The rise of baby food delivery30 Jan 2022
Direct-to-consumer baby food companies promise to deliver nutritious, clean label food products that are tailored to babies’ developmental needs straight to busy mums’ doors, and investors are eyeing the category with interest.
In April 2020, the baby meal category grew by 153% at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as parents, fearing indefinite lockdowns, stocked up on infant nutrition products, according to ResearchandMarkets.
“There has also been rising demand for organic baby foods as consumers are more concerned about ensuring their children have access to healthy foods that can help boost their personal immunity,” says the research company. “All of this has led to a rising interest in baby meal delivery services like Yumi and Little Spoon which provide a weekly menu of freshly prepared meals suitable for babies and toddlers.”
Yumi raised $67 million in a Series B round in December last year while Little Spoon, which delivered one million meals in the US in its first year in business, closed $44 million in a Series B round in 2021.
Conventional products were ‘high in fruit sugar & low in nutrition’
Many players in the space started out as small companies founded by new mothers who struggled to find in supermarkets the clean label, healthy products they wanted to feed their babies, while finding themselves too time-strapped to cook from scratch.
US brand Yumi was co-founded by former private equity executive Angela Sutherland and former Wall Street Journal reporter Evelyn Rusli. When Sutherland became pregnant with her first child, she began to research infant nutrition and learnt about the impact of specific nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and healthy fats, on a child’s neural, physical, and future metabolic health.
However, packaged baby food available at the supermarket was dominated by “shelf-stable options with years-long expiration dates that were high in fruit sugars and low in nutrition”, says Yumi.
UK brand Mamamade, whose fresh frozen meals were created by nutritionists and include raspberry, coconut & spirulina porridge or sweet potato, blueberry & white bean puree, was also founded by new mother, Sophie Baron.
“[The company] came to life when I started introducing solids to my daughter Liba,” Baron says. “I wanted her to have the very best - everything home-cooked, organic, plant-based, flavourful and healthy - but the reality was that I struggled to keep up with the pace of mealtimes on top of milk feeds. I was desperate for help that didn't include breaking open the seal of a store-bought puree.”
Tailored nutrition for each developmental stage
To reassure new parents about the nutrition quality of the products, many D2C baby food start-ups team up with registered nutritionists and even medical professionals to determine babies’ nutritional needs at each growing stage and identify the foods that can provide the required nutrients.
According to Rick Miller, food and drink associate director for specialised nutrition at Mintel, all areas of specialised nutrition have enjoyed a rise in growth in recent years, including infant nutrition for early life as consumers look to food to improve their holistic health and wellbeing in the wake of COVID-19.
Yumi, whose board of advisors includes Josette Sheeran, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, and Dr Anthony Porto, associate chief of paediatric gastroenterology at Yale University and co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, creates meals and snacks for the various stages of the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life.
For instance, it says that babies are born with stores of iron, essential for growth and development but these naturally deplete at around six months. It therefore adds whole food ingredients that are naturally rich in iron in its range of products aimed at six-month olds.
Clean label ingredient list a must
Clean label ingredient lists and specialised nutrition are key attributes for products in this category with common claims including organic, free from added sugar, free from major allergens and preservative-free.
New York company Little Spoon, which manufactures and delivers chilled fresh organic baby food, says its products are free from preservatives or extreme heat.
Yumi tells its consumers that they may find natural variations in the texture, flavour, and appearance of the products they receive. Since it tries to retain as much fibre as possible, consumers may be able to see white fibre from mango or cranberry skins, while its purees also tend to be thicker than other CPG baby foods, it says.