UK-based supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has launched a free 16-week incubator programme for Black-led start-up businesses.

The Thrive with Sainsbury’s programme is claimed to be the first of its kind in the retail sector.

Created in partnership with Foundervine and Mission Ventures, the programme will see Sainsbury’s invest £1m to help brands with Black founders move ‘from start-up to supermarket shelves’.

The programme is open to entrepreneurial food and beverage businesses and will offer essential funding, practical support and expert mentoring to participating businesses.

Nine successful applicants will receive a £20,000 welcome grant and 150 hours of practical one-to-one support and group learning activities.

In addition, Thrive with Sainsbury’s will provide additional funding at various stages throughout the process, to a possible total of £105,000 for each brand.

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Sainsbury’s grocery innovation director Silika Shellie-Manso said: “By working with brilliant partners, Mission Ventures and Foundervine, to launch Thrive with Sainsbury’s, we’re able to give start-up brands access to quality support and services to which they ordinarily would not have access to.

“Our hope is that this will help them grow and successfully sustain their brands and businesses.

“It’s a new approach for us and our hope is that it will drive both meaningful change within the retail sector, while also enabling us to bring more innovation and a broader range of products to our customers.”

The programme is part of Sainsbury’s efforts towards inclusivity and is intended to increase diversity within the retailer’s supplier base and customers.

From the project, up to five breakthrough Black-led brands will introduce products to Sainsbury’s shelves by next year.

Shellie-Manso added: “We know that despite the strength of ideas and potential amongst Black founders, often opportunities and success can be hindered by ethnicity, which is we are starting with this group of the most underrepresented founders first.”