Fund Management specialists Bridges has announced and investment of £8.5m to take a majority stake in school catering business Innovate Services.
Serving more than 90,000 children at primary and secondary schools in England, Bridges targeted the school catering sector, motivated by the belief that it offers an outstanding opportunity to drive better health and education outcomes for children alongside strong commercial performance.
Innovate currently serves around 75 secondary schools in England, using some of these as a base to serve another 45 local primary schools. It also works with its partner schools (through events, school councils and parents’ meetings) to promote the benefits of healthy eating – with one in every three 11-year-olds is now overweight or obese.
Bridges will now work with and build the management team, led by Geoff Peppiatt, to scale the platform and deepen Innovate’s impact focus.
Peppiatt, executive chair of Innovate, said: “Our core purpose is, and always has been, to ensure that young people can enjoy high-quality, nutritious food in their schools and colleges. But beyond that, we believe we should do whatever we can to create a better world. Bridges has long been a leader in impact investing, and we felt they really understood our values and our vision for the business. With their support, we’re committing to the goal of becoming an ‘Impact Organisation’: working within the school and wider community to encourage healthier lifestyles, positive employment practices and sustainability.”
Emma Thorne, investment manager at Bridges Fund Management, added: “Having identified school catering as an attractive sector, we approached Innovate because we felt they were one of the best operators in the space. We were delighted to find that they shared our view of the growth and impact potential of the business, and we’re excited to be working with management to take Innovate to the next level. This is another great example of a high-performing business whose focus on impact underpins its competitive advantage – making Bridges a natural investment partner for this next phase of growth.”
Last year, Bridges also bought a majority stake in Just Ask, a facilities management business that specialises in working with housing associations.
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