The firm has already achieved significant retail success in the Oceania region, having seen 60% and 58% year-on-year growth in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets respectively in Australia, as well as 150% growth in Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand.
This success has given CEO and Co-Founder Monica Meldrum strong confidence to start expanding the firm’s presence, not just locally but into the rest of the APAC region as well.
“We’ve just entered Drakes supermarkets in November, and we have also just signed on with Aldi supermarkets to have our products on shelves in there starting December this year – we’ll start with 13 or so products first, and expand from there,” she told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Looking beyond the region, we’ve also decided it’s time to go further and have just established a partnership with Pinkfong in South Korea, the creator of Baby Shark which is the highest-viewed Youtube video of all time and many kids love.
“This collaboration will see products sold there still carry the Whole Kids branding, but with Pinkfong characters like Baby Shark, Daddy Shark, Mummy Shark etc. also on the packaging – we’re just happy to see that Pinkfong is also committed to good quality food for kids, as opposed to cheaper, possible nastier options.”
In addition to South Korea, South East Asia and Hong Kong are also major markets of interest for the firm based on its own market research.
“We are already starting distribution in Malaysia and Singapore, and are appointing our Hong Kong distributor soon – these are main markets of interest for us that we view as good opening markets to enter the rest of the region as these are well-established markets and we will be up against global brands so if we can prove our mettle here, it will be a no-brainer to get in elsewhere,” said Meldrum.
“In addition, our own market research has identified these as good markets for our products based on factors such as birth rates, population growth and population size – we do believe that this is our next area for good realisable revenue.”
In order to support its very rapid growth, Whole Kids recently launched a new round of crowdfunding via equity firm Birchal, opting for this over regular fundraising in hopes of targeting a wider audience including its main consumer base, parents.
“We actually hit our minimum within 48 hours of the launch as many investors who came in the last round of crowdfunding we did came in again this time, both parents and wholesale investors,” said Meldrum.
“Given our rate of expansion, we are looking to expand the team quickly as at present we are actually still just a six-person core team – I cannot reveal names but so far we’ve had investors from all over the region from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Middle East and more. We’re also a women-led organisation, and have been glad to find that many women are wanting to invest on this basis as well.”
Growing healthy children’s snacks market
According to consultancy firm ResearchandMarkets, the global market for children’s food and beverages was valued at US$104.2bn as of 2020, and this value is expected to hit US$147.1bn by 2027.
Whole Kids is looking to capitalise on this growth, particularly on the healthier, organic end of the spectrum, and Meldrum believes all the industry drivers are in place to support their endeavour.
“Especially after COVID-19, parents have become even more driven to feed their kids with good quality nutrition, and we’re there to provide them with the cleanest products on the market – all our snacks have between one to five ingredients, no additives, and we make no claims that we shouldn’t,” she said.
“Millennial parents in particular are also reassessing their priorities and lifestyle, and are looking to feed their kids with not just food that is good for them but also good for the planet – we definitely are in line with that, and have just been selected to join the United Nations Global Compact, programme which aims to help firms go completely carbon neutral over 12 months.
“So in 12 months, by December 2022, we hope to add one more credential and contribution, which is to be completely carbon neutral.”
She also revealed that the best-selling products the firm is currently seeing are those which have the least number of ingredients. For instance Whole Kids launched a product based on corn which contains just one ingredient – corn – and it quickly became one of its best-selling lines.
“We created the Meltaway Sticks based on the understanding that babies below six months of age don’t need too many flavourings in their foods as their taste buds are not yet fully developed – they just need products that dissolve easily and still taste good to them,” she said.
“What we were focused on was to provide this as product which was as close as possible to the real thing, yet available in a convenient format which is important for parents. The Meltaway Sticks only have corn as an ingredient, but are naturally sweet enough to appeal to kids so nothing else is required.
“At present there’s just the one product, but given its success we’re now looking at expanding the line.”
Another best-seller is its Smoothie Drops, containing just three ingredients – coconut milk, strawberries and bananas which are pureed, have organic prebiotics added, and then freeze dried to become a candy of sorts for kids.
“These healthy, organic trends are expected to remain strong, from the use of clean ingredients to organic sourcing to plant-based products, and we strongly believe that providing good quality fruits and vegetables via a convenient snacking format is important to help parents improve the nutrition their children get,” she added.