Aussie probotic start-up's expansion plans buoyed by partnership with experienced distributor

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

PERKii is known for its range of encapsulated probiotic beverages, PERKii Probiotic Water.
PERKii is known for its range of encapsulated probiotic beverages, PERKii Probiotic Water.
Australian probiotic start-up PERKii has partnered with retail cold-chain distribution firm Manassen Foods Australia (MFA) and embarked on a trial at a number of Woolworths stores.

PERKii is known for its range of encapsulated probiotic beverages, PERKii Probiotic Water, while MFA is one of Australia's top independent grocery importers and distributors, working with businesses both locally and abroad.

Already, the start-up has had some success, with its 350ml bottled beverages available nationwide in 700 Caltex stores, and a trial at selected Woolworths Grocery stores in Victoria and New South Wales.

Experience and expertise

PERKii CEO Matthew Kowal told NutraIngredients-Asia​, "We were looking for partners that distributed across Australia and New Zealand, as well as other parts of the world, and we wanted to work with an independent distributor."

The firm eventually contacted MFA and came to an agreement — Kowal is confident MFA's 65 years' experience and expertise in logistics management, sales and merchandising, and corporate grocery trading will benefit PERKii significantly.

PERKii is among the new brands MFA has brought its the 'better for you' fold, adding to its portfolio of premium brands such as Paul Newman's Own, Baby Bel, and Bio Cheese.

Eventual expansion

Kowal had previously expressed interest in gradually bringing PERKii to Asia, Europe and North America, after establishing the brand and its ProGel technology in Australia and New Zealand.

He said, "Our plans in that regard have been going really well. We will be launching in New Zealand within the next two months, under our partnership with (renowned Kiwi supplier) Hutchinsons.

"We've also been speaking to distributors in South East Asia, where we hope to launch by the fourth quarter of 2019. We are particularly interested in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and major cities in China like Shanghai and Beijing."

Probiotic platform

When Kowal first spoke to NutraIngredients-Asialate last year​, PERKii was one of 10 start-ups and scale-ups that had been accepted into renowned F&B firm Lion's Lion Unleashed accelerator programme.

He said the programme had given PERKii a significant boost, facilitating contact with potential partners and distributors, and heightening its public profile.

Since then, the company has also exhibited at this year's Natural Products Expo West in California, in addition to its various partnerships and expansion in Australia and New Zealand.

Product possibilities

In line with its plans for product diversification, PERKii may also enter the yogurt and sparkling beverage categories.

Kowal revealed: "We are looking at different formats, like yogurt and sparkling juice. We'd like to partner with yogurt manufacturers to produce yogurt that contains less sugar and more probiotics."

And while PERKii is not the first company​ to look into developing sparkling probiotic beverages, Kowal believes it can overcome the 'taste challenge': "The process by which probiotics are incorporated into food and drink often lead to a bitter taste many consumers dislike.

"When we encapsulate our probiotics, we use a stable format that eliminates the bitter taste, and as such, our products do not require much sugar at all to mask the resulting flavour."

He added that since its inception, the company had expanded its encapsulation technology and increased its scale of production and manufacturing, while still maintaining its business model: "We do everything ourselves — the only thing we outsource is the bottling process."

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