Angel investor for food sector

Fri, Feb 3, 2012, 00:00

ONE MORE THING:BORD BIA chairman and Valeo Foods shareholder Michael Carey has been busy in recent times preparing the groundwork for a new angel investment group called the Company of Food.

Carey, who sold biscuit and jam maker Jacob Fruitfield to Valeo six months ago, told me this week that he has secured offices in Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin and is in the process of recruiting a small executive team and a board of advisers. His wife, Alison Cowzer, who ran Jacob Fruitfield’s confectionery business, is a co-founder.

“We’ll be getting up and running in the next week or so,” he said.

The idea? “There are a lot of great Irish food businesses out there but a lot of them struggle to make the next leap. Our executive team will try to help them to accelerate the growth of their businesses by providing extra financing and some strategic structure.”

Carey hopes to make his first investment in the next six to eight weeks. “We’ve had a number of discussions already. We’ll only be investing in a small number of companies.”

For now, the venture is being funded from Carey’s and Cowzer’s own resources. He was coy about exactly how much is being invested into the business, putting it at a “couple of million”.

Carey netted more than €15 million from the sale of Jacob Fruitfield, along with a sizeable number of shares in Valeo, whose brands included Roma, Shamrock and Batchelors before the deal was struck.

Wearing his Bord Bia hat, Carey is gearing up for Marketplace International 2012, a type of speed dating event for Irish food businesses and (mostly overseas) buyers. The event is being held at the Convention Centre Dublin where 175 producers will pitch to 500 buyers.

“We’re hoping to sign up €15 million of business on the day and then hopefully further business will be developed as relationships are established.”