Constantia food club wins global small business award

Constantia Food Club co-founders, Courtney Atkinson, right, and Noma Matoko-Louemba, left, are global winners of the Xero Beautiful Business Fund for “innovating for sustainability“. Picture: supplied

The Constantia Food Club, a buying club that connects small local growers and producers with customers, has won a R795 000 prize in an international business competition.

The enterprise was South Africa’s only global winner in the Xero Beautiful Business Fund, taking the honours in the “innovating for sustainability” category.

South Africa’s regional winners in the competition included the Oranjezicht City Farm Market for “strengthening community connection”; Mygrow for ”trailblazing with technology“ and Curate for ”upskilling for the future“.

The competition received over 5 500 applications from small businesses across South Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, America and the UK. There were 24 regional winners across the four prize categories and ultimately one global winner for each category.

Courtney Atkinson, the co-founder of Constantia Food Club, said the enterprise was borne out of the lack of affordable chemical-free produce available at supermarkets.

The community group bought directly from small, local farmers with the aim of promoting sustainable food production and creating a decentralised food system, she said.

The food club collates all the members’ orders together into one order for each supplier, receives one delivery from those suppliers, and there’s one “market day” for members to collect their goods from the club’s host.

“It provides a simple and transparent way to get access to healthier foods and better products more directly from the producers, and without all the excess delivery miles, packaging and the usual retail costs. And, importantly, the farmers and food producers get to set their own prices, which creates a fairer and more transparent system for everyone,” said Robynn de Klerk, who hosts food clubs for Hermanus and Stanford.

For Jessica Merton, who hosts a food club in Vredehoek, an important focus of the food club system is transparency of where our food comes from, how it is made or treated, and how the farmers are fairly remunerated.

“As testament to this,” she said, “our members’ invoices indicate the percentage of their spend that went directly to the producers.”

The Constantia Food Club plans to use the prize money to build a new clubhouse, where they can serve more customers and provide additional support to growers.