San Francisco-based Raised Real – which makes pre-portioned, flash-frozen, ready to steam meals in finger food form, so parents can decide whether to serve them as they are, or puree them – was contacted by Reed (whose baby was a huge fan), said co-founder and CEO Santiago Merea.
“I didn’t want a traditional celebrity endorsement type of deal, which felt a little bit old school, so we sat down and talked and I realized that Nikki could bring so much to the table. She’s an entrepreneur [Reed founded lifestyle brand Bayou with Love], and a great marketer, she knows how to navigate the media, and she gets it - the struggles, the timelines. So I asked her if she would be part of the advisory board [Reed has also invested in the company].
“It’s so important to have smart people around you that have done this before, as it can be pretty lonely being a CEO [other Raised Real advisors include Birchbox cofounder Mollie Chen, Glossier cofounder Nick Axelrod, former Vitaminwater and Pirate's Booty executive Chris Pruneda, and former TaskRabbit VP of marketing, Jamie Viggiano].”
We’re not necessarily competing with pouches
While there is a tendency to compare any online food subscription business to high-profile meal kit brands, which have struggled to retain customers, Raised Real is "just a completely different kind of product,” said Merea, who was one of three winners of FoodNavigator-USA’s 2018 trailblazers competition.
“The average Raised Real member orders over 110 meals, and that’s the average, so that’s very different from a meal kit company... and that figure includes people that try one meal and don't order again, and six-month-old babies who eat one meal across a couple of sittings [which bring the average down].
"Blue Apron is great for entertaining, and it’s a nice to have. Baby food is different. When you find something that works, there’s no reason to change it, so our numbers right off the bat look better.”
As for the competitive set, Raised Real is not really competing with pouches, he said: “I think people think ‘pouches = baby food,’ but that’s not true. We’re not necessarily going after the pouch, we’re going after meal time and homemade.”
Raised Real subscribers can choose 12 meals for $65.88 ($5.49/meal), or 24 meals for $119.76 ($4.99 per meal), and can cancel or change the frequency of their meals at any time.
They can set ingredient preferences (and tell the firm what ingredients not to include), access the brand’s ‘Real Hotline,’ where they can text questions on nutrition, food, or anything else; gain exclusive discounts from partners such as ezpz; and receive “little surprises from time to time.”
The service - which supplies food frozen - is available throughout the United States, except for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Meal examples include:
- Peas + Zucchini with hemp hearts, basil, and avocado oil;
- Chickpeas + Tahini with cauliflower and turmeric;
- Broccoli + Green Beans with chickpeas, flaxseed, and avocado oil;
- Spinach + Banana with quinoa, chia, and coconut butter;
- Beet + Sweet Potato with date, cinnamon, and coconut butter;
- Blueberry + Beet with navy beans, ginger and coconut butter.
Millennial moms have an omni-channel mindset
Asked whether Raised Real is planning a move into retail, Merea said, “Retail is on our horizon, we don’t think our company will be [exclusively] direct to consumer forever, it’s important to be omni-channel these days, it’s just about being where your customer is.”
Millennial parents, meanwhile, don’t think in terms of channels when they are researching baby food options, he said, they are just looking for brands that meet their needs, and expect to be able to buy them online if that’s what they want.
“There are new parents entering the market every day, and when they reach the six month mark, they start actively seeking the best options and going on google to research brands. Millennial Moms already live in an omni-channel mindset.”
Fresh vs frozen baby food
While refrigerated baby food is a growing trend in retail and subscription services, Raised Real frozen food is arguably fresher, says Merea, because the veggies are flash frozen at their peak freshness and go straight in the freezer when they arrive at your door, so if plans change, you haven’t got to worry about wasting food.
“From a supply chain perspective frozen is easier than fresh too, we can keep inventory for longer without compromising quality. With fresh, the clock is ticking from day one.”
Schwan’s has been an amazing partner
Raised Real has raised just over $7m to date, and counts frozen food giant Schwan’s as its lead investor, said Merea.
“Schwan’s has been an amazing partner. They opened up their company for us, we can talk to anyone. Frozen has a tricky supply chain and we wouldn’t have got to where we are without people knowing that we are backed by Schwan’s.”
Asked whether he had reservations about getting into bed with a big CPG company, he said: “Some people warn you about taking money from a big CPG, saying, well if they are not interested [in increasing their stake or buying the whole company] later on, that means other investors will pass on you. Well that’s true... so you better build something that they [the big CPG company] want!”
If you step back and consider the question for a moment, however, it’s a strange one, he said: “If you’re killing it and you’re a great company making a great product, then they should want you and everybody else should too. If you’re operating on the assumption that you’re not going to be that interesting, then why are you even in business?
“If your lead [VC] investor doesn’t invest again, what do you think happens? It’s the same problem. I think VCs sometimes warn you against CPGs because they are now competition for them.”
Can you train your kids to love broccoli?
Find out at FoodNavigator-USA’s FOOD FOR KIDS summit in Chicago November 18-20, where delegates can hear from Dr Catherine Forestell, associate professor, at the department of psychological sciences at William & Mary, who will explore when and how children’s flavor preferences are developed, why children prefer or dislike certain foods, and whether we can shift these hardwired preferences through early sensory experience.
You can also learn more about product testing with Curion and others in our new panel session: Yuck or Yum: Product testing with kids.