As an online-only, direct-to-consumer brand, the one-and-a-half-year-old company has the privilege of communicating directly with engaged customers, co-founder and chief product officer at Little Spoon Angela Vranich told us.
The company’s website places its nutritionists front and center, and it offers parents and buyers a 24/7 messaging service which they can use with any nutrition questions, which has been a critical part of the company’s R&D process.
“The first step was talk to customers and find out what do they want, what are the problems they’re trying to solve for,” she said. “We surveyed our customers and narrowed it down to a set of SKUs we wanted to come out with.”
One popular question was how to address constipation in babies and toddlers. “Our customers were telling us that nothing on the market was addressing this,” chief marketing officer and co-founder Lisa Barnett said.
Another concern was iron deficiency. “We had people coming to us saying their doctor told them to be cognizant of a potential iron deficiency, but the only options out there were little droppers that contain iron, administered by mouth. But that’s an annoying experience for a parent and baby— it can taste like metal, and be hard to get down.”
As a supplement to the company’s line of fresh and organic baby food purees, the Boosters, which launched three weeks ago, were Little Spoon’s way of addressing gaps in the market for health goals as well as delivery formats.
The first four Booster products were inspired by this feedback. ‘Poopie Power’ is a pre- and probiotic blend with prunes to help with constipation, while ‘Gut Feeling’ is a daily probiotic for general gut and immune health. Then there’s ‘Wiz Kid,’ with iron, omega-3 DHA, and vitamin E to aid with brain development, and ‘Sniffle Shield,’ which contains elderberry, zinc, and vitamins to support the immune system.
To formulate the products, the team worked with its council of pediatric nutritionists and a San Francisco-based lab that focuses on the first 1,000 days.
“The idea is that the first 1,000 days is the most important and critical for setting a solid foundation for growth. They helped us make sure the products were safe and effective for babies,” Vranich said.
In February this year, the company raised $7 million during a funding round backed by venture funds Vaultier7 and Kairos. Other prominent investors included Chobani founding member Kyle O'Brien, Tinder founders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, Interplay Ventures, SoGal Ventures, and the fund affiliated with the owners of the San Francisco 49ers.
To date, it has sent more than 1 million baby meals. For the boosters, Barnett didn’t share specific numbers but said that the product is ‘taking off.’
There are 15 full-time employees working at Little Spoon, including Barnett, Vranich, and two other co-founders—CEO Ben Lewis and chief experience officer Michelle Mulller.
What makes Little Spoon stand out of the infant nutrition crowd, Barnett said, was that it was tailored to a newer generation of parents.
“Up to 90% of all new parents today come from the millennial generation, and this is the same generation that’s driven billion dollar disruption in many other consumer categories," she said. "Little Spoon’s mission is to build a modern brand for childhood nutrition and wellness.”
That explains the company’s decision to be online-only. Millennial parents are more likely to gravitate towards freshly made baby food instead of shelf-stable purees, and the company’s business model allows for that.
It also drove the decision to make powder boosters instead of fortifying existing blends with the nutrients the powder supplements offer, Vranich added.
“Each baby is unique, some babies might need more iron, some might not. We wanted to make it convenient for our customers.”
Interested in what we feed babies and toddlers? Checkout our 'What's next for baby food?' panel debate at FoodNavigator-USA's 2019 FOOD FOR KIDS summit in Chicago November 18-20.