THE Irish supermarket sector is booming. In Ireland, consumers spent an additional €2bn in groceries alone as lockdowns ensured our lives were ever more centred around eating at home.
Despite 2020 becoming the year for online shops, click and collect, farmers’ markets, and alternative food networks such as Neighbourfood, it is the so-called Big Five supermarkets that still take the lion’s share of our grocery spend.
Some 90% of our grocery spend is with SuperValu, Dunnes, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl, and last year the average household spend on groceries increased by €1,000. For small producers, getting a foot in the door can be a daunting prospect, but supermarkets also know consumers are ever more interested in supporting local producers in the weekly shop.
To cater to the consumer demand for Irish- made foods, programmes such as SuperValu Food Academy, Grow With Aldi, Dunnes Specially Selected and Aldi Kick Start, work with small producers to take product development to the next level and get it retail shelf ready. Programmes cover everything from shelf-life stability to packaging and marketing, providing mentoring and training; and partnering with Local Enterprise Offices and Bord Bia.
In May, SuperValu announced 45 new suppliers had joined their Food Academy programme, adding to the 300 other small producers from all over the country finding new customers through the programme.
Of the new suppliers, 93% are expecting revenue growth in the year ahead driving an expansion in workforces too, with 71% planning on adding to their teams in 2021.
Meanwhile, since June 6, for two fast-paced weeks, Aldi is showcasing 57 small producers working with them through their Grow with Aldi Supplier Development Programme.
In total, 108 new products will be available to purchase in store as part of an Aldi Specialbuy event. Five of these suppliers will then be given a further opportunity, winning a contract for their product to be sold in Aldi’s Irish stores year-round.
In 2020, Saturday Pizzas, based in Little Island, was one of those five winning suppliers and has continued to enjoy growth in sales. Applications for the programme were up by 30%, and this year producers were asked to showcase their commitment to sustainability.
Cork’s longstanding reputation for being a great food producing region of Ireland means that yet again the rebel county is well represented by both programmes.
For SuperValu Food Academy, two female entrepreneurs are taking the next step with their creative and innovative products. Celeste Pianezzola, originally from the US and now living in Innishannon with her husband Dave Humphreys, she a chef and he an IT worker, both finding themselves out of work during lockdown, started experimenting with deliciously different spreadable dips.
A Good Mood Food was born as a way for them to enjoy snacking without compromising on taste and nutrition. Made from a base on Irish natural yogurt immediately ensures these dips stand out from the crowd. The duo source vegetables from local growers which they roast and blend with spices to create a line of 100% Irish gourmet spreadable dips.
Also for SuperValu, Niamh Scally has taken up the mantel of a family business specialising in gluten free baking and pushing it to the next level. Clonakilty Gluten Free Kitchen began six years ago as one of Ireland’s first exclusively gluten free bakeries providing a ‘safe-to-eat’ guarantee for coeliac customers.
Niamh is emphatic: “Coeliacs need choice and to be included, just like everyone else. Sitting down to eat with the family is such an important ritual and nobody, child or adult, wants to feel excluded from the meal talk at the dinner table.”
Taking the certified gluten free and hand-made range, that is hailed by coeliacs for its “real taste,” last autumn the production of the specialised bakery relocated to a Cork County Council Food Production unit in the Bandon area.
Of the 57 food producers being showcased through the Grow with Aldi programme, seven are representing Cork with a combined 12 products to look out for - all perfectly positioned for the summer.
The popular Leahy’s Open Farm are to market with two flavours of farm fresh dairy ice cream in chocolate or honeycomb, a scoop of which would be just lovely alongside one of the devilishly delicious, assorted, gluten free brownies from West Cork Brownie Company in Enniskeane.
Get yourself barbeque ready with a selection of flavoured sausages (Tomato &Herbs, Garlic & Herbs) from Pútog Teoranta in the Ballyvourney Gaeltacht, and then line up the sauces to go with them: Rebel Chilli’s Korean BBQ Sauce, and the Carolina-style and Kansas City-style sauces from White Rabbit BBQ.
Loretta Kennedy will be bringing three of her MamaBear Foods sauces to 145 Aldi stores nationwide too, with two flavours of her family road tested and healty ketchups: Roasted Garlic, Smokey Barbeque; and the clever Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce that’s perfect for a quick, tasty mid-week meal that is vegan-friendly and gluten free too. Maybe a little side salad to go with it, flavoured with Nohoval-based Finders Food’s summery sounding Raspberry Vinaigrette!
So next time you do your shop, be sure to seek out these local Cork food producers and pop a few in your basket to help give them a little lift — as well as your taste buds!