He explained to FoodNavigator-USA that since January when the startup expanded nationally to deliver to consumers’ doors everything they need to make organic meals from fresh whole ingredients for their babies and toddlers in minutes, it has shipped more than 250,000 meals and grown 50% month-over-month.
“The growth we have seen has been nuts … and has led to a pivotal moment for us because Raised Real went from being a project we were testing to see if people liked to going out and selling to as many parents as we can – and we are doing it and really loving it,” he said.
But a key component to this early and ongoing growth has been listening to what consumers and parents want and then delivering on it, rather than the more typical reverse of creating a product that a marketing team then shouts from the aisles at consumers to buy, Merea said.
“We are constantly talking to parents and our consumers – even if they cancel – to find out what they are looking for and what we can do better,” Merea said.
And what he has heard over and over again is that young parents today increasingly want to make their children’s food and are hesitant to buy packaged products – but they also don’t always have the time it takes to shop, wash, chop, steam and, for babies, puree each meal.
“Over 67% of parents want to make their own baby food today, and that number was just 10% in 2011,” Merea said, attributing the fast increase to millennials desire to control the sugar they feed their children and seeing the process as an extension of their “foodie lifestyles.”
However, more often than not, both parents work and they are “caught between this idea of wanting to cook but not having the time and then feeling guilty,” he said. “What they need is a time saver.”
Raised Real provides this by taking out some of this grunt work and reducing the planning process by delivering to subscribers perfectly portioned clear pouches of flash frozen fruits, vegetables and grains that are balanced for nutrition. Then all parents need to do is quickly steam, and depending on their child’s development, puree the blends.
“Everybody knows what it means and takes to make food for your kids, so the concept is super easy to understand, and there is nothing that can completely mimic that experience … but we are the closest thing to homemade food without having to go through all the steps every time,” Merea said.
“The whole process is familiar, but it just goes faster,” so parents still can prepare their children’s food, but in a fraction of the time, he added.
Raised Real has its finger on the pulse of what consumers want
Listening to its clients also prompted Raised Real to reformulate its recipes so that they could also be enjoyed as finger foods – a move that not only appeased parents but may have set the company on the course for a more diverse portfolio in coming years.
“One of the most revealing things that we have learned from our subscribers since we started this company, which was really supposed to be about making better-for-you baby food, was that a lot of our members stop doing purees really fast and they start introducing finger foods early on,” Merea said. “So, we adapted our recipes to ensure that each meal is great as finger foods as well. And now we see our customers stick around a longer time because they have the option of finger foods.”
The insight also is prompting the company to look at offering other plant-based foods for older children, including late stage toddlers and even pre-schoolers, Merea said.
“A lot of our members joined us when their kids were six, seven months old and now their kids are older and the parents want to stay with Raised Real. So they are asking for the next products,” Merea said.
He added the ability to have this dialogue with his subscribers is one of the benefits of selling direct to consumer, rather than at retail, that has allowed Raised Real to maintain such a strong consumer loyalty and retention rate.
“By being direct-to-consumer we have direct access to the consumer. We are in direct contact with our customers through email and text, and it lets them reach out directly to us with any problems they face,” he said.
Editor's Note: Learn more about the competitive baby food market as well as what parents are looking for to feed older children and teenagers at our inaugural FoodNavigator-USA FOOD FOR KIDS Summit in Chicago this fall. Get all the details and register HERE.