There’s sourdough bread, wholemeal bread, rye bread, and so much more. But have you heard of sprouted bread?
To explain, sprouted bread is a type of bread made from whole grains that have been allowed to sprout before being milled into flour. This sprouting process involves soaking the grains in water until they germinate.
The health-conscious Malaysians out there definitely would’ve heard of it, but I myself only recently came across it through Rainbows Sprouted, which is one of the top (if not only) commercial sprouted bread brands you’ll find in Malaysia.
But for John Tan, Rainbows Sprouted’s co-founder and director of sales and marketing, sprouted bread is something he’s known about for a very long time.
“I am from Penang, and this bread is very popular there,” he explained.
From what we can find online, it does seems that sprouted bread in Malaysia was popularised in Penang, specifically by a missionary woman.
The story sprouts here
Also called Essene bread and Ezekial bread depending on the variation, sprouted bread has a long history, with records of it in the Bible.
But in Malaysia, its popularisation may very well be dated back to the 1970s.
We learnt that the missionary was was the wife of a manager at a Penang hospital, and she had conducted some vegetarian cooking classes for the public in the 70s.
It was there that she revealed her recipe for ‘enriched’ wholemeal bread.
The bread gained popularity, especially amongst health-conscious individuals. To cope with the demand, the hospital began production of the wholemeal bread, eventually leading to the formation of a hospital bakery.
Apparently, some of the bakers were even employed by other bakeries in order to acquire their knowledge on the bread, which may have contributed to the popularity of sprouted bread in the area.
But how did this recipe end up being used by Rainbows Sprouted?
A blooming business
Around 2015, John and his business partner Low Chin Leong received an opportunity to take over a hospital bakery’s factory in KL.
An old friend of his who had been working in the bakery got in touch with John, explaining that they wanted to dispose of the operation because the company was too short-staffed.
With a diploma in business management, John had been working in the soft furnishings and general hotel supplies industry. Meanwhile, Low is a civil engineer who worked on the structural repair and maintenance of buildings.
At first, they rejected the offer, the reason being they had zero experience in baking. But after failing to sell off the business, the friend approached John and Low again.
“After some discussion, we decided to make a day trip to Penang to see what offer they can make to us,” he shared. “Along our journey, we saw so many rainbows. Rainbows are signs of blessing and goodness.”
Like a premonition, John and Low were given a good offer for the company, along with good support from the principal company to help them gain industry know-how.
The principal company, of course, was the hospital bakery
At first, they operated under their branding. But things changed four years ago, after some agreement changes with the principal.
“They want us to produce the breads with our own label as they received lot of enquiries to them, and bread supply is not their core business,” John explained.
And that’s how the Rainbows Sprouted brand name came to be. Despite the change in name, though, the bread formulations remain the same. Plus, the change also came with an added advantage.
“With our in-house brand, we can develop more items such as gluten-free breads, butterloaf, sprouted pizza base, sprouted burger bun, and more,” John shared. “We started supplying custom-made order items to educational institutions too.”
It kneads care and attention
The sprouting process can be tedious, though. For one, the sprouting must be done in a controlled environment, thus requiring a lot of care.
The whole journey begins with the sprouting process of grains and seeds. From there, the sprouts are harvested then grounded.
“We used them as our main raw materials,” John said. “No bleached wheat flour is used.”
John also clarified that nothing synthetic is used, such as added vitamins or minerals. All the nutrients in the breads are from the process of sprouting.
The result is a bread that is not quite white, but instead brownish and a bit coarser due to the natural fibre from the seeds and wheat.
As such, Rainbows Sprouted’s primary audience are health-conscious individuals, especially those who may have diabetes or high blood pressure.
With its factory in Puncak Alam, Rainbows Sprouted makes around 50,000 loaves every month.
Rising to the occasion
On the topic of competition, John proudly shared, “Business competition is always there, but we are proud to say that for sprouted bread (not just using sprouted flour) or sprouted cinnamon breads, we are one of the top producers in Malaysia.”
While Rainbows Sprouted is a top name that pops up when searching for sprouted bread in Malaysia, the brand isn’t just competing in a niche pool of sprouted bread—it’s competing with major brands like Gardenia and Massimo for a share of the market.
Meanwhile, Rainbows Sprouted’s The Original Sprouted 7-Grains Bread starts at RM9.50 for 450g.
But that’s the price that some will be willing to pay. As John explained, their target demographic is not necessarily the masses, but health-conscious individuals who understand the value of the bread. The bread is also halal-certified so the brand can serve all Malaysians.
Today, Rainbows Sprouted is available in major retailers like Aeon, Jaya Grocer, Vilage Grocer, Lotus’s, as well as convenience stores like Bilabila Mart, selected 7-Elevens, and other organic shops.
Going down the rainbow road
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, Rainbows Sprouted didn’t just survive, but in fact, thrived. Last year, the team was able to move into a new and improved facility.
With upped capacity, John shared that the team has goals to capture a bigger market.
To do so, Rainbows Sprouted is looking to add new products to their catalogue to capture a younger generation.
On top of that, they’re hoping to expand into neighbouring countries such as Singapore or Thailand.
Despite setting their sights on bigger and better things, though, the core of Rainbows Sprouted to produce healthy, quality sprouted bread remains unchanged.
- Learn more about Rainbows Sprouted here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Rainbows Sprouted