Supermarket giant Woolworths is backing accelerator Seedlab Australia with a $4 million investment to help startup founders develop new food, beverage, home and personal care products.
The Seedlab accelerator program will identify founders and ventures with the potential for high growth in categories such as artisan foods, health and wellness, and more sustainable products, offering them the chance to pitch to the Woolies buying team to gain a major retail distribution channel.
The project is ambitious in scale and scope, with up to 700 businesses involved over the next two years. The first cohort is expected to kick off in October.
The idea builds on a successful pilot program for Tasmanian startups last year that supported more than 100 food businesses. The accelerator will support businesses at different stages of maturity through its three stage program – start, scale and grow – at no cost to the businesses involved.
The pilot program already helped dozens of small businesses strike supply deals for products including ice cream, olive oil, cheese, curry and kombucha.
Seedlab founder Dr Hazel MacTavish-West is a 30-years veteran of food science and agri-food consulting, who’s taken multiple food and drink brands to market. Her expertise ranges from retail pitches and branding to production and consistency of supply.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Woolworths to launch Seedlab Australia and support emerging businesses with the knowledge they need to build distribution and reach their goals,” she said.
“We’re passionate about helping Australian producers plant the seeds for long term success and we’re excited to work
with business owners across the country. It’s wonderful to see Australia’s largest supermarket invest in the industry pipeline to create opportunities for Australian food and drink businesses through our program.”
Woolworths director of buying, Paul Harker said the $4 million give entrepreneurs with bright ideas a leg up to making their ideas a reality.
“Investing in small businesses is crucial to a thriving Australian food and manufacturing industry,” he said.
“Seedlab Australia will support pioneering businesses to grow and navigate what it takes to be retail ready and help us bring innovative new locally-made products to our customers.”
Cheese producer Red Cow Organics was one of the pilot program startups and its range will hit Woolworths shelves in Tasmania in September, followed by select NSW and Victorian stores in November this year.
It’s the company’s first supply agreement with a major retailer after nine years in business for Andy and Matt Jackman in Tassie’s north-west.
The Seedlab team helped the Jackmans develop a Persian feta for the mass retail market.
Andy Jackman said the program allowed the to scale their product to partner with Woolworths and they’d employed two more people with more hires ahead as a result.
“We’re excited about seeing our organic cheese in-store and in customers’ shopping baskets later this year,” he said.
Seedlab Australia will deliver live and on-demand online learning content as well as tailored advice to participants, plus
networking opportunities and workshops.
For more information see Seedlabaustralia.com.au.