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Amara Organic Foods: We’re pioneering a new category in baby food

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By Elaine Watson+

Last updated on 25-Aug-2017 at 18:53 GMT2017-08-25T18:53:18Z

Amara Organic Foods: We’re creating a new category in baby food

Innovation in the baby food aisle has come in waves. First came jars, then shelf stable pouches, and most recently a new generation of HPP (high pressure processed) refrigerated brands carving out a premium niche in the category. But could freeze-drying and other techniques open up another – more affordable - sub-segment?

HPP-treated brands such as Once Upon a Farm and PureSpoon meet the needs of parents suspicious of the nutrient quality of baby food sold in jars and pouches owing to the high temperatures the products endure to ensure food safety, says Amara Organic Foods cofounder Jessica Sturzenegger.

But what if you could deliver some of the same benefits in a shelf-stable product with a 12-18-month shelf life at a lower price point?

HPP brands have helped educate the market

Pouches of Amara organic baby food - which can be rehydrated by adding breast milk or water –  retail at around the same price as a Plum Organics pouch, said Sturzenegger, who says feedback from both consumers and retailers has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We want to be the first choice after homemade for Moms.

“I think because we had an innovative product that was genuinely new, retailers were very interested, but also with HPP products entering the market, we’ve benefited because these brands had already done a lot of work educating people about the drawbacks of traditional jars and pouches and some retailers such as Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres have positioned us next to refrigerated [HPP] brands such as Once Upon a Farm in separate sections on the shelf, which obviously gives us both great exposure.

“In other retailers such as Whole Foods, we’re just in the regular shelf-stable baby set by the pouches, and Once Upon a Farm is in the yogurt section, so it just depends on the retailer.”

Amara products in store next to HPP brand Once Upon a Farm

It’s easy to use on the go

Amara products are made on the west coast using a proprietary, nutrient-preserving process involving "freeze drying and other methods," said Sturzenegger, who says feedback from both consumers and retailers has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Moms are used to mixing formula and take to mixing very easily, so the fact you have to add water or breast milk doesn’t bother people. It’s easy to use on the go, as well.

"Some Moms take a bowl and a spoon with them and mix it up that way, but you can also just add some breast milk or some water to the packet, stir it in the pack and spoon it out straight from the pack. Once people try it they see that it has the same smell, taste and texture as homemade.”

As for terminology, as most consumers don’t get freeze drying – or HPP for that matter Sturzenegger says the best way to talk about the products has been to avoid talking and technology.

We started off being really techy, and you’d see their eyes glaze over, now we say we start with the fruits and vegetables and take out the water so they are shelf stable, and then we get the A-ha! from moms, they say, ‘Oh, it’s just the fruits and the vegetables without the water?’ There’s no additives, no preservatives, it’s a very simple product.

"Each recipe was specifically designed by our PhD in nutrition , Doctor Sonia Schiess, for infants."

Moms have also become advocates for the brand online via social media channels, she said. “We did a lot of cold calling and emailing to bloggers and influencers, and some of them come back and say give me $5,000 and I’ll talk about it, but others say, that’s a really cool idea and they try it and love it and put the word out.”

Options include: Oats & berries, Tropical mango, Potato and kale mash; Nanana; and Apple macqui berry

To date, Amara Organic Foods  - co-founded by Jessica Sturzenegger, Cristian Boada and Vicki Johnson - has been funded by the Start Up Chile   incubator, an angel investor with a PhD in nutrition (Sonia Schiess) who specialized in baby food, and a Series A round from a family office. 

Going deep before going wide

The products, which are currently available in around 400 stores in California, Nevada and Utah primarily in the natural channel (customers include Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres), will roll out nationwide in 2018 following deals with major conventional food retailers, which should really put the brand on the map, she told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We’ve been very focused about being strong in our own backyard before we went everywhere. We worked with some mentors who told us make sure you guys are really strong regionally before you go national, don’t overextend.

“We’ve also found that some Moms really like buying through our website, and also because our product is so light, we’ve got advantages over other baby food brands in that we’re not shipping water.”

Amara Baby Food Preparation from Amara Baby Food on Vimeo.

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