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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Up, One Down in Organic Baby Foods


The emerging organic frozen baby food market lost one player and gained another in 2010. Yummy Spoonfuls, launched a few years ago in Marietta, Ga., by Agatha Achindu, has expanded from the South to several key markets in the Northeast. Sadly, Petite Palate, an early player in the category, has gone out of business.

Yummy Spoonfuls is now available in the New York area in Dean & Deluca food stores and Food Emporium supermarkets and through Haddon House, a New Jersey food distributor. Yummy Spoonfuls also exhibited for the first time at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston in October.

Butternut Squash is one of the
Stage 1 "Creamy Yummy"
products from Yummy Spoonfulls.

Achindu says 2010 was “an incredible year for Yummy Spoonfuls. Going to Boston in October for Expo East took us to a whole new level. The product is really catching on in the Northeast, and that’s a huge market for us. My hope is that Yummy Spoonfuls can support parents in giving children the best start in life.”

Achindu started the company in 2006 when she was expecting her first child. She began to explore healthy baby food options and found that baby foods labeled “organic” had expiration dates of up to two years. She notes this meant that in many cases, babies were eating food items that were older than they were.

So she created the Yummy Spoonfuls line of 23 all-organic products. The products are divided into three phases: Creamy Yummy (Stage 1), Mushy Yummy (Stage 2) and Chunky Yummy (Stage 3).

Creamy Yummy is designed for babies age 6 to 9 months. The consistency of the Creamy Yummy products is soft in texture and gentle on babies’ immature digestive systems. Product offerings include peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, papaya, broccoli and pears. Mushy Yummy is for infants age 9 to 12 months and features a more eclectic pairing of foods for a baby’s developing palate. The combinations include potato and broccoli, carrot and parsnip, sweet potato and broccoli, and blueberry and millet cereal, among others. Chunky Yummy is for children age 12 months and older and includes flavors like lentil and carrot porridge and a rice medley.

Sweet Potato Broccoli is a "Mushy Yummy"
(Stage 2) item for infants 9 to 12 months.

Petite Palate was also launched in 2006 by Lisa Beels, a personal chef, and Christine Naylor, a cookbook publicist. The business did well for the first two years and was just one of a handful of frozen food products to get space in Zabar’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Its distribution included and about 100 food stores and supermarkets in the Northeast and Midwest. However, plans for expansion—they were hoping to raise $2.5 million to $5 million—were thwarted when the economy when sour and potential investors backed off.

Petite Palate folded in October 2010. Beels told the New York Times in a story about start-up companies that have gone out of business that she and Naylor should have been more open to producing shelf-stable products along with their frozen organic line of baby foods. “It took us a long time to acknowledge that and by then we were in debt and couldn’t support the company,” she told the Times.

Beels has since launched Haute Palate, a personal chef business.

TFFG SAYS: I have fond memories of working with Lisa and Christine when I was editor of Frozen Food Age. I was invited to an event held in Lisa’s high-rise condo tower on the West Side of Manhattan where she and Christine were gathering potential investors. The event was originally planned for the rooftop garden of the building, but high winds forced the event to be moved to her apartment on a very high floor, which commanded amazing views of the Hudson River to the west and Manhattan to the north. It was great to see this trained chef and young mom in action. It was quite an event with her two kids, husband and the family cat all on hand along with Christine and her husband and the potential investors, other guests and press (me).

She was right about the need to expand the product line as two of the early players in the frozen organic baby food category, Happy Baby and Tasty Baby, have done just that, and another start-up, Plum Organics, was acquired by the Nest Collective which, according to Nutrition Business Journal, plans to amass a suite of healthy, organic and nutritional products for kids.

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