Parenthood often includes a lot of firsts…first steps, first words, and for the parent, it’s often the first time they start buying organic. As parents learn more about toxins in our food and environment, they are increasingly looking to organic as a way to protect their children.
“I switched my family to organic after discovering research connecting pesticides and GMOs to cancer. After already losing three members of my family to cancer, I wasn't messing around with the future of my kids,” says Leah Segedie, a mom of three, “mommy blogger” and the founder of Bookieboo, a network of over 7,000 bloggers with focused on promoting healthy lifestyles.
According to data from SPINS, sales of organic baby food has increased by 36% in the last year, topping the 30% growth in 2011, with total sales now reaching close to 300 million in the U.S. (not including Whole Foods). This burgeoning demand has led to a boom of innovation in the baby and kid categories with numerous ‘newborn’ companies and product lines debuting this spring at Natural Products Expo in California. Here are a few:
Little Duck Organics, founded by Zak Normandin, a 29-year-old father of three, recently launched a Non-GMO Verified, organic baby cereal called Mighty Oats, which features ancient grains Quinoa, Amaranth, Chia, Buckwheat, Millet and Oats—and comes in compostable individual serving packs which breakdown within 6 months.
What’s more, these 3-serving packs are held together by a compostable carton embedded with organic vegetable seeds which can be planted directly into your garden. “In addition to the environmental factor, our packaging is a fun way to engage children in healthy eating and teach them how their food grows," says Normandin.
Another innovation debuted at Expo West was from a Chilean company, Amara, which developed a freeze dried baby food, which is seven times lighter than jar or concentrate formats and locks in up to 50% more nutrients than typical baby food that is cooked, drained and processed. All you have to do is add water or breast milk into the tri-layer pouch, stir and serve.
“We are not selling you water. The weight of our food comes only from nutrient dense organic ingredients. And because we are not transporting water, there is a smaller carbon footprint as well,” says co-founder Jessica Sturzenegger.
The freeze-drying technique used by Amara preserves nutrients held in raw food and it looks, tastes, and smells like the real fruits and vegetables. Amara also incorporates local superfoods from Chile including antioxidant-packed maqui berry.
NuturMe creates single-serve packets of organic fruits and veggies using a quick dry method which flash cooks food for around 30 seconds and then gently drum dries it to protect nutrients. These packets can be mixed in a bowl with breast milk or water for infants or can be added to anything from pasta and yogurt to baked goods to provide a boost of organic nutrients for kids of any age.
At Expo West, NuturMe also launched an instant quinoa baby cereal as an alternative to rice cereal, as well as NuturMeal Blends, which offer fruit and veggie combinations, and Yum-a-Roo’s, a new line of bite-sized fruit and veggie combo snacks for toddlers.
A popular modern innovation
Another launch in the pouch category is Happy Baby’s Homestyle Meals featuring creative mixes like Basmati Rice, Coconut Milk & Carrot and Pumpkin & White Bean. Greek yogurt blends in the pouch have also been very popular, with lines introduced by both Plum and Happy Baby.
Baby Gourmet, the first to launch pouches in Canada, also recently came out with an organic whole grain baby cereal featuring oats and brown rice, which comes in a large-sized pouch with a re-sealable side spout for easy pouring.
And pouches are not just for kids any more—many athletes were confessing that they love the convenience of the baby food pouches too, so Happy Family recently launched Happy Squeeze, a fruit and veggie smoothie line for older kids and adults with a more sophisticated flavor profile and 100 calories or less.
The Next Phase of Growth: Ages 3 to 5. While baby food is booming, according to research from the Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) ‘Engaging the Next Wave of Organic Consumers’ report, the category of households in the U.S. that is most likely to be regularly purchasing organic with a strong understanding of the value proposition—are parents of children ages 3 to 5. Seventy-three percent of these households have bought organic in the past year. In households with newborns to 2-year olds, 66% have bought organic, but these younger, often more financially limited, parents are more likely to be classified as ‘temperates’—who see organic as more of a splurge.
Recognizing this area for growth, many baby food companies are now creating products for older kids, too. Plum recently launched Slam Dunx, a fruit and veggie dip with whole wheat dipping sticks. Happy Family created Happy Times—single serve snack packs ranging from crunchy Sunny Buddies, made with sunflower seed butter instead peanut butter, to Veggie Pals, a fruit and veggie gummy.
“As children grow, parents start dealing with illnesses and allergies and learn more about possible effects linked to pesticides,” says Maryellen Molyneaux, president of NMI. “The more parents learn, the more they see the value of organic.”