For nearly seven years, NuturMe promoted its baby and toddler products as different from competitors because it used as a base ingredient quinoa, which company co-founder and CEO Caroline Freedman argued was more nutritional and easier to digest than other commonly-used ingredients such as rice.
But all that began to change last year under the guidance of the investment firm Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners, which advised NuturMe to expand beyond quinoa as an a single selling point, and instead focus on its attributes that consumers love, including that it is gluten-free, nutrient-dense, packed with protein and easily digestible, Freedman told FoodNavigator-USA.
“By using those attributes as our new guideposts for product development, we decided to evolve the line by removing major allergens,” including gluten, soy, dairy and egg, that can irritate small stomachs, and add probiotics to most of the products to become the “first-ever ‘Tummy Friendly’ meals and snacks in the baby aisle,” Freedman said.
By making these changes and trademarking “Tummy Friendly,” Freedman explained parents could rest assure that its products would not include ingredients that commonly cause irritability. The changes also gave the company a much more compelling story to tell retailers, she added.
“In the past, we would hear from buyers that they got that our quinoa products were unique and doing well, but we would also hear, ‘What is to keep a competitor from creating something similar? You don’t have intellectual protection over being a quinoa focused brand,’” Freedman said.
Their point was validated when competitors started to enter the space with quinoa-based products for young children, she added.
“But now, we can go in front of buyers and say, ‘No one else can say that they are allergen free for these four common allergens and no one else is using probiotics the same way we are across our line. And that Tummy Friendly positioning is really compelling” and makes it easier for retailers to say yes, Freedman said.
As a result, NuturMe is debuting its new gluten-free Tummy Friendly baby foods and toddler snacks at select Targets nationwide this month, and expects to more than double its top-line sales in 2017 with club store showcases at Costco and launches at Kroger stores nationwide later this fall, Feedman said.
Retailers want consistent growth, capital
Freedman also attributed NuturMe’s ability to change the mind of a major retailers and secure space on their shelves to “the fact we have been around seven years and we continue to get capital and every time we get in front of these buyers, we have a growth story.”
To support her point, Freedman noted that NuturMe reached 127% year-over-year growth in the second quarter, and secured $2 million in follow-on investment from ACAP, which invested an initial $4 million in the company last year.
“A lot of times these accounts, such as Kroger and Target, won’t take you in until you have proof of concept behind you,” and our growth and ongoing investments illustrate NuturMe does, she added.
New product development
Freedman said much of ACAP’s initial $4 million investment in NuturMe last year went to helping the company “through the exercise of becoming the Tummy Friendly brand, which involved reformulating certain products and repackaging all of our items so that these [Tummy Friendly and probiotic] callouts were included.”
But it also allowed the company to create a new line of ancient grain cookies with probiotics for kids.
“The ancient grain cookies are really an extension of our strategy to evolve beyond quinoa by blending other ancient grains, including sorghum, millet and amaranth that all provide a healthy base for a snack that tends to be unhealthy,” Freedman said.
She also noted that going forward the company will continue to innovate new products and even jump to other “family friendly” categories.
“We finally feel poised and it’s the right time to make that leap outside of baby,” she said, explaining, “for several years we just wanted to focus on seeing traction and building a consumer base and brand awareness in the baby category … but we have a grown to a level now where I think we have that foundation” along with additional funds to help support the expansion, she said.
Freedman didn’t share many details about the expansion, but said that all the new products will be based on the same pillars as the existing ones, will be tummy friendly and be available starting next year.