Heritas Capital’s Asia Impact First Fund leads SGD 2M catalytic growth investment round into The Gentle Group, a Singapore-based social enterprise providing integrated food solutions and care services for those with swallowing difficulties
08.07.2024

Heritas Capital’s Asia Impact First Fund leads SGD 2M catalytic growth investment round into The Gentle Group, a Singapore-based social enterprise providing integrated food solutions and care services for those with swallowing difficulties

Asia’s impact investment platform Heritas Capital, through its Asia Impact First Fund (AIFF) launched in 2023 with DBS Foundation as its knowledge partner and DBS, Tsao Family Office and IMC as anchor / co-anchor investors, has led a SGD 2 million investment into The Gentle Group, a Singapore-based social enterprise providing integrated food solutions and care services for underserved communities with dysphagia. AIFF is an impact-first fund that provides patient catalytic capital for innovative and high-potential social enterprises in Asia. SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, has co-invested alongside AIFF.

Dysphagia is a medical term for swallowing difficulties, and can occur due to medical conditions like stroke, degenerative diseases, and in head and neck cancer. It is often associated with malnutrition, dehydration, chest infection and in some cases, even death. The number of individuals with dysphagia continues to grow with our ageing population, with studies indicating that about 15 per cent of elderly are affected by the condition.

The catalytic growth capital by AIFF and SEEDS Capital will support The Gentle Group in expanding its new central kitchen operations to increase production capacity for texture-modified food solutions. In collaboration with its ecosystem of partners, the company aims to more than triple the current annual number of individuals served, further extending its proven track record of providing integrated food solutions and care services for the underserved dysphagic community.

The Gentle Group was founded in 2017 and is an early mover in providing therapeutic food solutions in Singapore. Through its GentleFoods brand, the company provides texture-modified food that is safe, nutritious, and tasty, helping to stimulate appetite and bring the joy of food back into the lives of individuals with dysphagia. To further support the early diagnosis and recovery of patients, the company’s clinical arm GentleCare provides complementary care services including speech therapy and nutrition consultation. The company also provides training and workshop programmes for healthcare professionals, caregivers, and the public to increase awareness of dysphagia and share best practices for the caring of people with dysphagia.

With the latest growth funding raised from AIFF and SEEDS Capital and years of experience delivering quality texture-modified food that is aligned with the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI), The Gentle Group will be uniquely positioned to support Singapore’s Ministry of Health in its efforts to implement the IDDSI nationwide. The IDDSI is a globally standardised framework for texture-modified foods and thickened fluids used for individuals with dysphagia, and is being rolled out across healthcare institutions and community care services in Singapore to aid better communication around dysphagic diets and care.

Heritas Capital, SEEDS Capital, and DBS Foundation have been early backers of The Gentle Group; Heritas Capital and SEEDS Capital provided initial seed funding in 2020, while DBS Foundation as well as Heritas Cares supported the company with philanthropic grant funding and mentorship since 2021.

“At The Gentle Group, our mission has always been to bring dignity and joy back to the lives of individuals with dysphagia. This investment will allow us to expand our operations and reach more people in need, ensuring they receive the nutritious and safe food solutions they deserve. We are grateful for the support from AIFF, DBS Foundation, Heritas Capital, and SEEDS Capital for their continued support and belief in our vision. We are thankful for the trust and support from all our partners”, said Dr Shen Yiru, CEO and founder of The Gentle Group.

“It’s a privilege to have been part of The Gentle Group’s journey since they were awarded a DBS Foundation grant in 2021. Learning about the growing number of people in society who have difficulties with basic daily functions such as swallowing and eating has spurred us on to see how best to support The Gentle Group’s growth. We are excited about what they hope to accomplish by making a wide range of nutritious texture-modified food readily available. As they scale with this injection of catalytic capital, we believe The Gentle Group will dramatically improve the quality of life of those with dysphagia. The need for “gentle food” will become increasingly acute in the coming years, as one in four in Singapore will be 65 or older by 2030”, said Ms Karen Ngui, Head of DBS Foundation and Group Head of DBS Strategic Marketing and Communications.

“Since its founding, The Gentle Group has consistently demonstrated its commitment to serve this underserved community and expand its offerings from therapeutic food solutions to speech therapy and training services for people with dysphagia both at home and those in the nursing homes. We are pleased to have funded them at seed stage through our early-stage venture fund and now to continue our support with catalytic growth capital from AIFF as the company embarks on the next phase of its impactful growth journey”, said Ms Janet Chia, Managing Director and Head of Private Equity at Heritas Capital, and also serve on the Board of Directors of The Gentle Group.

“We are pleased that AIFF has now backed another impactful social enterprise, with more in the pipeline. With this growth funding, The Gentle Group can further extend its integrated food and care solutions to serve the growing needs of more dysphagic patients across Singapore, and possibly also other ageing societies across Asia”, said Mr Chik Wai Chiew, CEO and Executive Director of Heritas Capital.

 

About The Gentle Group

The Gentle Group, founded in 2017, is a pioneer in providing therapeutic food solutions in Singapore. Through its GentleFoods brand, the company delivers texture-modified food that is safe, nutritious, and tasty, catering to individuals with dysphagia and stimulating their appetite while bringing the joy of food back into their lives. To support early diagnosis and recovery, the group’s clinical arm, GentleCare, offers complementary care services such as speech therapy and nutrition consultation. GentleCare also emphasises education and training, providing workshops and programs for healthcare professionals, caregivers, and the public to increase awareness of dysphagia and share best practices for care. Additionally, the recent addition of The Gentle Group’s new brand – Gentle Dining, focuses on creating inclusive dining experiences, ensuring that those with dysphagia can enjoy dining out with confidence and comfort.

About Asia Impact First Fund

Asia Impact First Fund seeks to address significant social and environmental challenges in Asia, focusing on two impact themes, namely “Improving Lives and Livelihoods” and “Protecting the Environment”. AIFF will provide growth capital to 10 to 15 innovative and high-growth social enterprises across Asia with a clear and demonstrated social and/or environmental impact, and viable business growth plans, to scale their double bottom line of impact and financial profitability. AIFF announced the successful first close in March 2023 of over USD 20M, with commitment from anchor investor DBS Bank, and like-minded impact-focused family offices, foundations, corporates and high-net-worth individuals including Tsao Family Office, IMC Group, Ishk Tolaram Foundation, ANF Family Office, Mr Pang Sze Khai (Chairman of Octava Foundation and Octava Pte Ltd), and others.

About DBS Foundation

Established in 2014, DBS Foundation is committed to uplifting lives and livelihoods of those in need. It provides essential needs to the underprivileged, and fosters inclusion by equipping the underserved with financial and digital literacy skills. It also nurtures innovative social enterprises that create positive impact. It aims to bring hope to those with less today, so no one is left behind and we can all face the future with confidence. In 2024, DBS committed up to SGD 1 billion dollars over the next decade to support vulnerable communities. It also pledged to contribute 1.5 million employee volunteer hours over the same period. Together with an ecosystem of like-minded partners, DBS Foundation seeks to create impact that goes beyond banking, beyond borders, and beyond generations. For more information, please visit: www.dbs.com/dbsfoundation

About Heritas Capital

Heritas Capital is a Singapore-based private equity and venture capital investment firm that invests in fast-growing companies across the healthcare, education, environment, and technology sectors. Guided by its investment philosophy, “Invest with Purpose, Impact Across Generations”, Heritas Capital backs innovative companies to become emerging champions and drive inclusive growth that improves the lives of local communities and the environment while delivering sustainable returns to investors.

About SEEDS Capital

As the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, SEEDS Capital catalyses smart investments into innovative Singapore-based early-stage startups with strong intellectual content and global market potential. We adopt a co-investment model, working hand in hand with institutional investors from around the world. Leveraging our collective expertise and networks, we help startups commercialise, realise their business development plans and expand globally. We focus our investments into emerging and strategic sectors aligned with national priorities, including Manufacturing, Trade & Connectivity, Human Health & Potential, Urban Solutions & Sustainability, and Smart Nation & Digital Economy.