‘Childhood obesity is an issue of inequality’: New fund wants to make healthy snacking convenient, tasty and affordable

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Kids snacks need to be healthy, tasty, convenient and affordable Pic: GettyImages-evgenyatamanenko
Kids snacks need to be healthy, tasty, convenient and affordable Pic: GettyImages-evgenyatamanenko

Related tags Obesity Childhood obesity Snack

A new fund and accelerator programme has been launched in the UK to support food and beverage brands who are targeting a reduction in childhood obesity linked to inequality.

The project is a partnership between Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity and investment funds Mission Ventures and Big Society Capital. 

The £1.8m prototype Good Food Fund has been in development for 18 months and will provide business support and allocate finances to brands bringing healthier options to the market. Mission Ventures will run the accelerator programme while early stage venture capital firm Ascension Ventures will manage the Good Food Fund, which is now recruiting food and drink entrepreneurs.

‘Changing the landscape of healthy snacking’

The after-school snacking occasion will be a ‘key focus’ for the programme, which opened for applications yesterday (30 March). The long-term aim is to transform the options available by supporting ‘healthy challenger brands at an affordable price point’.

Price-positioning is an important issue, according to Matt Towner, portfolio manager at the Charity. He stressed the need to address the link between childhood obesity and poverty. “We know that childhood obesity is an issue of inequality. The current market only caters for cheap options that are unhealthy, with healthier brands requiring customers to pay a high premium to cover costs.”

Towner believes that the food industry needs to deliver healthy foods that are also accessible to lower income families in order to turn the tide on childhood obesity. “Our research suggests that if we increase the availability of affordable, tasty, convenient and healthier food, families on lower incomes will change their purchasing habits and benefit from healthier shopping baskets.”

This ambition was echoed by Mission Ventures CEO Paddy Willis. “Following groundwork last year, we are ready to explore how healthier challenger brands can play their part within market-led initiatives to combat childhood obesity, especially in lower-income families.”

Willis said he is looking forward to recruiting a ‘broad range’ of SME brand owners and retailers, both on local borough initiatives in the UK and at a more strategic level. Mission Ventures was established by the entrepreneurs behind successful start-up brands including Plumb Baby, Little Dish and New Covent Garden Soup Co. “Through the combination of our team’s practical experience in launching, growing and scaling successful young brands, we believe we will change the landscape of healthy snacking for children.”

Post-coronavirus investment will be ‘crucial’

Successful applicants to the accelerator will receive a fully funded package of business support from Mission Ventures. This will include a ‘rigorous business review’ using the company’s own MissionMap, which will assess all aspects of the business and a plan for how the product can be scaled to reach an accessible and sustainable price point.

Participants can also apply for financial support in the form of equity and debt from The Good Food Fund. This will be managed by Ascension Ventures, one of the most active seed investors in the UK. Ascension already operates the Fair By Design Fund (FBD), which is focused on reducing the ‘poverty premium’ in the UK. The Ascension Ventures team will leverage the impact infrastructure they built with FBD to spearhead the Good Food Fund.

Ascension Ventures managing partner Jean de Fougerolles said that investment mechanisms like this will become ever-more important in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic depression, which threatens to decimate small businesses in the country.

“When the UK comes out of COVID-19 and into a recession, funds like the Good Food Fund will play an even more relevant and crucial role by backing businesses that are solving key market failures and driving food innovations targeting low-income households across the UK,”​ he suggested.

Big Society Capital investment director Aman Johal also believes social investment funds have a central role to play in the development of a healthier, more equal and sustainable food system. “At Big Society Capital, we believe social investment can play an important role in changing food environments for the better and we’re excited to be a part of this pioneering project,” ​he concluded.

Applications for the accelerator will close on 27 April and more details can be found on selection criteria here​. 

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