Aussie Paralympian and tennis champ Dylan Alcott is gearing up for the quad wheelchair finals at the Australian Open this evening. But, he’s already celebrating something of a business win.
Alcott’s startup Able Foods, which he founded alongside childhood friends Patrick Liston and Spencer Ratliff last year, has secured a spot on the shelves of supermarket giant Coles, for its new range of accessible baked beans.
The beans come in microwavable pouches with tearable tops, designed to be easier to open and more accessible to people with disabilities than cans.
“The baked bean can has been difficult to open since day one,” Alcott said in a statement.
“We wanted to innovate in the space, give choice to Australians and make this product more accessible for people with or without disability.”
Able Foods started out as a fresh-meal-delivery startup tailored to people with disabilities, providing ready-made, non-frozen, nutritional and tasty meals, co-funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency.
But, co-founder Liston tells SmartCompany the idea for getting more accessible products into the big supermarkets actually came first.
The launch of the beans product has been two years in the making, he adds, and finally came to fruition through a partnership with Aussie foods manufacturer Flavour Makers.
And attracting Coles, one of the big-two Aussie supermarket brands, is a massive milestone for this arm of the business.
“It’s huge. It’s everything we wanted,” Liston explains.
This doesn’t mark a move away from the meal delivery model. Rather, the Able Foods team will be continuing to grow both parts of the business.
There are more accessible products in the pipeline, the co-founder notes, and Coles is ready and willing to embrace them.
That, in itself, speaks volumes about an increasing awareness of disability issues in Australia, he suggests.
“We’re lucky to have Dylan as a business partner who leads the way on that,” Liston says.
When it comes to shopping and other everyday activities, it’s not about changing the way everything is done, he adds. It’s about reducing barriers to people with disabilities, and making everyone’s lives a little easier.
Creating an alternative to canned foods, for example, is something that seems obvious and easy once it’s done, he adds. But it takes advocacy, understanding and support from commercial partners.
Liston also points to Coles’ quiet hour, first rolled out back in 2017 and expanded nationally in 2018, designed to make the shopping experience less overwhelming for people with autism.
Again, it’s a small, easy change that levels the playing field and moves the needle towards real societal change.
“Every brand should stand for something,” Liston says.
“It’s really important that we have a visible corporate partner like Coles.
“Big partners partnering with brands like us is going to hopefully be the way forward.”