Bridges invests in Cucina and forms The Impact Food Group

2nd October 2018
  • Cucina is a fast-growing school catering business that serves 50 schools in England
  • Healthier eating in schools drives better behaviour and attainment, and helps tackle the growing health crisis of childhood obesity
  • Bridges’ investment will support the management team to expand to new schools and broaden Cucina’s service proposition
  • Cucina joins Innovate to form the Impact Food Group, which in total will serve c.200 schools

Cucina Restaurants (“Cucina”) and Innovate Services (“Innovate”) have joined forces to create The Impact Food Group (“IFG”). The investment to create IFG and support its future growth has been provided by Bridges Fund Management (“Bridges”), the specialist sustainable and impact investor.

The Impact Food Group brings together the combined strengths of both the Innovate and Cucina brands to create one of the largest specialist school catering groups in the UK: across the two companies, IFG will provide healthy and nutritious, restaurant-quality food at nearly 200 primary and secondary schools across England, with combined annual sales more than £35m.

Studies have shown that promoting healthy eating in schools helps to combat obesity and fosters better long-term eating habits. Children who eat healthier, nutritionally-balanced meals are also more alert, better-behaved and more likely to perform well in school. As a result, schools and academy groups are increasingly seeking specialist catering partners who can provide accessible, high quality and nutritious menus, alongside excellent service and value-for-money.

The UK school catering market is now worth over £2bn a year, spanning 22,000 schools and serving some 8.3m students. Both Innovate and Cucina have been growing rapidly as independent companies. By combining their respective strengths within IFG, the goal is to build a best-in-class operator with even stronger potential for future growth.

IFG will not only provide accessible healthy food and excellent service; it will also work with its partner schools (through events, school councils and parents’ meetings) to help build a positive food culture. The quality of the Cucina and Innovate propositions typically leads to a large increase in the take-up of school meals (which has been in long-term decline since the 1970s) and a corresponding reduction in schoolchildren relying on often unhealthy packed lunches and fast food restaurants.

Bridges will provide ongoing funding and support enabling Cucina and Innovate to respond to the changing demands of educational catering and the developing needs of their clients. Bridges will also draw on its leadership in impact measurement and management to help IFG deliver even better outcomes for students.

Steve Quinn, Cucina Founder, said: “We truly believe that in Bridges we have found an organisation that shares Cucina’s simple business philosophy of serving as many children as possible restaurant-quality food – coupled with an unwavering belief that students who eat healthier food perform better and therefore do better in life. With the growth of Multi Academy Trusts, Bridges are ideally placed to ensure we can continue to cater for the increasingly varied education marketplace.”

Emma Thorne, Investment Director at Bridges Fund Management, said: “We are delighted to welcome Cucina into the newly-formed Impact Food Group. It was clear from our analysis that helping children to eat more healthily in schools is a crucial way of tackling the rise in childhood obesity – one of our biggest public health challenges – while also improving educational attainment. The combination of Cucina and Innovate creates a truly differentiated approach to school catering, based on restaurant-quality food. We are looking forward to building out the business across the UK in the coming years, drawing on our extensive experience of roll-out strategies, and we’re excited about the impact this could have on the lives of thousands of children.”

 

About Bridges Fund Management 

Bridges Fund Management (formerly Bridges Ventures) is a specialist fund manager focused exclusively on sustainable and impact investment, with offices in London and New York. Since 2002, the firm has raised over £900m to invest in SMEs, properties and social sector organisations that are helping to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges, with a focus on four themes: health & wellbeing, education & skills, sustainable living and underserved markets.

Advisors:

Bridges: RSM (Financial), Addleshaw Goddard (Legal)
Cucina:  Penningtons (Legal)