The three trailblazing brands picked by the FOOD FOR KIDS team and the editorial staff at FoodNavigator-USA to take center stage on the opening night (November 12) of the FoodNavigator-USA FOOD FOR KIDS summit in Chicago this year are: Raised Real (direct to consumer babyfood), KidsLuv (juice infused waters with vitamins and minerals), and Nom Noms World Food (ready-to-eat meals inspired by global cuisine).
The eight runners up – who also wowed us with their innovative products – are:
- Square Baby
- Sargent Foods (Rockin’ola granola)
- Little Roots
- Keen Bean Organics
- Lil Mixins
- Matt n’ Mikes
- Tiny Human Food
Our three trailblazers will be invited to present live on stage to three industry experts after our consumer panel on the opening night of FOOD FOR KIDS (Nov 12-14) – a three-day conference shining a spotlight on the companies, large and small – that are doing most to drive innovation and champion change in the kids’ food market.
There they will get feedback on their products, packaging and strategy, plus the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from the panel and from the FoodNavigator-USA community.
The panel (pictured below, left to right):
- Matt Cohen, founder and CEO, Kidfresh
- Blake Mitchell, principal, Interact
- Barb Stuckey, president and chief innovation officer, Mattson
The three trailblazers will receive:
- A place on the FOOD FOR KIDS program: participation in the trailblazer session
- Access to the full program including all presentations and networking sessions
- Accommodation at The W Chicago (November 12 & 13)
- Coverage in FoodNavigator-USA
- Video interviews with the FoodNavigator-USA editorial team.
- Inclusion in the 2018 FOOD FOR KIDS video.
- 50% discount on registration for colleagues (standard registration, does not include accommodation)
- The eight runners up will receive a 50% discount on their registration (not including accommodation).
TRAILBLAZER: Nom Noms World Food, cofounder, Lisa Sohanpal
Think cheese pizza, chicken nuggets and mac & cheese are the only options on the kids’ menu? Think again, says Canada-based Nom Noms World Food, which is on a mission to introduce kids in multiple markets to fresh prepared meals and wraps that “take tiny tastebuds to 13 exotic destinations around the world” and is gearing up for a US launch.
Purchased fresh or frozen, each box contains a ‘passport’ to the country of the cuisine's origin featuring fun facts designed to generate dinner conversation, says cofounder Lisa Sohanpal. “Later, our efforts will include virtual reality. Buy our Moroccan Tangine and take a camel ride to the Moroccan Dessert.”
Aiming to inspire young consumers in “world culture, cuisine and charity through the magic of storytelling that is communicated within the packaging,” for every meal purchased, a hungry school child is provided a hot nutritious lunch in India.
While being a good corporate citizen is critical for any emerging brand, these days, however, notes COO Wayne Lutomski, you also have to get the basics right: “Start with the product first: does it fulfill a want or need? Does it deliver quality and consistently good taste? Is it packaged well and marketed in a compelling way? Do you engage the consumer? If you can do this you will win. If you can layer on the B-Corp, etc all the better.”
TRAILBLAZER: Raised Real, CEO and cofounder, Santiago Merea
“No one should have to choose between convenience (or having the time) and quality,” says Santiago Merea at Raised Real, one of a new wave of direct to consumer businesses in the infant and toddler food arena.
“That’s why we had to start from scratch and re-invent baby and toddler foods. Parents are not interested in ‘better for you’ products for their kids, they demand ‘good for you.’ We are parents too, we understand how important this is. It is very personal.”
A direct to consumer, ready-made, meal service for infants and toddlers, Raised Real’s plant-based meals are delivered frozen in pre-portioned, ready to steam packages and made with superfood ingredients sourced from organic and sustainable farms, says Merea. “We curate a box that is perfect for your family, ship it to your home, and in five minutes you can have a healthy meal ready for your kid.
“As the fastest growing subscription based kid's food company delivering nationally, Raised Real's flexible food system is winning with busy parents that are searching for healthy food options for their children that grow with them.”
Understanding your customers’ pain points is critical for any food business, says Merea, who was in charge of responding to every customer ticket for the first 6-8 months of the company’s life. “I still do some of that and will keep on doing that for as long as I am CEO. It is the only way to keep an honest connection with the customer.”
But perhaps the most important thing for any food brand – especially one feeding babies and toddlers – is trust, he says: “One of the advantages of being a direct-to-consumer company is that you can nurture this trust. This is one of the most overlooked benefits of being direct-to-consumer. When you own the experience from start to finish, you can make sure that at every step of the way you are generating trust. And sometimes this starts even before you make contact with a prospective customer (or member).
“For example, when we do [customer] acquisition, we lean on moms and dads to do the heavy lifting for us. We spend money on this, we prepare them, and give them the resources to succeed, but we leave the content and final recommendation up to them. Why? Because mom-to-mom is way more trustworthy as an intro than an ad or copy coming directly from us. We also get to know our members in depth and we can use this data to generate trust in a proactive way.”
TRAILBLAZER: KidsLuv, founder and CEO Ashi Jelinek
A blend of water, coconut water, essential vitamins and minerals, and natural flavors, KidsLuv “is the better-for-you juice alternative that skips the harmful sugars while adding essential vitamins to your kids’ diets,” says founder and CEO Ashi Jelinek.
“From day one, the brand has always been closely tied to my own founder’s story - a mother of two, shopping for innovative and healthy options for my family. It is this story and experience that has informed my product development, branding strategy and go-to-market plans.
“The lack I found in the market inspired me to create something for myself and other families alike. But it is also the relatable and personal thread that attracts consumers to our brand and drives interest in wanting to try our product. I understand the needs of the market as I am not only the founder but I am also the consumer. I know the struggles other families are facing in finding authentic, healthy products. That’s why I created KidsLuv.”
FOOD FOR KIDS: What are you feeding yours?
At FOOD FOR KIDS – held in Chicago’s W Hotel - we will open with a lively parents’ panel exploring the day-to-day challenges around cooking and shopping for kids, and then take a deep dive into the market, the marketing, the branding, the nutrition science (what kids are actually eating, vs what they probably should be eating), food allergies, and the infant microbiome.
We’ll also delve into the latest brand innovations targeting every life stage, from the new wave of HPP baby food brands to Paleo meat snacks for tweens, healthy lunchbox snack trends, low-and zero sugar beverages, clean label trends, and new direct-to-consumer distribution models.
Finally we'll explore what children are eating outside the home, whether we need a 'kids' menu' at restaurants, and how companies targeting schools and quick service restaurants are finding ways to develop healthier foods that meet tight budgets and evolving nutrition standards, but also appeal to kids.
Find out more and register HERE to join us at FOOD FOR KIDS, which is sponsored by Cargill, DSM, Ardent Mills, Beneo, The National Dairy Council, Sabinsa, The A2 Milk Company, and Peatos.