“Quinoa has been the centerpiece of our portfolio as a point of differentiation from the many rice- and wheat-based products,” that crowd the baby- and starter-food category, said CEO Caroline Freedman, adding, “We really honed in on quinoa as a healthier, more nutrient-dense alternative to those types of things that was also easy to digest.”
But, she explained, as more competitors began following NurturMe’s lead and embracing quinoa as a healthy ingredient for baby food and young children’s snacks, the company wanted to stay ahead of the pack.
To do so, NurturMe took the advice of Tyler Mayoras, principal at Advantage Capital, “to refine the direction that we want to head and how we want to grow” by “not limiting ourselves to only focusing on quinoa, but instead expanding to include other ingredients that offer the same values and attributes as it,” said Freedman.
These attributes include being gluten-free, easy to digest, nutrient dense and high in protein – all of which are met by several other ancient grains.
With this new roadmap, the company will launch in the fall a new line of Power Blends Purees that will combine exotic fruits, such as mango, guava and pineapple, with nutrient-rich vegetables and gluten-free ancient grains, including amaranth and quinoa.
These ingredients all “are naturally gentle on the tummy and support healthy growth; helping parents take the worry out of feeding their little ones, while also encouraging healthy eating habits from the very start,” said Cindy Young Vanhoutte, who handles media relations for NurturMe.
The launch also reinforces the company’s dedication to baby food in addition to toddler food. Briefly last year after the company used the launch of its Quinoa Squares, which were designed for toddlers but sold in the baby aisle, to test the waters of moving to toddlers and potentially older children. But ultimately, the company decided to stick with toddlers and younger, using the Power Blends launch to close the gap so that the overall portfolio covers first bites to toddlerhood and everywhere in between, Vanhoutte said.
“While the Quinoa Squares’ launch has been very successful and to date have exceeded our original forecast and expectations, we did learn that in conversations with buyers that it was going to be too difficult to make the crossover into a different category without first establishing ourselves in the baby segment,” Freedman explained.
She added: “We would have had to talk to different buyers and educate consumers in the baby, toddler and kid segments” at the same time, which was too much at once. “So we decided our next line extension would take us back to baby food and would be in the squeeze pouch, which is ubiquitous in the pureed baby food segment now,” she added.
In addition to helping NurturMe launch the new blends, the funds form Advantage Capital also will help the company meet increased distribution demand.
The company is expecting triple-digit year-over-year growth, after doubling its sales in the past two years, as well as to double its distribution in 2016, according to Vanhoutte. She added by the end of the year, NurturMe baby and toddler foods will be available in more than 5,000 stores nationally, including Babies “R” Us, buybuy BABY, Whole Foods Market and Safeway.
The partnership with ACAP goes beyond growing sales and launching new products. It also advances both halves’ missions, which complement one another.
ACAP is $154.5 million fund licensed by the US Department of Agriculture that aims to provide capital, small business investment and quality jobs to rural America, which NurturMe does through its headquarters 15 minutes outside of Austin, Texas.
But beyond just meeting this basic criterion, “one of the main reasons [ACAP] chose NurturMe for the investment is NurturMe’s dedication to social and environmental responsibility.”
The company does this in part by purchasing Fair Trade organic quinoa from local cooperatives instead of large farms in Latin America and it donates a portion of its proceeds to support the health, education and other basic needs in the rural areas where its organic quinoa is sourced through its NurturNinos program.
The company also was a good fit for the fund because it is a female-owned business and within the “good for you” food category, Vanhoutte said.