After following plant-based trends throughout a career in food and beverage, Maria Tegman saw an opportunity to create her own CPG brand. Two and a half years ago she teamed up with an investor to bring a new dairy alternative product to Sweden.
Sproud is made from a base of split yellow peas, and it’s positioned for both its taste and low impact on the environment. The drink range is currently sold in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the UK, and will hit North America soon.
Tegman told DairyReporter that she wanted to develop something 100% vegan, clean and free from additives that could fit well with younger consumers. In Europe, she said that young vegans have a ‘totally new’ pattern of eating habits, and that Sweden has always been a good market for food, fashion and music trends.
The versatility of pea
Widely considered the pioneer of the oat milk alternative category, the Oatly brand originated in Sweden. Sproud is hoping for similar success to become the top global brand for pea protein products.
The team came across the pea base and found it to have many positive aspects, for both sustainability and health. But it hasn’t been used widely because it traditionally has a grassy, unappealing taste.
But Tegman said they discovered a more neutral pea protein source is growing in popularity, one with much more versatile taste. They developed products in a few different categories to start, but saw good growth in the dairy sector and chose to stick with milk alternatives.
Sproud decided to expand into more markets to grow the brand, rather than launch several products in different categories. Now Sproud is available in Original, Unsweetened, Chocolate and Barista drinks, with Tegman reporting that the latter has become a favorite for use in Swedish cafes.
Its neutral taste doesn’t overpower coffee flavors, and the facts that it is allergen-free with good foaming and frothing texture are also attractive qualities to baristas. Tegman said the taste is ‘very close’ to cow’s milk, with no aftertaste, artificial aromas or sweeteners.
It has about half the sweetness of oat beverages and five-times the protein of soy and almond, and Sproud is most similar in ingredients and nutrition to real dairy compared with other plant bases, according to Tegman.
Staying on track
The split yellow pea base can be easily grown in most parts of the world and is good for soil. It doesn’t need much water or fertilizer, and Tegman believes it is the most sustainable protein source available at the moment.
Sproud is focusing on reducing its carbon footprint in production, packaging and distribution. The drinks are shelf stable with a 365 day shelf life, which eliminates the need to use the traditional chilled supply chain designed for dairy products. This reduces its carbon footprint by a third and significantly reduces waste.
Tegman predicts that the pea-base category will only grow and easily work in different formulas. Right now it’s being produced in Toronto for distribution in Canada and the US, launching in April.
Sproud was set to make its North American debut at Expo West this month in Anaheim, California. But after its postponement due to public health concerns from the coronavirus, the team is working to stay on track. The beverages will start hitting retail shelves April 1 at Whole Foods Canada, and online at Amazon.com.
Tegman said, “The North American consumer response to the brand has been great and we are excited to be able to deliver them a more sustainable and planet-friendly product.”