Mom Made Foods: Everyone wants to feed their kids nutritous meals, but not everyone has time to cook them every night

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Heather Stouffer: 'Running a business is like a video game... Every year the problems get more expensive and come at you faster'
Heather Stouffer: 'Running a business is like a video game... Every year the problems get more expensive and come at you faster'

Related tags: High-fructose corn syrup, Nutrition, Food

If you visited Expo West, you probably noticed that a large number of the exhibitors were touting snacks or beverages. Frozen meals? Not so much. But while the world probably doesn’t need another nutrition bar or cold pressed juice brand, busy parents would definitely like more options when it comes to what to give their kids for dinner, says Mom Made Foods founder Heather Stouffer.

“Everyone wants to feed their kids nutritious meals,” ​says Stouffer - who began selling her home-made frozen mac & cheese and meatballs from a cooler at the local farmer’s market a decade ago and now supplies 5,000+ stores nationwide, from Whole Foods to Kroger – but if you’re working and you don’t have time to cook every evening, you can end up feeling guilty all the time.  

She adds: “I’m a working Mom with two kids and I was coming home wanting to put good healthy meals on the table but many evenings I just didn’t have the time to cook, so there was added guilt as I already felt guilty about not being there enough. There are definitely more options now than there were then, but still far fewer than there should be.”

As a result, despite the fact that the frozen cabinet is dominated by multinational brands, smaller, more nimble players – especially those using organic ingredients or building a brand around a clean-label positioning – are the ones driving the growth, and as such, are getting the ear of retail buyers, she says.

“Now some retailers dedicate whole doors to kids better for you frozen meals. We have a really loyal following, and we hear from some consumers that with a product like ours, if their kids like our product they will drive miles for it and even change their grocery store if it doesn’t carry our product.

"In the last two years we've grown over 200% and we're projecting doubling this year over last year, from a combination of new accounts and picking up more business with existing accounts."

Mom-Made-Foods-products

We’re not reinventing what kids eat

So what is the Mom Made brand all about?

It’s not about feeding your kids kale every night, but taking established favorites and making them “as healthy as we can​,” says Stouffer, who uses organic ingredients “when commercially available​,” adds fruits and vegetables for extra nutrition, uses only natural sweeteners (and sweetens her tomato sauce with carrot puree), avoids allergens, where possible, and uses non-GMO vegetables and dairy.

In turn she sources antibiotic-free meat, and avoids preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, bleached flour, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and MSG, and aims for “short, pronounceable lists of ingredients.”

 

cheesy-mac
Heather Stouffer: "Our cheesy mac is 100% organic, has three vegetables in it, and it has five times less sodium and far fewer calories than a boxed mac & cheese. It’s still mac & cheese, but a considerably healthier version."

We’re not reinventing what kids eat,” ​she says, “but we are reinventing the nutrition of what they are eating, so our cheesy mac is 100% organic, has three vegetables in it, and it has five times less sodium and far fewer calories than a boxed mac & cheese. It’s still mac & cheese, but a considerably healthier version.  

“We also think about making eating fun for children, so we like to make our meatballs bite-sized. I can still remember when I was a child my Mom leaning over me and my plate of meatballs and cutting them up.”

It’s still less than you’d pay for a meal at McDonald’s

Organic has always part of the brand’s DNA, but not all of the products are 100% organic, primarily because switching to organic meat would effectively price her out of the market right now, says Stouffer.

“It’s challenging as a small business; when we started we were buying one item by the pallet here and there, and you can’t lock in contracts. We’ve learned a lot over the past five years about which ingredients we need to forward buy on.”

When it comes to price, while the price of a Mom Made meal is $3.99-$5.99 – which is “still less than you’d pay for a meal at McDonald’s​,” she argues – if you charge much more than that, you could price yourself out of the market.

"Running a business is like a video game... Every year the problems get more expensive and come at you faster and they are brighter and flashing more brightly​.”

Heather Stouffer, founder, Mom Made Foods

Every year the problems get more expensive and come at you faster

So what keeps her awake at night at this stage of the business?

There’s always something​,” says Stouffer, who says she never expected to have to devote so much time to the financing side of the business, but is also spending a lot of time now thinking about new products and brand extensions ("the Mom Made brand could really apply to any category​").

Running a business is “like a video game,” ​she observes. “Every year the problems get more expensive and come at you faster and they are brighter and flashing more brightly​.”

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3 comments

Director of Marketing & PR

Posted by Barbara Kotsos,

Excellent article and wonderful products, Heather. I'm not surprised your company is doing so well, and I'm thrilled to see it!

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Thank you!

Posted by Sue Reninger,

Heather, thanks for sharing this article. As a new mom, I know -- meal time can we super overwhelming. So can figuring out what’s right, what’s not right and how to proceed amidst so much information! Appreciate your thoughts ...

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Time Management & Desire

Posted by Hugo Cabret,

Almost no one can not make the time to cook dinner. Mom and Dad CAN MAKE TIME if they so desire. They do not WANT to do it. Most folks can not be bothered to cook and use the "not enough time" excuse. This article is nothing more than a tiresome marketing scheme to hook more entitled, unambitious folks into buying pre-made foods.

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