“There are about 4 million babies born in the US every year, and 2 million of those are born directly in the WIC program,” which covers the cost of a set number of ounces of baby food per month, but only if it comes in a jar – not a pouch, Happy Family CEO Anne Laraway told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that WIC will not cover the cost of pouched baby food because it is considered “too premium,” or “excessively expensive” at roughly about $1.79 per pouch compared to approximately $1.29 per jar.
While the move to jars from clear pouches incurred some additional costs for Happy Family, Laraway said the expansion was important to the company because it furthers its mission to change the trajectory of children’s health through nutrition. It also allows Happy Family to reach a portion of the population it could not previously serve, she noted.
“A big thing for us is that all millennial moms, no matter whether they qualify for WIC or not, want variety. They want the top quality organic products. And we felt there was really a need for us to join this, and to be part of giving these moms what they are really looking for in the baby food category,” Laraway said.
She explained the new Clearly Crafted jars follow the same simple recipes as the company’s Clearly Crafted pouches and have the same amount of food – but at a lower price point – making them more accessible to more caregivers. Like the clear pouches, the jars allow caregivers to see what is inside and also detail on the back of the package exactly how much of each ingredient is in the jar and from where it is sourced.
Packaging the product in jars helped Happy Family overcome a major hurdle to gaining WIC coverage – but other barriers remain, including many state-run WIC programs do not pay for organic baby food options, which again are viewed as more premium and expensive, Laraway said.
Of the states that do cover organic baby food, five already have approved Happy Family’s Clearly Crafted jars, including Florida, Minnesota, West Virginia, Texas and Vermont.
Laraway notes that Happy Family is working aggressively to expand coverage of the jars by other state’s WIC programs.
“We are currently approved in about 20% of the WIC organic market, but basically it is a state-by-state process where you have to present your product line to each state. It is a lot of paperwork, and you need to tell your story … and show how your product line resonates with moms,” Laraway said.
She explained that as other states prepare to review what is covered by their WIC programs, Happy Family will be ready to make its case for why it should be included and available to women in the program. At the same time, Laraway said, Happy Family will make the case for why WIC should pay the higher price for organic baby food – and hopefully expand the reach of WIC on that forefront as well.
“A couple of years ago, WIC began covering organic produce … which was a huge step, and we really think that organic will continue to gain traction in the coming years,” she said.
Jars expand Happy Family’s appeal beyond WIC
While many aspects of the expansion are altruistic, the new jars also represent a significant business opportunity for Happy Family, Laraway noted.
“It is an opportunity for growth because we care reaching half of the babies in the US that we were not able to reach in the past,” she said.
The extension also will appeal to parents who are not in the WIC program but who prefer the “more intimate” feeding method that comes from using jars instead of pouches, Laraway said.
The use of pouches have come under fire recently by some child development specialists who say that giving children self-feeding pouches limits their interaction with the food – inhibiting their ability to smell, touch and fully experience the products because they are squeezed directly into their mouths.
Beyond the expansion into jars, Laraway says Happy Family will continue to innovate and expand in coming years and looks forward to building more relationships with new parents.
Happy Family's VP of innovation Regina Lee Fechter will be joining Little Dish, Once Upon a Farm and Nurture Life in a panel debate exploring where the baby food market is heading on day two of the FoodNavigator-USA FOOD FOR KIDS summit in Chicago November 12-14.
Find out more about the summit and checkout our latest speaker line up HERE.