Coca-Cola has been in the food and drink industry for a very long time. For much of it, we’ve not only worked to innovate and provide people with more of their favourite drinks, but we’ve looked at ways we can make the sector more accessible and inclusive for everyone else.

In Ireland, our Thrive Project, which works to inspire and nurture the nation’s next generation of ambitious food companies, is a great example of that. And now we’re part of a project that will soon make great new opportunities in the food and drink sector available to those whose careers are just beginning.

A new project led by Kildare County Council, the Athy Food, Drink and Skills Innovation Hub will become the region’s leading centre for educational and entrepreneurial excellence in the food and drink sector. Scheduled for completion in 2020, the hub will help to empower local food-based entrepreneurs and upskill younger generations and the currently unemployed by offering the space, training and tools they need to succeed. 

Athy’s Model School will be adapted into the new innovation hub.

The innovation hub will see Athy’s historic Model School reimagined with four key facilities:

  • A ‘Skills Hub’, with a 16-station kitchen that will be home to innovative programmes and accredited career training programmes designed for food entrepreneurs, industry professionals and chefs.
  • The ‘Community Timeshare Incubator Kitchen’ will be a platform for culinary entrepreneurs to develop and expand.
  • A ‘Community Food Discover Centre’ will enable chefs and nutritionists to educate food companies, retailers and restauranteurs about the science of nutrition; while also being a place to educate local community groups about healthy diets.
  • Finally, a Co-Working Zone – consisting of eight workstations and three private meeting rooms – will allow emerging entrepreneurs to connect with their peers and mentors, while providing access to specialist resources. The co-working zone will also include a ‘Food Learners Lounge’ and a study space.

Plans for the hub were launched by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD. We spoke with Minister Humphreys on the importance of this new facility: “Through the new hub, budding entrepreneurs in the food and drink sector will have the space where they can access expertise and training, become more innovative, and grow their business, creating new job opportunities in the Mid-East region,” she said.

“As an industry leader, Coca-Cola remains a major employer on this island and their investment in this facility will help to ensure they leave a positive legacy in the local community.”

The new hub forms part of the Mid-East Enterprise Plan.

With Coca-Cola’s Athy site transferring to Ballina, County Mayo, the business became focused on filling that void with a positive legacy. That’s why €500,000 is being committed to support the launch of the new innovation hub.

Commenting on Coca-Cola’s involvement in the project was Karen Denn, Operations Manager at Coca-Cola’s Athy International Concentrates plant: “Coca-Cola has been involved with the town of Athy for many years and as we complete the transfer of our manufacturing operations to our Ballina Beverages facility, we felt it was important to be involved with a project that supports the entrepreneurial spirit that exists within the community,” said Denn.

“With such a huge interest growing in the food and drink sector, the County Council identified a need for facilities and training that will help support entrepreneurs develop food and drink-based business ideas as well as help people from the county develop culinary and other food and drink related skills.”

As with Navan’s Boyne Valley Food Hub project, the Athy Food, Drink and Skills Innovation Hub will benefit from a partnership and outreach arrangement laid out by the Mid-East Enterprise Plan. The facility is sure to be a mecca for economic development and job creation in Kildare in the many years to come.

So, are you interested in becoming involved in the Athy Food, Drink and Skills Innovation Hub? Get in touch to find out more.