John and Leah Garrad-Cole are a husband and wife team who have successfully launched two brands in the food and wellness category in Canada. Their first brand Love Child Organics, launched in 2013, with the mission of giving babies and small children the best possible start in life. The inspiration behind Love Child was sparked when their daughter, Poppy, started to transition to solid foods and they realized that the organic baby food options in the Canadian market had lagged behind other markets, such as the UK. The company launched with 6 organic baby food purees in squeezable pouches and has now grown to over 45 SKUs across baby food, infant cereals, snacks and drinks. John and Leah appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2013 and secured the biggest investment in the show’s history from Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton.
After selling Love Child Organics to Greenspace Brands in 2015, John and Leah remained with the business for some time before launching Sproos into the Canadian market in early 2018. Sproos was launched with a range of premium pure collagen powders and also enhanced collagen functional beverage blends focused on skin, gut and joint health. The company has quickly gained national distribution in Canada, with its products now found in natural food retailers like Whole Foods, grocery chains like Loblaws, bulk food store Bulk Barn and online retailers like well.ca and vitamart.ca.
Can you tell us a little about Sproos and how the idea for the business came about?
Sproos was born from a personal health journey. Leah was experiencing serious gut health issues and found very significant benefits to both her digestive health and her overall health from taking collagen. This prompted us to look into collagen much more intensively, and we were hugely impressed by the potential health benefits of this ingredient. In addition, it is very
flexible in how it can be used – both in supplements but also in more traditional food products – which makes it an interesting ingredient to build products around. The other realization we had when Leah was looking for supplements to improve her health was that the supplements aisle is complicated and confusing, even for those of us who are reasonably well informed. We felt that there was an opportunity to bring simple, direct lifestyle branding and messaging to the category. Bringing these two areas together – a focus on collagen and simplicity – led to the launch of Sproos with its mission to “make health simple”.
How do you and your team generate ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?
We look for innovation to come from all members of the team. It is a very collaborative process and it’s important that it doesn’t just rely on Leah and John. All of us are health-focused and as are the target consumers for our products, so we all have ideas for new products that we would like to see launched. To bring structure to the process, we have a dedicated innovation meeting every two weeks to discuss the current innovation pipeline and any new ideas. On top of that, when we all get together in person as a team and prioritize a team innovation session. We encourage all ideas to be put on the table and discourage self-editing since we believe that sometimes great product ideas are born out of something that initially appears a bit left field but then inspires the concept that actually ends up being worked on.
What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them and reset creativity?
We tend to find that idea generation isn’t so much the problem, as is quickly filtering ideas to ensure that we are spending time and resources working on concepts which have a realistic chance of success. It is important to quickly determine, with sales input, what a realistic price target for a product is, and then working backward to see whether we can hit a cost of goods that
delivers our margin requirement. However, when we find ourselves going round in circles on a concept, sometimes it’s good just to park it for a while and then revisit it fresh a few weeks later. In the meantime, a new idea may have been triggered that brings a fresh perspective to that original idea. It’s important not to get caught in the trap of copying competitors – we need to say to true to our own mission and identity. “Me too” products don’t win shelf space.
How do you identify trends? What’s the biggest upcoming trend you see impacting your industry?
Leah is very well informed on nutrition and the health and wellness category and reads extensively, as well as following lots of leaders and pioneers in the sector. We also attend the main industry trade shows and keep an active eye on social media. In terms of trends, we are fortunate that collagen itself is very much on trend at the moment and we see that continuing for the foreseeable future. More and more people are becoming aware of how positive an impact it can have on their overall health. The most important trend for us is the continued growth of the natural food and health category. Conventional food producers are at best static or actually in decline – people are increasingly gravitating to ingredients, supplements and packaged foods that positively impact their health. That trend is going to continue which benefits both Sproos and all the other brands in the category. The other trend we are very aware of as a business is how people are choosing to buy products like Sproos – clearly, there will be a continuing trend for an increasing share of sales to move online. We need to ensure that we are pursuing a multi-channel sales strategy that will help us benefit from growing online sales while also maintaining strong relationships with our brick and mortar retail partners.
Tell us about what sets Sproos apart from its competitors?
Our unrelenting focus on our core values, which guide everything we do as a business: simple,
purposeful, clean and sustainable. Our mission is to make health simple. We build this simplicity into our products – for example, our Sproos Up Your Skin & Hair product combines 6 different active ingredients that target joint skin and hair health and comes in a powder format that that you can combine with water to create a refreshing sugar-free beverage. The alternative would be to buy each of these 6 supplements separately and take multiple pills or tablets. The simple value also flows into all of our brand messaging as well as our packaging, website, social media and marketing materials.
We are also purposeful – when you buy Sproos products, you can be confident that all ingredients have been included with careful consideration and in meaningful amounts that will positively impact your health. We also rely on clean, non-GMO and frequently organic ingredients, and transparency and integrity in our contact with our customers, suppliers and retailers.
Sustainable practices are also of utmost importance. At this time, there is no plant-based source of collagen. However, we are careful to source our marine collagen from wild-caught North Atlantic fish and our grass-fed collagen from pasture-raised US cattle. We also donate 5% of all sales of our marine collagen products to efforts to cleaning up the world’s oceans.
A good example of these values in action was the recent launch of Sproos Bar, Canada’s first collagen bar. In developing Sproos Bar, we started with the premise that this needed to be “a better bar” that also happens to contain a meaningful (7g) serving of marine collagen. That led to us formulating a bar that we believe leads the market in combining clean, real food ingredients (such as hemp seeds, almonds and dates) and in quantities that produce a really nutritionally dense profile. We are very proud of this bar and the reaction to it has been fantastic.
What’s next for Sproos?
We have a few exciting developments on the go! Right now we are in the midst of launching our products online in the US, which means that they will also be available for worldwide international shipping! We also have a couple of imminent product launches coming in May: Collagen Greens and our MCT Collagen Creamer. We have already started to introduce these products to retailers and the reaction has been fantastic.