organic produce

The new enterprise is yet to confirm a trading name

An Irish investment group is backing a group of former Tree of Life employees to establish a new healthy food wholesaler in the UK, The Grocer has learned.

Investor Cottagequinn Enterprises, run by Dunbia co-founder Jim Dobson and his son Matthew Dobson, is in the final stages of building the enterprise.

An email seen by The Grocer is being circulated to suppliers to raise awareness of the plans.

“A successful Irish investment group, Cottagequinn Ltd, with significant food industry experience, has identified a market opportunity created by recent changes in the UK natural grocery market,” the email said.

“They are supporting the formation of a team, mainly recruited from former employees of Tree of Life, who profitably built that brand from 2012 to 2022, to establish a new wholesaler and distributor for the UK market,” it explained.

There is no involvement from shareholders of the Tree of Life’s former holding company Health Made Easy, which collapsed into administration last year, the email added.

The new venture has yet to confirm a trading name but has hired some “key members of the experienced Tree of Life buying team” to engage suppliers in range development.

The business plans to launch at the Natural & Organic Products Europe (NOPE) conference held in London on 16-17 April, with the aim of starting trading in June.

“We look forward to building a strong, profitable and sustainable business with all partners,” the email added.

Cottagequinn’s website states it is “a leading investor of early stage and established agri food and ag tech companies”, backing companies with “a vision to sustainably feed the world”.

The firm invests up to £2m in companies, with its portfolio so far including fmcg brand Noisy Snacks and a handful of agritech businesses.

Cottagequinn is run by chairman Jim Dobson, who built Northern Irish meat processor Dunbia into one of the country’s largest private companies with his brother Jack, and MD Matthew Dobson.

Tree of Life, sister wholesaler The Health Store and parent group Health Made Easy appointed administrators from Interpath Advisory in August last year after struggling in the aftermath of Brexit and Covid. The collapse saw about 200 staff lose their jobs and hundreds of grocery suppliers collectively losing millions of pounds.