Among the products by Frontier Nutrition include those under the Hashi Kushi brand and Nutri+, comprising micronutrient fortified lentil butter, chocolate, powdered drinks and biscuits, with the aim to treat and prevent malnutrition in children and women.
Its flagship product, lentil butter is made from puffed rice powder and roasted lentil powder and is fortified with 23 micronutrients including vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, calcium, iron and potassium.
Frontier Nutrition’s CEO and co-founder, Eddie Bearnot told us proceeds from a recent US$6 million Series B financing drive will be used to develop new products, increasing the SKUs from 28 to 35 this year.
There will be extensions of existing products, such as flavour and format variation, as well as premiumisation as an opportunity to move up the market. Currently, its fortified snacks cost just US$0.06 per serving.
Bearnot explained that the firm was hoping to create products that can compete with similar imported goods.
“In Bangladesh, imported premium products are well received by consumers, however these brands face high tariffs entering the country, and have to be priced higher.
“So, if we can produce something locally that is fortified and with premium ingredients, our products can be placed next to these other premium imported products.”
One example is creating a fortified spread, to compete with well-known brand Nutella.
“Because we can manufacture that locally, and we can fortify it, we can market it at a higher price point for a slightly more premium market, at A class retail outlets.”
In addition, the company hopes to develop new products that can be used in research studies and international humanitarian efforts.
For instance, creating more over-the-counter pharmaceutical products such as oral rehydration solutions for treating diarrhea, cholera or dehydration.
In terms of partnerships, Frontier Nutrition is collaborating with the UN’s World Food Programme, as well as researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Gates Foundation to develop a lentil butter product targeting pregnant and lactating women.
The funds will also be used to manufacture some of its products in-house. When the company first started out, it rented facilities to manufacture its products.
“This allowed us to launch faster into the market to test interest, and allowed us to expand the portfolio quickly,” Bearnot explained.
“Based on that, we could then evaluate whether we should make the capital investment to produce those products ourselves.”
After about two years of operating, the firm identified that the bulk of sales came from its lentil butter, chocolate, and powdered drink products.
With the fresh funds, it is planning to install a chocolate and powdered drink facility at its existing lentil butter plant.
“This allows us to control prices on raw materials, quality and allows us to conduct more innovation and experimentation with the products,” Bearnot said.
Marketing and distribution
This year, the company also hopes to increase awareness of its consumer brand Hashi Khushi.
“[This will include] free sampling, talking to consumers and helping families understand their needs and what options are out there. Not just for Hashi Khushi, but generally what it means to eat a full and balanced diet,” Bearnot added.
There will also be some digital marketing through SMS, providing discount codes and offers. Although Bearnot said online marketplaces were still relatively underdeveloped in Bangladesh compared to other South and East Asian markets.
“Only about 30% of the population have smartphones, and these are mostly in urban areas like Dhaka, Chittagong and Solet.”
Frontier Nutrition’s products are currently available in more than 50,000 outlets across Bangladesh, mostly in local traders, markets and small stores.
This year, it hopes to reach 80,000 outlets.
In 2019, the company reported revenue of US$300,000. Last year, it grew about 300%.
The Series B round was led by Adjuvant Capital, the life sciences fund backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and joined by International Finance Corporation, DSG Consumer Partners, return investor DSM Venturing and other global health investors.