While the packaged baby food category is evolving with more and more fresh options, there is still a major trend of 'blends', 'mashups', and 'mixes' that mask the flavor of the core ingredients, explained Rossi.
"I think they’re missing an opportunity to teach babies what sweet potato really tastes like, what carrot really tastes like," Rossi told FoodNavigator-USA.
The idea behind starting a fresh baby food company did not start until Rossi learned she was pregnant with her youngest son, now six-years-old, and prior to that she was on a very different career path.
"I have my degree in criminal justice and I was supposed to be a cop. The week I was supposed to get my degree we found out we were pregnant with our youngest son," she said.
After giving birth, Rossi spent a lot of time making her own baby food at home because there just weren't very many fresh options available at retail.
"It was a time consuming pain in the butt," she admits, which is what led to launching the brand the "Organums" roughly five years ago to provide parents with a fresh and convenient baby food option.
"The name was just wrong, and the packaging was just wrong," Rossi said. And with some guidance from a friend in the food industry Rossi decided to change the brand name.
"Instead of making 'tiny human food', I just became Tiny Human Food."
Rossi relaunched the brand at the Natural Products Expo West show last year with a new name and packaging (designed through a partnership with Warner Bros' animated Storks movie).
While in the style of Storks animated characters, the figures on Tiny Human Food aren't actual characters from the movie, giving the packaging longevity as the brand grows.
"I didn’t want recognizable characters, because it would’ve overpowered the brand," Rossi said.
Even more important was to represent diversity on the packaging, added Rossi.
"For me, representing color and diversity is massive and not just buzzwords."
Single-flavor focused products
The Tiny Human Food line contains six SKUs of HPP (high pressure processed) "single-flavor focused" organic baby food products: apple, sweet potato, carrots, green beans, pumpkin & banana, and carrots & apples.
Rossi explained that while each of the flavors contain a small amount of organic fruit juice, its inclusion is purely functional for the HPP process.
"With HPP you have to make sure that the pH is at a certain level and most of time you can’t achieve pH naturally with just vegetables [or fruit]," noted Rossi.
"You have to use organic juice to make sure the pH is where it’s supposed to be. Even with that being the case, I didn’t want it to be used as a sweetener, I wanted it to be used strictly just to make sure that we achieve the pH; I didn’t want to taste any sort of tartness, I didn’t want to taste anything that was too sweet."
Rossi added that the company is working on four more SKUs to round out its portfolio.
Distribution and the future of fresh baby food
According to Rossi, having conversations with retailers about the value of stocking fresh baby food has become easier over the past few years.
"Retailers are just now finally getting on board. It took them a long time to acknowledge this category, and that it’s not going anywhere," she said.
After exhibiting at Expo West last year, Tiny Human Food has gained distribution at natural retailer, Fresh Thyme's 77 locations where it appears in a cooler within the baby food aisle.
As a "solo act," Rossi has a list of goals and priorities to grow the Tiny Human Food brand.
"I do need to find additional investors," noted Rossi. "We’ve got to grow distribution. We’ve got to finalize the product expansion. We’d also like to have a stronger e-commerce presence."
The fresh baby food is taking off, so what's next for this category? Find out at FoodNavigator-USA's FOOD FOR KIDS summit this Nov. 18-20 in Chicago.