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Better Food calls in the crowd

When Bristol organic retailer Better Food wanted to expand in the city, it called in the crowd.

The independent was born 30 years ago as an organic delivery service and has evolved into an established and trusted organic retailer with three stores in Bristol – the original shop and café in St Werburghs, a food hall and delicatessen in Clifton and the most recent addition at Wapping Wharf, part of Bristol’s historic harbourside.

Now Better Food aims to open two further sites in or around Bristol in the next 18 months to offer high-quality organic and responsibly sourced and local produce to more people.

Its banker Triodos runs a crowdfunding platform and set up a seven-year bond paying investors 5% gross interest per year, with a minimum investment of £50. The £800,000 target was reached within days of founder Phil Haughton announcing the plans to customers.

Better Food’s mission is to balance the needs of the farmer and soil with the demands of the customer. It sells products representing every area of grocery retail, from organic fresh fruit and vegetables to locally-sourced meat and ethical gifts. Nearly 30% of suppliers are based within five miles of the city.

Phil has a number of prospective sites in mind and hopes to open the new stores by summer 2022.

Better Food’s shops have remained open throughout lockdowns to help local communities, providing a continual supply of fresh produce with minimal stock supply issues. In recognition of their employees’ efforts, the company paid a Covid-19 bonus to its employees in 2020 and again in February this year.

“Since Better Food began nearly 30 years ago much has changed in Bristol and the world, but our commitment to being part of the solution to the many global and local food challenges that we face has not,” says Phil.

“There has been a clear shift towards a more conscious consumer who has an appetite to shop sustainably at independent stores and make more informed choices about purchases. They recognise the value of sustainable, organic food and want to use their buying power to strengthen local food systems and bring about lasting change.”

As revealed in the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report, UK organic sales grew by 12.6% last year, its fastest annual growth in over ten years. But Better Food sales outstripped the sector trends, growing by over 16% compared to 2019 and it was on course to deliver its strongest ever financial year, to March 2021.

This is the second time that Triodos has partnered with Better Food to raise capital through a bond. In 2016, the bank helped to raise £350,000 which was used to finance the opening of the Wapping Wharf store.

“Having seen the way the Wapping Wharf store has helped to transform the Bristol harbourside into a thriving hub of independent businesses, we are delighted to be able to help Better Food access the capital they need to further expand and offer investors the opportunity to invest directly in a well-known Bristol company,” says Dan Hird, Head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank UK.

Retailers or suppliers with post-lockdown expansion plans or imaginative marketing ideas are invited to tell their story in New Natural Business. Contact the editor, [email protected]

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