Thrive with Sainsbury’s: Meet the black-owned brands shaking up the grocery sector

Worth a staggering £441 billion, the consumer goods industry is the biggest industry in the UK – but despite the size of the sector, it still has a significant way to go in terms of ethnic representation and diversity.

Of the 70 million people who live in the UK, 16% – or 11 million people – come from a multi-ethnic background. According to The Black Pound Report, this equates to an annual disposable income of around £4.5 billion, meaning the untapped economic power of this multi-ethnic consumer group cannot be ignored.

But, by overlooking Black, Asian and minority ethnic consumers, that’s exactly what many British businesses are doing.

It’s a pattern which can be seen behind the scenes at retail as well, with just a handful of products originating from Black-owned brands. This lack of visibility has proven to be problematic, as – while consumers can actively look to buy from Black-owned businesses – doing so requires significantly  more thought and effort than just popping down to the local shop. 

In a bid to go someway towards addressing this imbalance, Sainsbury’s introduced a 16-week programme last year, designed to support Black founder-led brands on their journey from start-up to supermarket shelves.

Offering a £1m commitment to supporting the businesses as they make the transition to appearing on supermarket shelves, Thrive with Sainsbury’s promised to provide essential funding, practical support and expert mentoring as well as valuable representation and exposure on the UK market.

Thrive with Sainsbury’s: How it worked

Created and delivered in partnership with Foundervine and Mission Ventures, the incubator programme was designed to tackle the challenges faced by Black and ethnic minority start-up businesses, including reduced industry knowledge, insufficient access to funding and limited social capital.

“We are incredibly proud to have been able to offer this opportunity to nine different businesses,” a Sainsbury’s spokesperson told Grocery Gazette.

“We launched Thrive with Sainsbury’s to give Black founder-led start-up businesses access to quality support and services they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” they continued, adding that “innovation and inclusivity are at the heart of what we do”.

After several months and hundreds of applications, nine businesses took part in the programme, receiving an initial £20,000 grant as well as one-to-one practical training and group learning opportunities.

Three of the brands were then chosen to be listed instore; Mirror Margarita, Riddles Ice Tea and Raise Snacks. We find out more…

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Deano Moncrieffe – Mirror Margarita

Inspired to create a cocktail that was familiar in both name and taste but strikingly different in appearance, Mirror Margarita is a cocktail hybrid margarita with a unique flavour and created from the agave plant – the basis of all tequila and mezcal spirits.

“All successful brands were given a grant for making it onto the Thrive programme which we used to explore and expand the necessary requirements for growth at scale,” said Mirror Margarita co-founder Deano Moncrieffe.

“It was incredibly useful to have incremental funds outside of our planned yearly budget to look at the design, consumer research and marketing strategies. We were also given huge support for our brands through expert advice and guidance from a plethora of industry experts.”

“We genuinely believe Mirror Margarita is the most disruptive and delicious ready-to-drink on the market,” Moncrieffe added.

“We want to become the number one premium Margarita brand in the UK and we can’t wait for the UK to discover our cocktail, which has been voted not only the best in the UK but also the seventh best in the world.”

Moncrieffe described the partnership between Sainsbury’s and Mirror Margarita as “the perfect fit for our brand”.

He continued: “From day one of Thrive with Sainsbury’s programme I have felt a natural alignment and out of all the supermarkets it is the one we dreamed of being in. Now the dream is a reality!

“A few of the most important considerations are of course the demographics, our target consumer and scale but you also have to pay close attention to your brand partner’s (Sainsbury’s) principles, culture, and purpose and then follow your instincts.

“The opportunity Sainsbury’s has given us is the most pivotal positive moment in our brand life so far.”

Charlie Odunukwe II – Riddles Ice Tea

Riddles Ice Tea is an iced tea with an exotic blend of the highly nutritious Nigerian Moringa Tea, with Premium Tequila and sweetened with Agave.

“We received a very generous welcome grant which we invested into well-needed business development including market and consumer research, branding and new product development,” said founder Charlie Odunukwe II.

Being given access to a “huge variety of professionals” was particularly useful for Odunukwe II who said they were “happy to share their wealth of knowledge and mentor us on anything we needed”.

Besides hitting sales targets, Odunukwe II said that the brand’s overall goal is to “create a distinctive brand that resonates with our consumers”.

He continued: “Over the next year, our mission to be stocked in more Sainsbury’s stores, double our brand awareness across England and expand our on-trade premises”.

Chester Robinson – Raise Snacks

Raise Snacks is a new healthy snack brand made with nuts and seeds, and full of protein, fibre and antioxidants.

Founder Chester Robinson said: “The programme has been totally transformative, it’s accelerated Raise’s growth and has helped me to develop as a founder – the business has gone from being a part-time side hustle, selling in small independent London shops, to now having a supermarket listing and being a full-time job.

“Along the way, I’ve learnt things like, how to execute a bullet-proof marketing strategy, when and how to hire and how to nail my supply chain logistics; hopefully, these learnings come into full effect!”

Robinson said he has always wanted Raise to be “one of the biggest food brands in the country,” and to ultimately have a global presence.

“I also want Raise to be a brand which empowers people and spreads a positive message about diversity and inclusion. At the start of the journey, both of these things were perceived as far more crazy than they are now.

“It requires a journey of constant evolution. Over the next year, with a listing at Sainsbury’s and by doing more to promote diversity and inclusion, we will get better at being who we want to be and what we want to achieve.”

Robinson also revealed that Raise is now on the Future Brands programme, which has some brilliant former alumni such as Tony’s Chocoloney and Lucky Saint.

“It will mean that we’re in a position to eventually leave the nest and take on the competitive and daunting retail world,” he said.

“Every retailer will be right at some point in the journey; I think at this point Sainsbury’s is the one.”



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