After extensive consumer research, Global Gardens Group came up with Veggemo, a plant-based milk-like beverage made out of pea protein, tapioca from cassava roots, and the starch of potatoes. It launched in October 2015 and is sold in major Canadian retailers such as Metro, London Drugs, and Walmart, and it will be introduced to the US market at the Natural Products Expo West show in March.
The British Columbia-based start-up boasts corporately-trained founders well acquainted with the CPG industry. Hence, they knew how valuable market research is. “When you’re building a brand, you really need to build it from consumer needs,” Wade Bayne, the VP for marketing at Global Gardens Group told FoodNavigator-USA. “We did research across Canada in all major markets, both quantitative and qualitative studies, and we got really positive feedback.
“We didn’t want another soy, rice, or almond product, and we knew per capita consumption of dairy milk has declined over the years,” Bayne added. “So we thought 'where‘s the white space?’” They decided that when it comes to vegetable-based milk-like products, they could be the sole players.
Looking at the buyers of plant-based milk-like products, Global Gardens Group’s research, which was done together with Vancouver-based LUX Insights, found that non-dairy milk consumers are mostly millennials, two-thirds of which are females.
Underneath that umbrella market, the team divided the target audience into three tribes: the vegans and vegetarians, which make up 15% of the category, the 'Warrior Survivalists,' or people with allergies and intolerance who make up 25% of the market, and 'The Butterfly,' the remaining 60% of consumers that, in Bayne’s words, “exercise and eat better, but will still indulge on the weekend.”
Building from the bottom up, learning from the consumer
On top of focus groups, the team conducted ethnographic research and “looked into the cupboards and refrigerators of consumers to see what they buy, and we followed them to the grocery store to see how they make decisions,” Bayne explained.
In the early stages of product development, they learned from blind taste-testings conducted in front of a Whole Foods store that their product was too bitter. “You really have to mask [the flavor] of protein, so we worked with our R&D for three months,” Bayne said. “Then we conducted another taste test, and the flavor scored really well, but consumers said it was too watery in term of the milk-feel, so we had to develop it to be more like 2% milk.
“The biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily the product development side,” Bayne said. “Aside from making sure all our suppliers were non-GMO, the biggest challenge we had was raising the capital—markets are very volatile people are risk averse, and you’re a start-up company, but fortunately we were one of the few start-ups in Canada able to [raise capital].”
A global affair
According to Bayne, most pea suppliers in North America don’t process their own peas, sending them to China for processing instead. They found a Belgian company, Cosucra, which was able to meet their needs and specifications. “They grow it and process it there, so it meets all of our standards. We’ve tested all of our pea proteins, and they provided a high quality one.”
Production is outsourced mostly in the US. In a facility in the state of Washington, they blend the proteins from the peas with tapioca and potato to make their proprietary Veggemo. The liquid is then shipped to copackers that can be anywhere in the world. “Right now we use SunOpta in Minnesota,” Bayne said. “And we don’t use a typical Tetra Brick pack—we use a unique pack that has a cap on an angled raise, and SunOpta has the right filling equipment to support that pack.
When it comes to expanding where the product is sold beyond North America, Bayne mentioned Global Gardens Group’s global aspirations. “North America is roughly 18% of the global market volume for non-dairy beverages, and many countries outside of North America have a much higher population that is lactose intolerant proportionally, so there are many global markets that are intriguing to us to enter.”
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