Sainsbury’s champions black founder brands with successful £1m incubator programme

Sainsbury’s has announced the first three black founder-led brands to be hitting shelves this year after being selected to take part in Thrive with Sainsbury’s, a UK retail first incubator programme.

Sainsbury’s launched Thrive with Sainsbury’s last summer - a free 16-week programme with a £1m commitment to supporting Black founder-led start-up businesses transition to supermarket shelves, as part of its mission to be a truly inclusive retailer.

In partnership with Foundervine and Mission Ventures, the programme sought to combat the barriers Black and ethnic minority start-up businesses face, including reduced industry knowledge, insufficient access to funding, and limited social capital and networks.

Nine successful applicants received an initial grant of £20k, followed by further funding and support grants over the 16 weeks, in addition to one-on-one training and group learning opportunities with experts. As well as mentoring, this has included education and support with business branding, production and product improvements to help elevate their business.

The brands then pitched for a permanent place on supermarket shelves. This included ‘dragon’s den’ style pitches to Sainsbury’s category and buying teams, giving the brands chance to showcase their new branding and products and answer any questions.

Now, it’s been revealed that so far three brands have been confirmed they will be hitting supermarket shelves later this year as part of Sainsbury’s market-leading Future Brands programme:

> Mirror Margarita, founded by Deano Moncrieffe (pictured) – a globally renowned agave spirits expert, Mirror Margarita is a delicious, award-winning ready-to-drink cocktail. A crystal-clear twist on the classic Margarita with the perfect balance of sweet and sour notes and a recipe that heroes the natural taste of the agave plant. Best served over ice
> Riddles Ice Tea, founded by Charlie Odunukwe – A ready-to-drink cocktail made with an exotic blend of Nigerian Moringa Tea with premium spirits, sweetened with agave and natural fruit flavourings. Vegan, gluten-free and only 99 calories per can, Riddles Ice Tea is the first alcoholic ice tea drink to hit supermarket shelves.
> RAISE Snacks, founded by Chester Robinson –chocolate coated clusters of nuts and seeds, offering a natural source of protein and fibre. Created with inspiration from his mother’s old recipes, and his mission to get people snacking smart again.

Sainsbury’s will continue to support and work closely with all of the other brands which were involved with Thrive with Sainsbury’s, with the potential for further listings in supermarket shelves in the future.

Silika Shellie-Manso, Director of Grocery Innovation at Sainsbury’s, said, “We’ve seen some great and aspiring talent over the past 16-weeks and have loved working with all the businesses involved. It was such a difficult decision to pick the first three businesses that will be listed at Sainsbury’s, but we believe these new brands are a perfect fit for our customers.

“We launched Thrive with Sainsbury’s to give Black founder-led start-up brands access to quality support and services to which they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, as innovation and inclusivity are at the heart of what we do.

'What these brands have achieved over the last sixteen weeks is phenomenal and we hope all businesses involved can take away skills and knowledge to help them grow even further. For the three selected brands, we’re so excited to welcome them into the Sainsbury’s fold.”

Louis Bedwell, Managing Director at Mission Ventures, noted, “Creating a fair and equitable food industry is at the heart of everything we do at Mission Ventures. Thrive has given this group of talented, black-led businesses a springboard to grow their brands within the market.

'We've been privileged to deliver brand and business-building support across the 16-week process and have been thrilled with the growth of the brands and entrepreneurs. We're excited to follow their journey into the market.”

Cecil Adjalo, COO at Foundervine, added, “Running the Thrive with Sainsbury’s accelerator program has been an exciting and truly inspiring experience. I am in awe of the massive effort and dedication put in by the teams on all sides.

'The nine Black-founded businesses that have participated in this program are truly something special. I have had the privilege of witnessing a transformation in all of them that many thought was not possible from the outset.

'It is a testament to their excellence, ambition, and drive as Black founders. Through this program, it has become clear to me that Black founders need more opportunities like this to thrive and succeed.

'I am grateful to Sainsbury’s for making this possible. The journey for these founders has just begun, and I cannot wait to see some of them in my local Sainsbury’s store, making their mark on the food industry.”