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Female founders flourish in food and drink, as The Seed Fund reports industry shift

Amy Brice

Female founders

Philanthropic start-up accelerator, The Seed Fund has revealed a growing trend for new food and drink businesses to be run by women, with 58.2% of entries into this year’s Academy coming from female entrepreneurs. Continuing a theme in entry demographics reaching back into 2016, when only 46.2% of entries were submitted by female founders, the past four years have seen a steady shift in the gender of applicants, jumping by 5% in the last year alone.

Providing a snapshot of the future for the UK and Ireland’s food and drink scene, The Seed Fund Academy’s entry list is a smorgasbord of innovation and ambition, with fledgling businesses both responding to the nation’s changing tastes and looking to shake things up in the shopping basket. Brands falling into the Free From category make up 17% of entries and 14% of products have been developed for the vegan market, while the list also includes yuzu drinks, bone broth, lotus seed snacks and apiary-to-jar honey.

These applications will now be reviewed, before a shortlist of 24 is invited to pitch to The Seed Fund’s panel in mid-April. Presenting to mentors including Renée Elliott, founder of Planet Organic, the Guild of Fine Food’s John Farrand, Camilla Barnard from Rude Health and Emma Murphy of Sourced Market, these fledgling businesses will make their case for a place on this year’s Academy.

Run in partnership with Great Taste, the world’s most coveted food awards, the seventh edition of The Seed Fund Academy will take 12 start-ups through a packed schedule covering branding, funding, finance, PR, social media and more, culminating in a brand new investment Pitch Day held at Piper Private Equity in Notting Hill, where the business owners will have an opportunity to secure funding for their brands. One eventual Academy winner will also be awarded a further year of business support and brand development, estimated to be worth over £100,000.

Jayne Noblet of The Collaborators, founder of The Seed Fund, comments:

“Our batch of entries this year is so exciting, featuring everything from dairy free cheese and plant based seafood alternatives to fermented sauces and medicinal mushrooms. A growing number also have social responsibility at the core of their propositions, including tree planting schemes, donations to homeless charities and finding uses for ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables. It’s great to be witnessing the changing face of food and drink first hand and we can’t wait to meet some of the people behind these ideas. The rise in entries from female entrepreneurs has also been striking over recent years, now making up a significant majority, and this is refreshing to see, particularly for myself and the other female founders on The Seed Fund’s mentoring panel. It’s tough out there, in a marketplace where 90% of food and drink start-ups currently fail, but we set out to provide the knowledge, mentoring and opportunities to navigate those challenging early years, and make space on the shelves for great brands run by great people.”

The Seed Fund Academy’s Class of 2019 will be announced in May, with this year’s winner due to be unveiled at the Great Taste Golden Forks Dinner in London this autumn.

For more information about The Seed Fund, visit www.theseedfund.co.uk.