Co-op Group launches incubator for suppliers

The new scheme – ‘The apiary’ – will search for, support and mentor smaller, innovative and exciting enterprises

The UK’s Co-op Group has set up a new scheme to “search for, support and mentor smaller, innovative and exciting enterprises”.

The incubator programme, known as ‘The apiary’, has welcomed its first cohort of suppliers. Nine small businesses, each at a different stage in their development, will receive tailored and dedicated support from the Co-op Group, including mentoring, advice on all aspects of the product journey, industry and consumer insight, workshops, technical hints and tips, and access to the convenience retailer’s experienced and dedicated buying teams.

The apiary “aims to bring a purpose-led initiative that will focus on building deep-rooted and long-lasting relationships with potential new suppliers while driving innovation, range diversity and agility with values-led small-scale businesses”.

The organisation’s chief commercial officer, Matt Hood, said the Group was “committed to creating value in our communities,” adding that feedback showed members and customers valued innovation, provenance and supporting local businesses

“We are delighted to partner with this first group of businesses to join our incubator scheme – they are all exciting and innovative organisations with a real point of difference and something unique to excite shoppers,” he said.

The first businesses to take part in the incubator programme are food author, traveller and lifestyle adventurer The Urban Rajah; Caliendo’s Gelato, a family run business dating back to the 1800s; Mon Dessert, a supplier of homemade dessert and recipe kits; Superfoodio, producers of innovative plant-based, low-sugar peanut butter chocolate; Dapur Mariae, an authentic Malaysian sauce company that brings a new variety of tastes and flavours to traditional recipes; The Wonky Food Company who take great-tasting imperfect and surplus fruit and vegetables to create its chutneys and relishes; The Woolf’s Kitchen creators of sauces, condiments and snacking products inspired by the owner’s Thai heritage; Nemi Teas, a tea company providing employment, work experience and skills to refugees; and Spare Snacks who transform wonky apples into delicious and nutritious crisps and snacks for all ages.

“Our ‘apiary’ programme is designed to help anticipate and, respond with speed and agility, to changing consumer needs in our communities,” added Mr Hood. “Working together we can provide insight, guidance, technical knowledge and support to help their business develop and grow.”