New fund has €75m for Irish food start-ups ‘to break out beyond Ireland’
Former Merrion Capital chief John Conroy has launched a Government-backed private fund planning to invest €75m into Irish food start-ups.
The fund is being supported by some of Ireland’s top corporate food and investment experts, including ex-Kerry Group boss Stan McCarthy, former Unilever chief Niall FitzGerald, Musgrave head Noel Keeley, and senior managers from Coca-Cola and Tate & Lyle.
The Redesdale Food & Beverage Fund plans to identify, invest, and provide corporate advice to Irish food start-ups. It is targeting companies developing healthy foods that can be scaled up and sold into international markets.
Its backers hope a new generation of food companies can “break out beyond Ireland” and potentially become global players.
Government agency, Enterprise Ireland (EI) is injecting €15m into the fund, which also has the backing of Doug Sieg, managing partner of investment firm Lord Abbett, Coca-Cola Ireland country manager Agnese Filippi, and Tate & Lyle innovation and commercial development president Victoria Spadaro-Grant.
Mr FitzGerald, who was the former chairman and chief executive at Unilever, will be chair of the Redesdale 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; company food entrepreneur, John Stapleton, and John Conroy, the co-founder and former boss of Merrion Capital. Olympian and world champion Eamonn Coghlan has been appointed as marketing manager.
Mr Conroy said the fund had been ready to go for some time but had been delayed by the onset of the Covid pandemic.
He praised the support provided by former EI chief Julie Sinammon and the importance of the backing of Musgrave, the owner of SuperValu and Centra.
The fund will aim to help companies expand overseas to tap into markets with new food products that appeal to health-conscious, young consumers.
The 10-year fund has identified the first small number of companies it hopes to invest in.
Mr Conroy said climate change raises challenges for Irish agriculture and farming communities but also provides a focus for the fund.
Leo Clancy, chief executive at EI, said the fund will help “exciting food start-ups” that could go on to be “scalable, sustainable, exporting food and beverage companies”.
“This fund is the first of its kind and I’m really looking forward to seeing the new ideas that it supports,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
“I’m extremely proud of the fact that we produce enough food to feed nine times our population,” he said.
“We want that to continue and we must do what we can to help those with a new business in the food and drink sector get their idea off the ground.”