A private government-backed fund that plans to invest € 75million in Irish food start-ups has assembled a sparkling list of Ireland’s top food and business investment experts, including the former Group boss Kerry Stan McCarthy, former Unilever boss Niall FitzGerald, Musgrave boss Noel Keeley, and senior executives at Coca-Cola and Tate & Lyle.
The Redesdale Food & Beverage Fund plans to identify, invest and provide business advice to Irish food start-ups.
It particularly targets companies that develop healthy foods that can be scaled up and sold in international markets.
Its supporters are hopeful that a new generation of agribusinesses can ‘get out of Ireland’ and potentially become global players.
The government agency Enterprise Ireland (EI) is injecting 15 million euros into the fund.
The fund is also backed by Doug Sieg, managing partner of investment firm Lord Abbett, Agnese Filippi, country director of Coca-Cola Ireland, and Victoria Spadaro-Grant, president of innovation and business development at Tate & Lyle. .
Mr. FitzGerald, who was the former Chairman and CEO of Unilever, will chair Redesdale’s advisory board, and former Kerry Group boss Mr. McCarthy will chair its investment committee.
Redesdale’s investment managers include Michael Cantwell, former head of food at EI; venture capitalist Owen Murphy; John Stapleton, the company’s food entrepreneur, and John Conroy, co-founder and former boss of Merrion Capital.
Olympian and world champion Eamonn Coghlan has been appointed marketing manager.
Mr Conroy said the fund had been up and running for some time but had been delayed by the onset of the Covid pandemic.
He praised the long-standing support provided by former EI chief Julie Sinammon and the importance of the support from Musgrave, owner of SuperValu and Centra.
The fund will aim to help businesses expand overseas to tap markets populated with new food products that appeal to young, health-conscious consumers.
“Due to its size, Ireland is a difficult place to leave,” said Conroy, adding that he would provide finance and advice to businesses.
The fund has a duration of 10 years and has identified the first small number of companies in which it hopes to invest.
Mr Conroy said climate change raises challenges for Irish agriculture and farming communities, but also provides a target for the fund.
Leo Clancy, managing director of EI, said the fund would help “exciting food start-ups” that could become “scalable, sustainable and exporting food and drink companies.”
“This fund is the first of its kind and I can’t wait to see the new ideas it supports,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
“I am extremely proud of the fact that we produce enough food to feed nine times our population,” he said.
“We want this to continue and we need to do what we can to help those with a new food and beverage business get their idea off the ground.”