Lots of people are cooking and baking at home these days, and as people stir up a storm in the kitchen, they might be cooking up a business idea.

The Local Entreprise Office might have the ingredients to make it a success. They have developed an online food programme to boost the number of Irish food start-ups.

The new Digital School of Food was piloted in the Dublin region in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia. Following the successful pilot, it is now available nationwide to qualifying applicants.  

The online programme is an e-learning initiative that brings producers from idea right through to start-up and grow stages.

It will give food entrepreneurs an education in planning a product journey and route to market, through thinking about finance and how to grow sales, right up to expanding the business.

It includes support from experts in the field as each course has a real producer who contributes tips and advice throughout.  

The programme includes contributions from trade buyers in Supervalu, Musgraves and Spar along with the likes of Domini Kemp of ITSA Food Group and food producers who have been through the system.  

Oisin Geoghegan, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices, highlighted the importance of cultivating the food sector.  

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"Irish food is renowned the world over and we enjoy an enviable reputation for high quality food production.  It is important that we continue to cultivate new food entrepreneurs and start-ups, particularly during these challenging times," he said.

"The Digital School of Food is an excellent first step for anyone with an idea to establish a food production business. It will help them mould that idea to bring it to the next stage. This is particularly significant now, with many potential entrepreneurs at home, they can access this programme from anywhere," he stated. 

Entrepreneurs who complete the Digital School of Food are then primed to move on to take part in Food Starter programme offered by the Local Enterprise Offices and subsequently Food Academy, which gives producers the opportunity to get their product on retail shelves.

"Starting a food business can be straightforward but growing it can be challenging," Mr Geoghegan said.

"The Local Enterprise Offices are there to support those who take the programme. Following completion, participants can move on to more advanced programmes such as Food Starter and Food Academy, as well as further supports such as management development and assistance in raising funding for their small business."

He said the Digital School of Food is a game changer for food entrepreneurs and will enable aspiring entrepreneurs to learn best practice in setting up a food business.