Hawaii-based vegan milk maker PlantBaby has announced the closure of a $4 million seed funding round. It was led by Big Idea Ventures and with participation from The Fund LA, Two Culture Cap, Springbank Collective and Western Technology Investment and notable private investors including actor Daniella Monet and Athletic Greens president and COO Kat Cole. The investment will be used to support ongoing R&D into existing and future lines.
PlantBaby launched its first product in December. Kiki Milk is a drink specifically designed for children, made using whole and superfoods. It was developed in partnership with paediatrician Dr Joel Warsh and nutritionist Vicki Kobliner. No new products have been confirmed or speculated on to date.
Founded out of a personal need for baby milk alternatives
PlantBaby co-founders Lauren and Alex Abelin identified a gap in eth market for safe plant-based foods for children after their own son needed specialist nutrition. Looking for vegan, soy-free infant formula proved unsatisfying, resulting in the two choosing to launch their own brand. The couple state that they are looking to accommodate the 40 percent of children who have health conditions that are not supported by nutritional products already on the market.
“Since launching just six months ago, we’ve seen constant consumer demand,” Alex Abelin, co-founder of PlantBaby said in a statement. “This fundraising round will support continued research and development of new plant-based culinary innovations and continued growth of the brand to make PlantBaby itself a vehicle to create positive change for children’s health and well-being of children everywhere.”
The growing demand for vegan baby nutrition
An increasing demand for vegan and organic infant nutrition has been identified. The overall baby food sector is expected to grow by $17.66 billion between 2021 and 2026, driven in large part, by the demand for alternative products. The market is expected to prove increasingly competitive, as plant-based and cell-cultured startups seek to offer alternatives to conventional formula products. Securing significant funding now will allow PlantBaby to compete.
“We are thrilled to support the great work being done by Lauren, Alex, and the rest of the PlantBaby team,” Tom Mastrobuoni, chief investment officer for Big Idea Ventures said in a statement. “The non-dairy space is highly competitive, but the PlantBaby team has created a unique product that features cleaner label ingredients and appeals to the most precious consumers of all, our children.”
PlantBaby claims to negate refined sugars, preservatives, protein isolates, gums and GMO ingredients in favour of whole food options. Organic oats, hemp seeds and coconuts are confirmed ingredients, alongside superfood plants, blueberries and spinach. To date, Kiki Milk has been released in original and chocolate formats.
Preparing plant-based babies for adulthood
Australia’s Sprout Organic announced that it has partnered with Amazon to make access to its plant-based infant formula as accessible as possible. The startup has also acknowledged the critical baby formula shortage being experienced in the U.S. It is working with the FDA and Austrade to try and speed up market entry and give more parents access to animal-free formula products. Made from pea and rice protein, Sprout’s formula is cited as being free of all major eight allergens and a potential option for parents of children with soy issues and dairy intolerances.
Earlier this year baby food giant Gerber unveiled its new carbon-neutral vegan toddler range. It came after the company made a pledge in 2021 to look at more ways to make its products earth-positive. The range includes pouches, snacks and meals and has been eyed as a sign that plant-based demand is rising at a significant rate. Gerber remains the largest baby food company by virtue of annual sales and was bought by Nestlé, a formula giant in its own right, in 2007.
All images by PlantBaby, unless stated.