Meryl Levin, a Manhattan mom of three, made her own baby food when her first child was born. But after two more little ones came along, it became more challenging to find the time to prep and cook meals by herself.
“I would arrive at mealtime with three starving children, and nothing prepared,” Levin told SN.
So she decided to give Petit Organics a try. The service delivers homemade organic and non-GMO certified baby food to residences, preschools, daycare centers and businesses. It operates in New York, Chicago and Indianapolis, with new markets in development.
Each $48 (which includes delivery) “Petit Pack” includes nine, 4-ounce containers of zucchini, apples, carrots, pears, beets and other purees and two-blend baby food that is handmade and packaged less than 24 hours before delivery. Packed in containers that are BPA- and Phthalate-free and 100% recyclable, the food stays fresh for four days, including day of delivery. Customers can purchase one pack at a time, or sign up for a subscription.
“Seeing those bright colorful containers when I open the fridge makes me happy, and it alleviates all my guilt about not making my own fresh baby food,” said Levin, who supplements with Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen baby food jars and pouches.
Levin is one of a growing number of urban moms using homemade baby food delivery services, a trend that made the “100 Things to Watch in 2014” list by marketing communications firm JWT, New York. Other homemade baby food delivery companies include Farm to Baby, Shoogies and Junior’s Fresh.
Petit Organics’ kitchen is at capacity, producing 1,500 containers per production day, according to founder Michelle Muller-Marinis, a mom of three boys, ages 6, 4 and 2. The company is searching for larger space so that it can accommodate more orders.
The time is right for homemade baby food delivery services because the modern parent is asking questions like “Where is my food coming from?” “What is in my food?” “How was it produced?” said Muller-Marinis.
“Not everyone has the time or know-how to make their own food, so services like Petit Organics help take the thought process out of feeding their children the best possible food,” she said.
Baby food bundles
Junior’s Fresh, whose territory covers Manhattan and Brooklyn, has grown from fresh fruit and vegetable purees to a full line of meal and snack options for babies just starting on solids, through to 5-year-old children. Junior’s sources seasonal menus primarily from local farmers at New York City’s greenmarkets.
Junior’s customers can buy any quantity they want, starting with a five-meal half “bundle,” or sign up for a weekly subscription.
Selections include a $32.95 “bundle” of nine, four-ounce baby purees, and a $58.95 bundle of nine toddler meals. Junior’s employees deliver orders via industrial tricycle or subway.
“We cater to busy working families who want to have time to spend with family rather than in the kitchen,” said Junior’s CMO Hunter Hoffmann.
One Manhattan mom tried Junior’s 18 months ago when her best friend gave her a gift certificate.
“We were just introducing my son to his first solids, and he didn’t seem to be enjoying any of the purees I was making for him,” said Lysa, who did not want her last name used.
Her son loved Junior’s purees so much that Lysa kept ordering from the service once her son graduated into toddler foods.
“We knew we were getting fresh, organic ingredients, and that the food was made with love,” she said.
All Junior’s meals are prepared in a certificated commercial kitchen in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
Both Petit Organics and Junior’s are developing lines for retail distribution.
Homemade baby food delivery is a natural at a time when online subscription programs have taken off for diapers, razor blades and other products, said retail consultant Bill Bishop, chief architect at research firm Brick Meets Click, Barrington, Ill.
“If you use a product routinely, and someone provides it for you conveniently and at a good price, it’s hard not to go for the proposition because it simplifies your life,” Bishop said.
To cater to moms who prefer homemade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently enhanced the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to allow eligible mothers of infants 9-11 months old to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables instead of baby food with a cash-value voucher. WIC provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods for low-income pregnant and breastfeeding moms. The option is left up to individual state WIC agencies.
The popularity of homemade food also prompted Beech-Nut to launch a new line of homemade-inspired foods. Marketed with the tag line “This is not baby food. This is real food for babies,” the 100% natural line features real fruits and vegetables, with no excess water, artificial additives or preservatives. It rolled out April 1.
Incorporating “superfoods” like pomegranates and quinoa, all food is cooked by indirect heat similar to a double boiler so that none of the flavors or nutrients gets watered down. The result is food with enhanced texture, color and flavor, according to Jeff Boutelle, president of Beech-Nut Nutrition.
The line was developed after Beech-Nut research showed that baby food sales were declining due to moms leaving the category and making their own food.
“Millennial moms won’t give their babies something they wouldn’t eat themselves,” Boutelle told SN.
The regular Beech-Nut will remain on the shelves, though in smaller quantities.
Other baby food companies are also catering to today’s selective moms. Gerber, for instance, has launched unique combinations like banana, acai and granola; pear, pomegranate with mixed grains; and organic chicken and carrot ravioli in tomato sauce. It also relaunched Gerber Graduates Lil’ Entrées products with recipes inspired by culinary chefs and current food trends.
The homemade baby food trend is having an impact on retail sales. But there are plenty of moms who can’t afford homemade delivery, or prefer the variety of store-bought foods.
Among the ways retailers can get baby foods in front of moms:
• Secondary displays in areas like the produce department cater to moms who make their own food, but supplement with store-bought items.
• Endcap displays merchandised with colorful baby food jars and packages serve as a visual reminder of the category.
• Floor talkers draw moms to the baby food aisle.
Once in the baby food aisle, trial is incited by brand blocking purees by stage, beginning with stage 1, says Beach-Nut Nutrition Co. Retailers should also:
• Shelve pouches vertically adjacent to purees because it’s easier for consumers to shop by package type.
• Group organic products together.
• Shelve toddler foods at the end of the section as an introduction to solid foods.
• Shelve toddler snacks above meals to stimulate purchases by usage occasion.
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