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Canada-based HPP baby food start-up Keen Bean exceeds Kickstarter goal

Adi Menayang

By Adi Menayang

19-Jun-2017
Last updated on 19-Jun-2017 at 16:31 GMT2017-06-19T16:31:08Z

Keen Bean, Canadian HPP baby food start-up, exceeds Kickstarter goal

Winnipeg-based Johnny and Jennifer Kien went through the hassle of making fresh baby food from scratch when their firstborn came along. The hard work inspired them to start a brand that would make it easier for other parents.

“We decided to do crowdfunding on Kickstarter—we did this to find dedicated fans and really validate the market,” Johnny told FoodNavigator-USA. With the project scheduled to end July 12, the company has raised $27,367 , more than the $25,000 goal, backed by 129 people.

The cold-pressed baby food category is still nascent but gaining attention. Other players in the market, such as US brands Once Upon a Farm and PureSpoon , have won distribution deals with major conventional retailers , some of which, such as Target and Kroger, have tested putting coolers right there in the baby food aisle .

Keen Bean founders Johnny and Jennifer Kien.

The Kiens are big proponents of high pressure processing (HPP), because it keeps nutrients that can be been deteriorated when heat is used to kill harmful microbes. The couple believes there is still plenty of room for growth within this category in its infancy. For one, “there’s no HPP baby food in Canada yet,” Jennifer said.

Focusing on iron-rich formulations

As a point of differentiation, the Kiens focused on Health Canada’s infant dietary recommendations by focusing on introducing iron-rich ingredients in its first line of products. Before 2012, Health Canada had recommended fruits and vegetables to infants, but today, the government recommends introducing iron-rich meats first .

“Before, [Health Canada] said you can do this with iron-fortified cereal, but we believed we can do better, we wanted iron from real food,” Jennifer said. That’s why they included the ‘Blueberry Chickeen’ flavor as one of their four debut varieties.

The other flavors include ‘I Want Guac,’ ‘Super Berry Keen,’ and ‘Vegan Babe.’ The Kiens first started developing their product at a food processing center in Alberta that has an HPP machine, but then decided to work with a co-packer in South California, near where they are sourcing their ingredients, “because organic is abundant in California, and for us, being from Canada, logistics and distribution is a challenge,” Johnny said.

“It didn’t make sense to ship organic all the way from California up here. When its closer and freshly packed, it equals more nutrients and a fresher product,” he added.

A government grant for R&D

With only a minimal amount of experience in the food industry (John founded a small-batch cold-press juice company, while Jennifer is in finance), the Kiens worked closely with a Canadian university to help research recipes and processing strategies.

“When we first started off, it was in our own kitchen, but when we got serious about it we worked with the University of Manitoba’s food department here,” Johnny said. Before the Kickstarter page was set up, the couple raised a friends and family round of funds, combined with their own money, to create the prototypes. They also received a grant from Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance program for R&D, Johnny added.

With enough backers on their Kickstarter page, the Kiens are keen to start negotiating with retailers once they fulfill all Kickstarer orders, slated for Q4 of 2017. “We’ll most likely be working with organic, natural, and specialty stores, but also big box,” said Johnny.

The Kiens are optimistic more retailers will get fridge units in their baby food aisle. In fact, as part of their sales pitch, they're offering to lease a refrigerator to retailers, Johnny said. Jennifer added: “It all goes back to wanting baby food that can’t be classified as a non-perishable item. We don’t think it should be sitting on shelves for years.”

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