“There’s no reason why babies shouldn’t be introduced to savory flavors separate from sweet flavors,” founder of Fresh Bellies Saskia Sorrosa told FoodNavigator-USA.
Born and raised in Ecuador, Sorrosa said that she grew up with bold seasoning, and wanted the same for her children. “Bland food is just not part of my vocabulary where I grew up, I wanted bold seasoning, and I couldn’t find that! I wanted garlic, and onion,” she added.
She wanted her first daughter to have the same relationship she had with food, and was especially inspired by the book First Bite by Bee Wilson, which included studies on how people learn to eat.
Sorrosa became a firm proponent of introducing babies and young children to as many flavors as possible, so she, at the time working as VP of consumer segment marketing for the National Basketball Association, plunged into what she jokingly called a second job, “coming home and making her meals for the week, and planning her menus.”
Adding variety to the HPP baby food marketplace
Soon enough, Sorrosa went from moonlighting as her daughter’s personal chef to taking it on full-time, realizing how time-consuming preparing baby food from scratch could be for parents around the country.
“There wasn’t really anything on the shelf that offered the type of food I grew up with, or the type of food I would want to introduce my girls to so that they could grow to be healthy, adventurous eaters,” she said. She founded Fresh Bellies in 2015 to fill that market void.
The flavors now on the market include three vegetable varieties (Broccoli Ever After, We Got the Beet, Cauliflower Dreamin’) and two fruit ones (Apple of My Eye and A Pearfect Pair). Aside from not mixing fruits with vegetables, another point of differentiation in the HPP baby food category is that Fresh Bellies uses cooked vegetables instead of just blanched or raw.
“We add a unique flavor profile to our products by cooking it with various methods—we’ll sauté with a little bit of olive oil, and we’ll roast certain ingredients,” she said. “It’s cooked in a flavorful way to add dimension, and then it’s high pressure pasteurized to extend our shelf-life.”
Reaction: ‘I never thought of that!’
Sorrosa sees her target audience as Millennial parents, and parents who generally make their own baby food but want to supplement their baby’s diet and take a break from this demanding work. She added that many parents took for granted the fact that most, prepared baby food are sweet, or at least tinged with sweetness.
“We do a lot of demos at stores, and have found that the reaction from consumers is not usually ‘oh, will my baby eat garlic?’ but more ‘oh, why hasn’t this been offered before!?’” she said.
“We’re taking advantage of this new wave of recommendations from the pediatric community of using real flavor.”
Not really about the HPP or refrigeration
Fresh Bellies started out at farmers’ markets sold in glass jars. Today, the products come in plastic containers free of PVC and BPA, with spoons embedded in the lid.
The New York-based brand has distribution deals in the Northeast region of the US and can be found in many independent stores in the New York-Connecticut-New Jersey area, where it is usually placed in the general dairy cooler area next to dairy targeted for children. In two weeks, the products are slated to launch in ShopRite, a major retailer in the region.
“One of the things we’ve heard over the last year is there’s significant growth in the HPP and refrigerated baby food category,” she said. “We think that that part of our product, that it’s HPP, refrigerated, preservative-free and fresh, is secondary—the core of our product is really introducing babies to flavor.”
Hence, the company’s tagline ‘Palates in Training.’