Title Triodos Food Transition Europe Fund
Country/Location Europe
Size €72m (as of Dec 2021)
Revenue Model Long term private equity and late-stage venture capital provided to businesses
Private Investment/Finance Structure Venture and Growth Equity Fund
Public/Philanthropic Investment N/A
Env/Social Impact Improved food safety, transparent and fair value food chain, soil protection, improved biodiversity, decreased water pollution, green job creation

To meet the needs of the world’s growing population, the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that global food supply must increase by 70% by 2050[1]. Yet, the way food is currently produced, distributed, and consumed food is at odds with environmental goals, such as protecting biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and plastic pollution.

There are many new businesses that are trying to solve for this conflict, but they face typical financial constraints. When they seek external funding from banks, private equity or venture capital firms, there is often a lack of alignment around their long term environmental and social ambitions, which leads to a lack of support.

The Triodos Food Transition Europe Fund was launched in 2014 as a private equity fund to finance such businesses. It has an evergreen investment structure that acts as ‘patient capital’ and does not stipulate exit dates with investees, compared to other private equity funds that typically exit after five years.

 

Investment Profile

To remove a degree of market risk, the Fund invests in businesses with proven market traction and a minimum turnover of €2m. The Fund also has set of criteria that ensures the businesses align to one or more of the three pillars that underpin the Fund’s vision for ecologically and socially resilient food systems.

  • Balanced Ecosystems; reducing CO2 emissions, increasing use of organic and regenerative practices on farmland
  • Healthy Society; increased consumption of sustainably produced, seasonal food and food with higher nutritional content
  • Inclusive Prosperity; transparent supply chain practices and fair income for food producers

The Fund considers investment in businesses across the food production chain, including product development, wholesaling and retailing. Isabelle Laurencin is the Fund’s manager and says: “It is a whole food system shift we’re aiming for.” Currently, the Fund is €70m and supports 10 businesses across Europe. These include:

Isabelle Laurence, Fund Manager, Triodos

  • HARi&CO; a French producer of organic plant-based meat alternatives, primarily using beans and pulses, which are sold to the food service and retail sectors
  • Farmy; an online shop for regional and organic products in Switzerland. Sourcing over 15,000 products with high visibility on the origin and the producer of each product.
  • Ecoffee Cup; a UK based retailer that develops and sells reusable cups. Its main product is a reusable to-go cup made from 100% plant-based materials.

The Fund’s investors are high net worth individuals, family offices, pension funds and other institutional investors. Before committing funds, Laurencin says that time was spent with investors to discuss the evergreen nature of the Fund, which makes comparing it with traditional funds more complex. he Fund offers liquidity to its investors on a quarterly basis, which is also uncommon with traditional funds.

 

Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic arguably strengthened the argument for the Fund’s overall vision of resilient and inclusive food systems, highlighting the importance of healthy food and the current lack of resiliency in supply chains.

Laurencin says that the Fund’s portfolio bounced back more quickly from the economic impact of the pandemic than its investees’ market competitors. The team attributes this to its underlying financial health, increased consumer awareness about sustainability and the fact that the investees’ operations are often locally based, and so less vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.

Despite the option to withdraw capital on a quarterly basis, the Fund’s investor base also remained stable throughout the pandemic. The Fund’s team noted a higher degree of engagement, but with more investors enquiring about the social and environmental impact of the portfolio, rather than the effect on its financial returns.

Prior to the pandemic, Triodos Bank published a paper in 2019 that called for an overhaul of global food and agricultural systems. This paper was part of internal discussions that led the Fund to expand its scope in 2020 to include younger and more disruptive companies, lowering the minimum turnover required to €1m. Laurencin says that these businesses carry a higher market risk, but that the Fund’s investors have indicated this risk is acceptable when offset with a higher positive impact.

 

Tracking Impact

The Fund has developed its own methodology to measure impact, and companies chosen for the Fund have bespoke impact metrics agreed for quarterly and yearly tracking. The Fund’s team also considers how to align reporting requirements when the investee has more than one impact investor.

The Fund measures a range of short-term outcomes, for example:

  • The number of green economy jobs created
  • Kgs of hazardous material use avoided
  • The number of farmers reached

These are tracked alongside longer-term outcomes, such as.

  • Improved biodiversity
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Affordable food

The Fund reviews its impact tracking strategy in line with changes to the regulatory and reporting investor landscape. For example, in 2020 it included the Scope One and Scope Two CO2 emissions for all companies in its portfolio. Every three to four years, the Fund’s team undertakes a holistic review of the portfolio to ensure the Fund’s investments align with its overall mission.

 

Looking forward

The Fund is concentrating on companies in Europe. It aims to grow in size and attract more investors while maintaining the same investment strategy. However, the team is also exploring the expansion of the portfolio along the value chain to further support its vision of a resilient food system.

 

Sources

  1. ‘The State Of The World’s Land And Water Resources For Food And Agriculture’, The Food and Agriculture Organisation of The United Nations and Earthscan, 2011
  2. Interview with Isabelle Laurencin, Fund Manager of Triodos Food Transition Europe Fund