“We are really excited to bring quinoa alternatives to the category of kids’ snacks” with the July launch of Quinoa Squares, which is possible in part because of funding from EcoEnterprises Fund, said Caroline Freedman, Co-Founder and CEO of NurturMe.
She explained the Quinoa Squares will mark company’s first real crossover into older children’s snacks from the existing portfolio, which concentrates primarily on babies and toddlers with its line of dry organic quinoa baby cereals, powdered NurturMeals with dried fruits and veggies and dry blended meals – all to which parents can add breast milk or water to make a thick porridge that is easy for small children to eat. The company’s Yum-A-Roo’s Snacks are the closest product to snacks for older children that the company sells, but as puffed cereal with freeze dried fruits and vegetables that dissolves easily, it still is aimed primarily at small children as an introductory food.
By broadening the consumer base with a larger array of quinoa snacks, NurturMe also will be able to secure its advantageous position as first mover in the quinoa baby and children’s food category, Freedman said, noting that many other introductory snacks are made with corn or rice and do not offer the same level of nutrition or protein as the quinoa-based products.
The squares, like all of NurturMe’s products, are organic and non-GMO. Most of the products, but not all, also are gluten free. The squares will be sold online first as the company is still negotiating retail partnerships, Freedman said.
Funding social change
The investment from EcoEnterprises Fund also will allow NurturMe to advance its social and environmental mission to support sustainable agriculture and the farming communities that produce the quinoa used in its children’s products.
As part of the fundraising process, NurturMe will participate in the NurturNinos program, by twice annually giving 1% of its gross proceeds from the firm’s quinoa products to support the health, education and other basic needs in the farming communities and surrounding areas where its organic quinoa is sourced, Freedman said. She added that quinoa is in half of the firm’s products currently.
The idea for NurturNinos came to Freedman’s business partner and NurturMe’s co-founder Lauren de la Rosa when she visited the quinoa farmers in Peru with representatives from the EcoEnterprises Fund, Freedman said. The firm’s supplier also helped make the giving program a reality, she added.
The giving program is in addition to NurturMe’s existing efforts to promote sustainability in the region where its quinoa is sourced, including purchasing Fair Trade organic quinoa from local cooperatives instead of the large farms in the region, Freedman said.
These social and agriculture-based values attracted EcoEnterprises Fund, which invests in community-based sustainable companies that address pressing environmental and social challenges, according to the fund. NurturMe’s values also align with The Nature Conservancy, which founded the EcoEnterprises Fund before it became an independent investment manager in 2010.
A solid investment
In addition to the shared values, EcoEnterprises says it invested in NurturMe because the baby-food manufacturer has demonstrated fast growth potential, according to an announcement about the partnership.
Since launching its line of organic quinoa cereals – the first of its kind – for babies in 2014, the company has tripled its distribution to 1,700 stores nationwide at the end of 2014, and it anticipates doubling that again this year, Freedman said. She noted the products are available in five Whole Foods Markets’ regions, Babies ‘R’ Us, BuyBuy Baby and select natural and specialty stores.
The bump in distribution also likely will help the firm meet its goal of doubling sales in 2015, according to the announcement.