Coles Announces $50 million fund for food and grocery businesses
Supermarket giant Coles has announced it will establish a “Nurture Fund”, which it said will “help small Australian food and grocery producers, farmers and manufacturers to innovate and grow their business”.
Through the Coles Nurture Fund, Coles will allocate $50 million over five years in grants and interest-free loans to fund the development of new market-leading products, technologies and processes.
Funding open to small businesses
Announcing the Nurture Fund with Coles ambassador and celebrity chef Curtis Stone at a vegetable farm in Victoria’s Werribee late last week, Coles Managing Director John Durkan said the Fund would be open to businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees.
“The Coles Nurture Fund is one way we can offer support and encouragement to small Australian businesses looking for assistance to take the next step in creating more productive and innovative ways of working,” Mr Durkan said.
“Through investing in productivity driving activities we can not only provide better value to customers but also help set up small businesses to develop the products and platforms to expand their operations and, in some cases, export into global markets,” Mr Durkan said.
Mr Durkan said “smart, energetic and agile small businesses” could often be “a launch pad for great product innovation and powerful new ideas on better ways of working”.
“Coles wants to hear exciting and ambitious plans from smaller entrepreneurs about how they can deliver new and better product to customers, or about ideas they have for innovative business systems that will improve how they get product to market,” Mr Durkan said. “Modest financial support can make the difference in getting great ideas up and running,” he said.
Panel to assess applications
Coles ambassador and adviser Curtis Stone will join three Coles directors on a panel which assesses applications with the support of independent industry advice.
“Australia produces some of the highest quality food in the world and farmers, producers and manufacturers in Australia are continually demonstrating how innovative they are on their farms and in the factories,” Mr Stone said. “The Coles Nurture Fund will help drive innovation and growth for small businesses so they can take up more opportunities in Australia and on the world stage,” he said.
Small business entrepreneurs can submit requests for funds, along with their business plan, for review by the Coles Nurture Fund. Application forms for the Coles Nurture Fund are available at www.coles.com.au/nurturefund and applications should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
Coles said its Nurture Fund builds on the Coles Supplier Charter, which sets out our commitment to deal with suppliers in good faith as well as providing a clear dispute resolution process overseen by an independent arbiter.
‘Innovation fund’ welcomed by growers
The announcement of the Nuture Fund has been welcomed by Australian growers and farmers.
Andrew White, Deputy CEO of AusVeg, which represents many of Australia’s vegetable and potato growers, said the fund could help smaller growers continue to be innovative in the face of on-farm rising costs.
“The fact that Coles, one of the biggest retailers in the country, is supporting local business innovation and development through such a substantial fund sends a strong message that it has confidence in the industry’s long-term viability and prosperity,” Mr White said.
“This Fund will enable growers to be more entrepreneurial and invest in exciting new business opportunities, rather than being forced to direct all of their funds into their day-to-day operations,” Mr White said.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) also welcomed the announcement of the fund. NFF CEO Simon Talbot said the announcement, from one of Australia’s major retailers, recognised the importance of investment in the farm sector to boost productivity and competitiveness.
“Strong, private investment in the farm sector offers many potential benefits, including better infrastructure, uptake of new technology and improved protection for seasonally-affected businesses from income volatility,” Mr Talbot said.
“We look forward to seeing more detail around the Nurture Fund, which, if implemented well, could be a win-win for all participants across the food supply chain,” Mr Talbot said.
Australian Food News challenge is answered
Last week, Australian Food News’ guest contributor Roger Crook issued a challenge calling on Coles to invest in the future of Australian food production. His article had concluded: “there is clearly an opportunity now waiting for Australia’s major supermarket groups to buy and invest here in new product and help create a new food processing industry sector that needs to grow in Australia, to avoid economic and social calamity.”
The announcement by Coles of its $50 million fund is certainly a step in the right direction of creating additional opportunities for Australian food producers and processors.
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