According to the Association of UK Dietitians (BDA), cow’s milk allergy (CMA) affects 2-3% of infants and young children in the UK. CMA occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly reacts to proteins found in cow’s milk. Allergies in babies can be difficult to live with and treat. This life-threatening challenge is one that Amy Langfield, founder of Grow with Iris, faced when her daughter (Iris) was born with multiple severe allergies.
In the Food Founders Interview podcast, Amy explained how this experience led her to embark on a fascinating journey as the founder of a unique free-from and natural plant-based alternative. The story of Grow with Iris began with a simple yet profound motivation – to create a fortified, plant-based alternative growing-up drink that’s allergen-free and offers a nutritious alternative to dairy formula and milk.
Allergies in babies – potential dietary triggers
From infancy, Iris had developed severe, atopic eczema, which didn’t respond to steroid creams, leading Amy to investigate potential dietary triggers. With Iris being exclusively breastfed, Amy began to remove common food allergens from her diet.
As Amy prepared to return to full-time teaching, she sought guidance from her GP and was advised to try ‘any other formula’ for Iris. She had determined that cow’s milk (which most baby formulations are made from) was likely the cause and hoped to find a solution in a goat protein-based alternative. But after Iris took her first drop, her small face started to react.
After returning to her GP, Amy was confronted with a lengthy waiting list to test for allergies in babies. Determined to find a solution, she decided to consult a private paediatrician. The blood tests confirmed Iris’s allergies: milk, soya, banana, cherries, kiwis, strawberries, oats, and all nuts.
Rising to the challenge of food allergies in babies
A GP will usually prescribe a hypoallergenic alternative for babies diagnosed with a milk allergy. For Iris, this was an amino acid-based formula. While the product had all the necessary nutrients to support healthy growth, Amy felt disheartened by its synthetic nature and the distinctly non-clean label. Not only that, its taste was less than appealing.
Desperate to find a better alternative, she scoured the internet, eventually importing other options from the US, France, and Australia; however, the huge costs meant it was not financially sustainable. Amy reasoned that she couldn’t be alone in pursuing a delicious, free-from alternative to formula. With that in mind, she set out to create her own line of plant-based drinks and Grow with Iris was born.
From concept to prototype
Committed to transforming her vision into reality, Amy turned to Froghop for expert help with feasibility and the intricacies of navigating legal and regulatory challenges. This led to a prototype made from naturally derived, plant-based pea protein and other wholesome ingredients, ensuring a nutrient-rich, dairy-free, sustainable alternative for children with allergies. Drawing on the insights of experts in paediatrics, nutrition and labelling ensured that her product met industry standards and offered unparalleled quality and safety.
Grow with Iris was created to give parents a positive choice – with a no-nonsense label that provides the essential nutrition children need to grow. The products are proudly dairy-free, rigorously tested for allergens and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. All products are made without artificial colours and are paediatrician and nutritionist approved.
From strength to strength with innovation funding
Four years on, Grow With Iris has had a remarkable journey of research, product development, manufacturer searching and test batches with allergen parents and their offspring. Grow with Iris has grown from strength to strength through two rounds of Innovate UK funding via the ‘Sustainability in Innovation’ and ‘Women in Innovation’ initiatives. The team are now poised to launch their unique product line and has established a user-friendly web platform for direct consumer sales.