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Beech-Nut CEO: Our real food platform is THE place to be with Millennial moms

By Stephen DANIELLS , 11-Mar-2014
Last updated on 11-Mar-2014 at 15:54 GMT

Beech-Nut CEO: Our real food platform is THE place to be with Millennial moms

Baby food producer Beech-Nut is launching a new range of foods to restart the declining ‘tired and dated’ baby food category, with the products co-created with moms, says the company’s CEO.

From corn, black bean & amaranth to spinach, zucchini & quinoa, the company is launching a range of 40 fresh new flavors to kick start a decline sector.

The new line is already confirmed to be sold at retailers like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Meijer and Publix, and contains only real, whole fruits and vegetables, sometimes paired with ancient grains or beans, said Jeff Boutelle, President and CEO of Amsterdam, NY-based Beech-Nut.

“We use a special just gentle cooking process that makes our food for babies closest to homemade,” he said.

The products will retail for $1.09 for a 4.25 ounce glass jar, which compares very favorably with the average $1.50 for a pouch of organic baby food, he said.

“Forty items is just the starting point,” said Boutelle. “This platform is the place to be with Millennial moms.”

Tired & dated

The baby food category is valued at a whopping $1.4 billion, which includes purees, snacks, and cereals. Purees alone are valued at around $900 million, said Boutelle. Despite these impressive figures, the sector has been in decline in recent years, he added, with the category historically dominated by 4 ounce jars, all of which are the same shape.

“There is a perception of excessive water, over processing and over cooking, which leads more moms to make it at home themselves.”

“It’s been like this for 60 to 80 years,” he said. “There have been no changes. It’s tired and dated.” Beech-Nut should know – the company has a long history in baby food, with 75 years of experience.

Decline

While the introduction of baby food in pouches has brought some growth back to the category, Boutelle said that we are now seeing pouches level off.

The baby food category is valued at a whopping $1.4 billion

Overall, the baby food category is in decline, he said, with consumption of baby food decreasing, with moms leaving the category, explained Boutelle. Some have out this down to falling birthrates, but that only accounts for some of the loss, he said. “Fewer ounces of baby food are being purchased per baby. The birth rate accounts for 25% of the drop. The other 75% of the drop is linked to moms moving to home-made food.”

The company talked to Millennial moms and listened to what they had to say, he added. “For moms, home-made is the gold standard. It takes time and know-how, but that’s the best.”

The company found that between 33 and 38% of the baby food consumed is home-made, said Andy Dahlen, VP of marketing and sales for Beech-Nut. “One third of moms said that half of their baby’s food is home-made.”

“Moms want to control what their babies are eating. Foods like avocado are being used in every home, but you don’t find avocado in baby food, for example.”

New range

At last week’s Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Boutelle and Dahlen showed FoodNavigator-USA the company’s new range that features nothing but pureed baby food.

The company identified the best cooking technology in Italy, churning out vibrant batches of marinara sauce, and has adapted this to make baby food as close to homemade through a gentle cooking process.

The vast majority of ingredients are being sourced in the US, they said, with a good number sourced in New York State. The range also features specific varieties of fruit, including honey crisp apple.

The company is now investing a lot to get the products into the hands of moms, said Dahlen. 

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