The partnership came weeks after Sprout signed a deal with Australia’s largest food retail group Go Vita.
Sprout hopes to launch in New Zealand, South Korea, the US and Europe this year. It plans to enter Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore next year.
Sprout founder Selasi Berdie said: “We have started building infrastructure with freight and logistics partners. Once we do enter the market, we will have a seamless transition.
“For APAC, I see that the challenges would be regulatory requirements and quality assurance.
“Nonetheless, I see Sprout becoming the recognised leader in the plant-based kids’ foods space with the ability to influence change by the products we deliver and the education we will be able to deliver to the marketplace.
“Once the market realises the physical health and environmental benefits of plant-based options, this will continue to see the market grow rapidly.”
Sprout was founded in 2020, with initial offerings of plant-based snack bars and mini muffins for children. Currently, its formula and snacks are available in more than 700 retailers.
Berdie said the Wholelife partnership was desirable because the chain combines the conventional pharmacy with health food, well-being and lifestyle products.
“We are very aligned with this model as our product range appeals to the health-conscious consumer and the traditional pharmacy shopper looking for an intolerance-friendly product,” he said.
For now, Sprout will continue to sell its rice-based infant formula via its e-commerce platform and tap on existing partners for distribution. There are no plans to hop on various international e-commerce platforms for now.
“COVID-19 has impacted businesses in many negative ways, but if there is a positive to take out of this, it has been the development of brands being able to nurture these relationships with customers on a more intimate level,” said Berdie.
According to him, 80% of Sprout’s sales come from its rice-based infant formula for newborns to infants aged 12 months, which retails at AUD$39.95 (USD$29.90) for a 700g can.
Conventional dairy-based infant formula on Australian retail shelves usually costs around AUD$12 (USD$8.99) to AUD$40 (USD 29.95), depending on ingredients and weight.
For the price point, he said it would be difficult to see a reduction due to the rising fuel prices and logistics. Hence, a solution would be to find more localised means of production to relieve price pressures in “the near future”, he suggested.
Ensuring adequate nutritional value
Sprout uses rice starch as the base ingredient for its formulas and is safe for infants to consume from birth. The formula’s pre-sales started in late May 2021.
The formula, derived after seven years of research and development (R&D), also contains rice and pea proteins, an oil blend of coconut and canola, ARA, DHA from algae, minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium, and vitamins like vitamin C, niacin, vitamin E, folic acid and vitamin B12.
The R&D process, according to Berdie, involved food technologists and scientists, and then the second stage would involve a critical review process conducted by paediatricians, nutritionists and consumers themselves.
Ingredients were also sourced from local farmers and suppliers, but organic rice was sourced from the Middle East.
The formulas are manufactured in Melbourne, whereas the kids’ snacks are produced in Gold Coast.
Its formulas have met the safety requirements under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the statutory authority under the Australian government responsible for developing food standards for the country and New Zealand.
‘Plant’s for the future
After stabilising the brand and formula for newborns, Berdie aims to enter the transition phase in the toddler market with an improved formula.
It builds on the rice-based formula and hopes to assist parents once their infants start consuming solid food.
Besides rice starch and protein blend, the toddler formula contains coconut palm sugar, cocoa powder and tapioca starch. It also contains vitamin and mineral blends of zinc from guava leaf extract, iron from curry leaf extract, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin D3 from quinoa sprout, vitamin C from acerola powder, a berry blend of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, and the probiotic Bacillus coagulans.
The drink, available in chocolate flavour and suitable for children ages 12 months and up, is priced at AUD$34.95 (USD$26) for a 700g can.
Conventional dairy-based toddler drinks in cans on Australian retail shelves now cost around AUD$13 (USD$9.70) to AUD$38 (USD$28.40).
Recently (25/3), Sprout also won the World Food Innovation Award under the best children’s product category in the International Food and Drink Event (IFE) in the UK.
The judging panel considered 272 entries from 22 countries across 25 categories.
“It’s a true validation of the last seven years of hard work in developing such a needed product, and we are so pleased to be able to provide parents across the world with this choice,” said Berdie.