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Growing concern: How non-dairy baby formula became world-beater

Sel and Jen Berdie with son Ellis

In Queensland | May 9, 2022

Sprout Organic's Sel and Jen Berdie with son Ellis

Budding Gold Coast plant-based businesses are tapping into the rapidly growing alternative protein industry, helping embed the city’s unofficial title as the health and wellness capital of Australia.

It was with the aim to disrupt the infant formula industry that Gold Coast company Sprout Organic launched the world’s first organic plant based infant formula 12 months ago.

Within a year, the company has been awarded the World Food Innovation Award for ‘Best Children’s Product’ and positioned themselves at the forefront of the blooming plant-based movement.

Sprout Founder and former National Rugby League prop, Selasi Berdie, who started his career with the Gold Coast Titans before turning to business, said he and wife Jen spotted a gap in the organic, plant-based infant formula market outside of soy products.

Using only organic ingredients and adhering to Australia’s globally recognised infant nutrition standards, the formula they developed over seven years was selected globally out 272 entries from 22 countries across 25 categories to claim the world food innovation award.

“I think you would have to be living under a rock to not realise the plant-based movement is only growing and gaining more and more momentum,” Berdie said.

“Whether it’s due to sustainability, health or ethical beliefs, people are realising that eating more plants not only benefits them but also the environment.”

More than an alternative to burgers and other meat products, plant-based proteins and products are being used widely in the health-conscious food and supplements markets, aimed at offering more sustainable food production that is good for the planet.

The move into the highly regulated infant formula was a significant step not only for Sprout, but also the industry.

“The growth and technical development seen in the last five years has been remarkable and I can only imagine what we will see in the next five years, especially in the convenience sector and alternative (plant-based) meat category,” Berdie said.

Via @sproutorganic
Sprout Organic Team from the left: Miles Muecke, Nadia Schilling, Jen Berdie, Selasi Berdie, Ben Chester, Rachel Chester
Via @sproutorganic

Berdie is among a cluster of Gold Coast entrepreneurs harnessing escalating demand for such plant-based alternatives, but also finding wider markets.

According to the most recent Food Frontier Report more than one in three Australian consumers are actively trying to reduce their meat consumption.

The CSIRO, in its report ‘Protein: A roadmap for unlocking technology-led growth opportunities for Australia’, also identified a $13 billion market opportunity for Australia to grow and diversify its high-quality protein products.

This includes the sudden shooting in plant-based proteins, with exports currently valued at $3 million.

Berdie said the growing number of local plant-based businesses on the Gold Coast supported each other’s growth, turning the city into fertile ground for the industry.

All elements of Sprout Organics’ manufacturing, warehousing, marketing, sales and logistics are based on the Gold Coast, he said.

“The Gold Coast has long been the unofficial health and wellness capital of Australia due to its climate, active lifestyle and produce found in the south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales region.”

“Prior to Sprout Organic we had several health food businesses and it only made sense that if we were to bring about what we feel is the cleanest formula in market, that the Gold Coast would make the perfect home for the Sprout Organic Brand.”

The Sprout Organic team celebrates
The Sprout Organic team celebrates

5 thriving Gold Coast plant-based companies:

Sprout Organics

Sprout Organics founders Sel and Jen Berdie create organic, plant-based infant formula and healthy plant-based snacks for kids. Sprout launched its flagship product, the plant-based and organic infant formula in June 2021, aimed at disrupting the 120-year-old formula industry with the new plant-based innovation.

Naked Harvest

Run by Georgie Stevenson and her brother Coopa, the all-natural supplements company puts women in focus with supplements designed to support women’s health. The company is based in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, and supplies plant-based protein supplements that are vegan friendly.

Macro Mike

Gluten free, dairy free, vegan friendly, and plant-based, Macro Mike founder Mike Kellett developed the products in his search for food sources that defied the chalky, tasteless and unappealing texture of many early plant-based products. Both gluten and dairy intolerant, Kellett now offers baking mixes, protein powders, protein bars, a performance range and ready-to-eat snacks from the company’s Surfers Paradise headquarters.

Amazonia

Starting as a small flea market store, Amazonia, based in Miami at the Gold Coast, has gone on to develop more than 70 products providing frozen superfoods, raw proteins and supplements, and its flagship Tender Jack range of plant-based meat alternatives for tacos.

BSKT Wholefoods

Starting with chocolate and granolas, Nobby’s Beach-based BSKT Wholefoods aims to bust the myth that plant-based products sacrifice the delicious for the nutritious. BSKT sources ingredients from local Gold Coast producers and all products are handcrafted.