Froose for Thought
A beverage so yummy, kids don’t even realize it’s good for them.
As an executive with the Campbell Soup Company, Ms. Devine, like most women juggling both a family and a career, sought nutritious yet convenient food and beverage options for her children. The idea to create her own product occurred when she noticed her children shunning water and milk in favor of juice to satisfy their thirst. She longed to give them something more nutritious, especially when studies began linking young children’s consumption of more than four ounces of juice per day with obesity and other health problems.
The predicament catapulted Ms. Devine headlong into the study of children’s nutrition with the desire to develop a nutritious alternative to juice that would incorporate the complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber that young children need to grow. When she realized she was on to something, she started her own company called Froose Brands, LLC, which she helms in Media, PA. “I had this notion that I wanted to sneak more whole grains and whole vegetables into familiar formats, things that they loved, I guess by kind of tricking them into thinking that they were getting what they liked but it was far more nutritional,” she recalled. “Good nutrition for young kids can make such a positive impact on lifelong health.”
Ms. Devine soon linked up with a team of chemists at the International Food Network at Cornell Technology Park. While flavors of whole fruits and vegetables could be masked, the chemists told her it was very difficult to get whole grains into a smooth, palatable, non-gritty suspended format. Trial and error led to a breakthrough new technology platform that allowed for the use of whole grains and whole vegetables in a number of non-solid formats. The technology has since received more than 19 international patents and numerous taste and nutritional awards.
“We spent a lot of time testing the limits of the technology by developing a variety of products, including an OTC pharmaceutical,” she said. “We were ahead of the market and where the market was going in terms of accepting these types of products. Now it’s come full circle and the market is ready.”
In fact, the market more than proved its readiness a few years ago, when Ms. Devine launched the first incarnation of Froose (then called Fruice) as a test market experiment. The beverage tested so well that demand outpaced supply and subsequently taught Ms. Devine the importance of proper positioning and having a concrete marketing strategy. Ms. Devine said the situation prompted her to pull the beverage, tinker with the name (to eliminate the implication of Fruice equating with “juice”) and, most importantly, put a solid marketing plan into place that would enable the company to better handle a crush of orders.
The time away from the market also enabled Ms. Devine to update the formula so the beverage could be enjoyed by children with food sensitivities. “The beverage was originally formulated with oats and barley. I happened to have twin nephews who are autistic and one of the therapies is a gluten-free diet,” she said. More research led her to replace the oats and barley with brown rice. “It’s got all the benefits of grain, but now the beverage is also gluten-free.”
In addition to being formulated with organic whole fruits and nutritive complex carbohydrate sweeteners (100% fruit concentrates and organic brown rice syrup), the beverages also contain inulin. Ms. Devine said the inulin is an excellent soluble fiber option that works well with the insoluble fibers derived from the brown rice. “There’s also been some research indicating that inulin helps the body to absorb calcium,” she noted.
But even with the new formula in tow, the question begs to be asked: how does one create a smooth, palatable beverage when one of the primary ingredients is whole grains? “The texture/flavor perception goes hand in hand,” said Ms. Devine, who added that Froose’s texture is like a juicy fruit smoothie. “If something’s grittier, you perceive a stronger flavor than if it’s a smoother, thinner texture. The beauty of our texture is helpful for our flavor profile.”
The company now has a secure web ordering system in place, and has obtained local distribution in Acme Markets, independent natural health food stores, and a brand new distribution agreement in the New England area. A shelf-stable four-pack of Froose—available in Cheerful Cherry, Perfect Pear and Playful Peach flavors—retails for between $2.59 and $2.79, which Ms. Devine said is comparable to 100% organic juice.
With all of the marketing and promotion puzzle pieces now falling into place, Ms. Devine said she’s finally able to take the next steps toward developing even more nutritional products for children. She said Froose is the first of many products her company plans to develop for kids ages one to six. The new products will also hinge on the technology Ms. Devine and her team developed to formulate Froose and will encompass gummi snacks, puddings, and other Grab and Grow snacks that are convenient, appropriately portion controlled and perfect for packing into little ones’ lunches.