Mind your peas, dairy

From Shopper Marketing Report: Sproud is hoping to establish itself in a crowded non-dairy market, utilizing attributes of its main ingredient.

Sproud Canada Launch

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It may sound a bit pea-brained, but a new beverage offering in the non-dairy milk alternative space shows there’s still more room to grow, despite the plethora of options available in the aisle.

Founded in 2018, Sweden’s Sproud is launching four pea protein-based beverage flavours in North America including original, unsweetened and chocolate, as well as a “professional formula” developed for and by baristas in a one litre pack, to tap the coffee market.

In 2019, Sproud established a sales and marketing partnership with New Jersey’s Ethical Brands to grow awareness in the North American market. Ethical Brands CEO Greg Forbes tells strategy that Sproud is being marketed as a product with a strong sustainability story, which includes the company’s sourcing of ingredients from Northern Europe, its use of natural rain water, limited geographical footprint and the product’s 365-day shelf life, meaning Sproud does not need to be refrigerated during its journey from production to store shelves.

Forbes says Sproud’s competitive advantage is that it is closest in taste and performance to that of real milk, and with more protein than almond or oat beverages. He says Sproud’s unobtrusive taste allows “cereal to taste like cereal and coffee to taste like coffee.”

Forbes says that the pea doesn’t have a “planty” or nutty aftertaste but concedes that it can be a challenge “to present a product where blandness is its major benefit.” Still, he says, its insights show that roughly three quarters of consumers rate the product as “good or better” than their favorite comparable brand.

“We have benefits versus dairy, almond and soy and we want to see the market grow, and are not trying to be critical of one product or item, but to focus on what our product stands for,” he says. That being said, its creative has strongly emphasized that Sproud contains no soy or almond, along with no gluten or dairy.

While Sproud’s tagline is “powered by peas,” there are no green vegetables to be had with its branding. Rather, the Sproud packaging design aesthetic is minimalist and bichromatic, like a bar code tilted 45 degrees. To stand out in grocery, Forbes says the idea behind the packaging was very much “to be a bit rebellious and to tell a slightly different story than traditional products, which are made to look like milk with a picture of an almond or an oat on it or something.”

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He cites market leader and pioneer Silk as an example of a brand that looks to resemble milk from a design and packaging perspective (Silk’s almond, cashew, soy, coconut flavour packaging all feature the white milk-like beverage splashing into a glass). “They’re the leading player and they have worked with a number of different alternatives, to cover all the different ingredients, while Sproud is focusing on the pea,” Forbes says.

sproud3What it does have in common with the market leader, Silk, however, is that it’s turned its attention to the coffee market to drive growth.

Sproud already works with the 400-location strong Northern European coffee chain Espresso House, and looking for something similar in Canada. The coffee side of the business creates credibility, Forbes says, touting the product’s foaming ability as a selling point, especially as compared with oat or almond competitors. He says Sproud compares favorably with full fat milk in terms of foam duration and size.

Forbes says the marketing approach for North America is similar to the Nordic countries and the U.K., focusing on flexitarians who are environmentally aware and looking for a novel, good-tasting product.

The brand presented at Vancouver’s Canadian Health Food Association show last week, which he called “hugely successful.” The brand will be at the SIAL Canada show in the spring, as well as CHFA events in Toronto and numerous vegan and food events. There will be in-store sampling events and couponing, bolstered by displays and half-palettes. In Western Canada, the brand will be available at Whole Foods and some specialty retailers in April, and its partner distributor in Canada is Star Marketing.

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