While these drinks may fill a need, the common addition of sugar or corn syrup solids and omega-6 heavy vegetable oils can be a turnoff for modern parents, including Christina Andersson, whose chagrin with selection of follow-on formulas in the US prompted her to bring to market a better option with the launch earlier this year GROW Välling.
“There are a lot of toddler formulas and follow-on formulas on the market, but basically all of them have added sugar and I wanted to avoid sugar as much as possible, which is something that pediatricians recommend we limit,” she told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that välling traditionally does not have added sugars – relying instead of the natural sweetness of its oat base.
“Välling is a traditional food from Sweden that has been around for centuries and is used by over half of all children beginning when you are weening a baby or starting on solid food … and used all the way up to a child, like my brother, who drank it until he was 7 years old,” Andersson said. “It is a hybrid between a formula and a cereal that is part of the farming community in Sweden and was historically made from oats or whatever they had at home.”
Over the years, she said, manufacturers in Sweden refined the formula and fortified it with vitamins and minerals that children need to grow.
“It is known for its wonderful properties to help babies sleep through the night because it is a very filling drink that you have warm, and it is something very nutritious,” she explained.
A better-for-you välling
But while she extolled the virtues of the välling in Sweden, she said, she also recognized that it could be better. So, when she developed GROW Välling’s powdered drink mix for the US market she fortified the traditional oatmeal base with grass-fed whole milk powder, coconut oil, grass-fed bovine collagen, vitamins C and D, iron, calcium, magnesium and omega-3s from fish oil.
She also left out added sweeteners.
“Oats have a lot of good vitamins and minerals ... and can have a round, neutral taste,” but the cereal alone “is not the most nutritious option,” which is why Andersson said GROW Välling incorporates many of the ingredients that children need.
“We use a full fat grass-fed milk because we know that fat is good for babies, and we also know that the American diet is skewed towards a lot of oils high in omega-6s compared to omega-3s, which is why we added omega-3 and use coconut oil, which is rich in lauric acid – the fat you find in breast milk,” she said.
She further explained that the brand opted for bovine collagen as a protein source and added extra magnesium because they both “have calming effects and might be difficult for babies to get in their diet.”
With this context, GROW Välling’s tagline promises the Swedish nutrition mix will “soothe & nurture” babies, toddlers and beyond.
A growing brand for growing children
The brand currently is available only in the New York area where Andersson launched the company as well as a few select specialty stores in other cities, but Andersson has an ambitious growth strategy for the young brand.
In the coming weeks, she said, she intends to expand the product portfolio to include a flavored välling that will appeal to older children and which adults can use in smoothies and as a mix-in for other on-the-go meals, as well as a välling that is fortified with probiotics to support gut health and brain development.
She also says she hopes to expand the company’s footprint in the New York City region by first concentrating on the Swedish community, who are familiar with välling and can help spread the word so that come the Winter Fancy Food Show the brand will have a solid foundation from which to expand.
To succeed, Andersson recognizes that she must overcome substantial challenges, including educating Americans about the value of välling and how and when to use it. To this end, the company is undergoing a brand refresh, which will include a forthcoming new website and social media presence, as well as new packaging that better explains how to use the product and will keep it fresh longer.
“It can be a little confusing what välling is, but once parents understand it, I know they will want it and we will grow,” Andersson concluded.