Over the past decade, there have been numerous highly publicized incidents of contaminated baby formula in China, the birth country of WutsupBaby’s founder Kaiser Pan.
“When I came to the US and started to think about becoming a father, I felt that it was important to create a baby food product that people in both Asia and the United States could trust,” Pan said. Self-funded, he founded WutsupBaby with his wife Sheryl Tsao in 2010 in California, where the two of them attended university.
“I was not yet a father when we started the company, but I knew parenthood was on the horizon and felt compelled to create a product that would be versatile enough to gain traction in both my homeland and the US,” he added.
Selling quinoa baby food in China vs. the US
WutsupBaby’s organic instant quinoa cereal comes in four varieties: Plain, apple and banana, carrot, and cherry. “Our cereals are made with simple organic ingredients: quinoa and, if it’s flavored, corresponding fruit flavors,” Pan said. Based on their ingredients list, the flavored varieties contain the corresponding organic fruit in powder form.
Products are manufactured in the US, and though the company launched in both the US and China at the same time, the founders ended up focusing more on the Asian market first. “We had to first educate the consumer on quinoa before we could tap into our audience there,” he said.
“We have had success selling these products in retail and online stores [in Asia]. We recently exhibited at the CBME show in Shanghai, China, which is the largest baby-focused expo in China. We are currently working with a few overseas buyers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Korea. We even have buyers who are currently selling our products in local stores in Cambodia.”
According to Pan, the marketing strategy and target demographic had to be tailored differently for the operations in China versus in the US. “In Asian countries, we focus on a younger audience (ages 25-45), while we have a wider range for the US market (25-65),” he said. “The reason we focus on a younger audience in Asia is that quinoa is still new and is more easily accepted by a younger, more health-conscious generation.”
Prepping for US sales
The couple wanted to make sure brand awareness is widespread enough by dipping their toes before they take the plunge into the US market. On this side of the Pacific, the team is focusing on starting through e-commerce and smaller co-ops. “Our hope is that from there, we will have success getting into retail locations,” Pan said.
“When it comes to reaching consumers directly, our organic quinoa cereals will be featured in the subscription-based Bluum box in October and Kub Klub box after the first of the year,” he added. “Additionally, we'll be available through Direct Eats and Amazon Prime within the next couple of weeks. We are also in the final stages of setting up our account with Buyer’s Best Friend.”
In addition, the team is also supporting community charities such as Good+ Foundation’s Halloween Bash this coming October in the Los Angeles area, a fundraising event benefiting anti-poverty programs.
And with multiple better-for-you baby brands launching, competition in the category may be fierce (WutsupBaby isn’t the first brand to launch a quinoa-based baby product).
“We know there has been tremendous growth in organics in the baby food category and know the consumer is consistently looking for brands that are ‘free from’ rather than ‘including.’ For this reason, we feel our product has a unique advantage in its purity of ingredients,” Pan said.