appeared in the hamper, I am looking forward to challenging my own perception on Jo’s Rawlo’s… how could I not when they’re described as “A Smooth Paleo Caramel Smothered in Milk Chocolate”… yum!

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