Helping people with disability eat well

Champion wheelchair athlete Dylan Alcott wants food to be better, more varied and easier to open for shoppers with disability. His game-changing new range, Able Foods, has just launched.

Paralympian Dylan Alcott

Paralympian Dylan Alcott: “We’re breaking down those stigmas.”

By his own admission Paralympic gold medallist Dylan Alcott doesn’t get sleep much these days. “I reckon I’m surviving on around three hours’ sleep a night,” he laughs.

In addition to training for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, hosting radio shows and giving motivational speeches, the champion wheelchair tennis player is running a food start-up.

Able Foods, launched 3 months ago, supplies fresh, nutritious, ready-made meals for people with disabilities. Dylan co-founded the company with his friends, Patrick Liston and Spencer Ratliff.

“The reason I get out of bed in the morning is not to win tennis tournaments but to change the perception of people with disability and help them live the life they deserve,” says Dylan.

The gold medallist admits that like many people with disabilities he often finds shopping for food and cooking simple meals challenging. Faced with difficult packaging, many disabled people rely on frozen meals or the local takeaway.

“Our mission is not only to create healthy food options but also to give people with disability choice,” he says. “I eat a lot of takeaway because shopping and cooking are difficult for me – I can’t reach a lot of things in a typical store.”

In a significant breakthrough, Able Foods is now supplying baked beans to Coles supermarkets around the country. Unlike traditional baked beans, these come in a microwavable pouch that is easy to both open and transport.

“Baked beans are a no-brainer, right?” says Dylan. “Everyone loves baked beans, but since the year dot they’ve come in a tin can which a lot of people struggle to open.”

With around 4.4 million people in Australia having some kind of disability, Pat and Dylan believe that it is time to kickstart the conversation about food and disability.

“Having our products in every Coles supermarket is incredibly powerful,” says Pat.

Able Foods is also working with Coles on ways to better serve customers with disability, including staff training, and is looking for other products to roll out in supermarkets during 2021.

“Coles really cares about this stuff, which is what I love,” says Dylan. “It’s good to partner with a company that is really committed to improving the lives of people with disability.”

Able Foods is currently developing range extensions with the help of their manufacturer and great partner Flavour Makers, which it hopes will soon join its best-selling baked beans on supermarket shelves around the country.

“We want to work with Coles to produce multiple different meals across a range of different categories,” says Pat.

Part of the profits generated from the sale of Able Foods baked beans will be funnelled into the Dylan Alcott Foundation, which mentors and supports young people with disabilities.

“And remember our baked beans are not just for people with disability. They are for everyone,” says the wheelchair athlete.

Dylan says the company is also committed to creating meaningful careers for people with disability at its Melbourne headquarters – over half of all employees have a disability. “I’m always being told that you can’t employ people with disability because they aren’t good workers and that it’s too hard to employ people with disability,” he says. “We’re breaking down those stigmas.”

Able Foods Baked Beans are sold in easy-to-open, stand-up pouches.

Able Foods Baked Beans tomato

Able Foods Baked Beans tomato

Able Foods Baked Beans Smokey BBQ

Able Foods Baked Beans Smokey BBQ

Able Foods Baked Beans Chilli Tomato

Able Foods Baked Beans Chilli Tomato

Able Foods Baked Beans Cheesy Tomato

Able Foods Baked Beans Cheesy Tomato