SuperValu Food Academy 2021

By Rebecca Meade

SuperValu Food Academy 2021

SuperValu Food Academy aims to give small producers a big chance my giving them an opportunity to get their products onto SuperValu shelves.

This year there are 4 businesses from the Boyne Valley taking part in the programme-

  • A Bit on the Side
  • Coole Farm
  • Jacked-Up
  • Brubiotics
All of the below profiles are from SuperValu and you can find more information on the programme and other participants over on their website-https://supervalu.ie/real-people/food-academy-programme
A BIT ON THE SIDE
Hilary McGrath
When I moved to Canada with my young family in the 90s, I was astounded with the enormous range of food available in even the smallest supermarket. The cultural melting pot that is Canada is the impetus for this.
People come here from all over the world and bring an amazing array of recipes and food ideas which then fuse and blend to create fantastic gastronomic inspiration.
Another feature of Canadian culture that I fell in love with was the inclusion of the whole family in celebrations and the way that most celebrations took place in the home. We were regularly invited to friends’ houses for dinner where it was a given that all the tiny humans would be included…or as the French call it ‘en famille’.
One summer’s evening in our best friend’s kitchen, sipping wine while the children cleared the peas from her garden like a swarm of locusts, I tasted something that stunned me…Jalapeno Jelly. She served it with cheese and crackers but gave me loads of other serving ideas - such a versatile condiment!
Next day I set about playing around with different recipes, finding just the right balance of heat and sweetness for our Irish palate. Yes! Now I would never be without a jar of this indispensable deliciousness.
Upon return to our own beautiful country, I continued to make Red and Green Jalapeno Jelly for family and friends who were smitten at first taste. At this time, I was studying for a degree in Linguistics and Literature while raising our children.
When my older children left to have their own adventures in the world, I was teaching adult literacy…a very rewarding job. Then I received a serious medical diagnosis. Thankfully, I made a fantastic recovery. This was a turning point…I decided that I would spend the rest of my working life marching to the beat of my own drum. I would give free rein to my creativity, love of feeding people and love of fun. I would start my own food business.
Lovely, you may say. But how in the world was I going to do this? Not a clue! Being a firm believer in asking for help, I approached the Meath Local Enterprise Office – problem solved. Up to this point I had been struggling and stumbling my way through what seemed like a very complex process of actually getting my product to market. Alas, there was help at hand – lots of help.
I was offered a place on the Food Academy and immediately order was brought to my business. Every aspect of developing a food business was covered by professionals at the top of their field. I now have total confidence in what I’m doing and if ever I have a question, there is always someone to approach. I also feel so much better prepared approaching new customers and sales are steadily rising. I am so excited and truly honoured to have my product stocked in Supervalu.
This opportunity will allow me to hire a production manager while I get to focus on building my brand and bringing these jars of deliciousness to more people.
COOLE FARM
Helen & Mark McManus
Mark and Helen both have a background in farming. As a child Helen’s Dad farmed and she often helped him with the fun jobs around the yard. Mark is a 4th generation farmer, so you could say it is in his blood! He returned to his agricultural studies in the past decade to re-educate himself on farming practices and is currently finishing up a Masters in Organic Farming via the University of Glasgow. His studies have provided a fresh perspective on how to farm better, with the goal of nourishing the soil and protecting the land, whilst harvesting excellent quality produce from it.
In 2019 the couple wanted to change how they farmed, away from traditional cattle production. They started to grow salad leaves, free from artificial fertilisers and pesticides in a small section of land right by their home. They harvest and deliver to the supermarket shelf within 24 hours, to ensure that their customers can enjoy some of the freshest leaves in Leinster!
The SuperValu Food Academy programme has provided Mark and Helen with great insight into what is required to be an excellent food producer. They have gained a greater understanding of the world of retail and know what it will take to succeed. The programme provides a wealth of expertise and training from food safety, financial planning, and marketing to name but a few of the topics covered. The experience has already been invaluable, and Coole Farm are excited to only be at the beginning of their journey with SuperValu.
We are a local producer growing chemical free food, contributing to the circular economy by purchasing everything that we can for our business, from other local producers.
We manage our land very carefully, taking care to ensure it is nourished well. How we treat our soil and our approach to farming contributes very positively to the quality of our land, the local biodiversity, and the quality of our produce. Our packaging is currently plastic, but we use a very robust bag, which we encourage our customers to wash and re-use (and we know many do just that!)
Available in the following stores:
  • Centra Tullyallen
  • Centra Ardee
  • SuperValu Ardee 
  • Centra Dromiskin
  •  SuperValu Fairways Dundalk
  • SuperValu Trim 
  • SuperValu Navan (Smiths)
  • SuperValu Kells
JACKED - UP
Binu Varghese & Gursharan Singh
Jacked-Up jackfruit meals were inspired by the growing desire worldwide for tasty and nutritious meat-free meals. As concern for the planet grows and more and more people want alternatives to meat, jackfruit is the perfect solution.
Jackfruit has a texture like pulled pork and can be seasoned to meet a variety of tastes. This makes it perfect as the main component of any meal but also great in sandwiches, on pizza, in tacos, with pasta – or just on its own. Jacked-Up meals come in three great flavours: Pulled BBQ, Tex Mex and Indian Curry.
Jacked-Up was founded by Gursharan Singh and Binu Varghese, who both grew up eating jackfruit in India. They have also worked on the Irish food scene for many years in shops and restaurants and saw that there was a gap in the market for a product like this. The rest of the world was eating jackfruit – which is very nutritious, high in fibre and low in calories – so they knew the Irish would take to it as well.
We have worked closely with the team at SuperValu to develop the brand, the flavours and the distinctive packaging. It is a unique product on the Irish market and as the popularity of meat replacement products grow, wholesome and flavorsome meals like Jacked-Up will be in even greater demand. Gursharan and Binu have loved working with SuperValu and have benefited and learned so much from their insights.
As the business grows and as the meals become even more popular, Jacked-Up is expanding its operations in Meath, Kildare and Dublin. We have provide employment to the local community and were thrilled that the first SuperValu’s to stock Jacked-Up were the family-run ones.
Jacked-Up is also an environmentally friendly company. Using meat replacement products like jackfruit has a huge benefit for the planet as producing meat takes such a toll. As the company grows, we will be focusing more and more on sustainability as this ethos is at the very heart of what we do and why we do it.
Available in the following stores:
SuperValu in Meath-  Dunshaughlin, Trim, Navan, Kells, Oldcastle
SuperValu in Kildare- Clane, Kilcock, Celbridge and Newbridge.
BRUBIOTICS
Colum Harrington
Brubiotics was officially set up in October 2020 – but our roots go back a long way.
My name is Colum Harrington and I am passionate about fermentation. I have been fermenting “stuff” since my childhood and some of my best memories are of helping my mum to make all sorts of wild jams and her speciality - homemade wine. I was fascinated by the bubbling of demijohns beside the fire and the magical transformation happening within. Thus began my love of all things fermented.
I turned this love into a career in the food industry and over the years I have been lucky enough to work with some leading Irish food companies. In my spare time I continued to experiment with sauerkrauts, kimchi’s, home brewed beer and wines, mead, koji, amazake, and fermentations of all kinds.
Amazake has been a firm favourite of mine since I discovered its sweet, smooth taste and its versatility. It is a Japanese drink that is made by fermenting rice with Aspergillus oryzae – the same organism as used to make miso and soy sauce. It is non- alcoholic, vegan, gluten free and consumed as a daily tonic to benefit mind and body.
Amazake with Ginger & Turmeric is a traditional combination which is famed in Japan for its anti inflammatory and protective qualities. Matcha Tea is said to boost immunity and energy levels and its sharp taste is balanced nicely by the sweet amazake. Both combinations provide a daily boost for the gut with a few added benefits on top.
I applied for the Supervalu Food Academy to learn more about retail and marketing of food, and to see if I could turn my passion into a sustainable business. The Food Academy has given me the tools to help push my business forward and the confidence to know how to make it successful.
We are based in Navan, Co Meath and are one of the many passionate Boyne Valley food producers who are helping to grow the reputation of our region as a food destination and in turn create local employment opportunities. We are striving to source ingredients from ethical and sustainable suppliers and believe that fermented foods have a role to play in helping to improve the nutritional value of our normal daily consumption.
Our goal at Brubiotics is to help our customers find new and innovative ways to enjoy fermented foods. Amazake is our first product – I hope you enjoy.
Available in the following stores:
SuperValus in Johnstown Navan, Trim, Dunshaughlin, Ratoath and Ashbourne.