Social enterprise Locavore to double headcount after major funding boost

Locavore, which says it is Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket, has secured a major funding boost that should see it double its number of staff and boost its branch network.

Based in Glasgow, Locavore aims to build a more sustainable local food system that is “better for the local economy, the environment and its surrounding communities”.

Since opening in 2011, the social enterprise has opened three shops in Scotland’s largest city, developed market gardens, established a veg box scheme, and drawn attention to issues around food, where it comes from, and the fairness and sustainability of mainstream supply chains.

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The £850,000 funding package includes a mix of loan and grant funding from responsible provider Social Investment Scotland (SIS), and comes as Locavore looks to capitalise on increased demand for local, organic and zero waste food and goods.

The latest investment 'will help Locavore achieve its ambitions of becoming a leader on many new fronts', says MD Reuben Chesters. Picture: contributed.

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During a typical month, the social enterprise serves 15,000 customers in its shops and delivers 7,000 veg boxes across central Scotland. It turns over around £4.3 million, and now has almost 90 staff.

It aims to over the next two years build a network of ten shops, increase its capacity to deliver 22,500 veg boxes a month, and build the infrastructure required “in an efficient and sustainable way, with a commitment to becoming a carbon-negative business”. That would see the organisation increase its headcount to 180, and its turnover to around £10m.

Locavore intends to take on a new warehouse site that will act as a regional distribution hub and increase its capacity to deliver veg boxes across central Scotland, while also on the cards is buying and setting up a new organic market garden.

Locavore went from delivering almost 1,500 boxes a week at the beginning of March 2020 to almost 2,000 by the end of the same month. Currently operating at capacity, it has a waiting list of more than 1,000.

MD Reuben Chesters said: “This latest investment from SIS will help Locavore achieve its ambitions of becoming a leader on many new fronts, putting us in a position from where we can easily scale further and faster than we have ever done before.

Model

"Within Scotland we’ll be one of the biggest retailers, wholesalers and veg box schemes of our kind with an important position to play in development of the organic market. We’ll also be a model for how to do business properly, a leading social enterprise and a more prominent and influential voice calling for a fairer and more sustainable society.”

Alastair Davis, chief executive of SIS, welcomed the organisation continuing to support Locavore, which he described as “a real success story and proof of how a social enterprise can be run successfully whilst being ethical and delivering high levels of social impact”.

He added: “Through its ambitious growth plan, Locavore will open up new markets beyond Glasgow and move to the next level in its growth journey.”

SIS was established in 2001, and has since invested more than £100m of loan finance in helping community enterprises and social businesses. Over the past year, it has provided more than 800 support interventions for people and organisations from the third sector, supporting Scotland’s responsible lenders through the £15m Scottish Community Lenders Fund programme.

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