Founded as a subscription-based direct-to-consumer brand delivering fresh baby food purées for busy parents, Yumi has expanded into adjacent areas of puffs, bites, and bars, growing by 20x in the process (from 2019-2022).
The lessons gained from its three years of operating as a DTC brand - attracting over $88m in total funding from high-profile industry investors along the way - has positioned the company well for retail success, Yumi co-founder and president Evelyn Rusli told FoodNavigator-USA.
"Going direct-to-consumer is a great way to start and build a brand, but ultimately you want to be where your families and consumers are," added Rusli.
"For us when we thought about building and scaling Yumi, it was always part of the plan to go omnichannel."
While Yumi has built a close-knit community of families through its online site, which puts together customized menus for families based on their child's specific nutritional needs and developmental stage, entering retail will give the brand access to a whole new pool of consumers who are looking for healthier options in the toddler snacking set.
And choosing Target as its first retail partner was a no-brainer as the retailer provides a solid launching point for many brands, according to Rusli.
"Target has an incredible track record when it comes to bringing brands into retail and building them... which is why you see so many brands start at Target," she said, noting that unlike other traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores, Target has become a destination for many families who are more open to discovery when inside the store.
"When you’re going to Target, it’s not just about picking up the essentials, it’s learning about the latest and greatest in a new category."
In terms of merchandising, the brand will occupy four feet of retail space in Target stores with a fully dedicated aisle end cap and in-store merchandising in key doors.
Expanding the toddler snacking set
For its entry into retail, Yumi will be selling two toddler snack bars exclusive to Target containing nine superfood veggies, 13 essential nutrients, and zero grams of added sugar available available in three flavors: strawberry & rhubarb, blueberry & purple carrot, and apple cinnamon & squash.
Target will also be selling Yumi's other new product line, rice-free meltable puffs in apple & broccoli, and strawberry basil, and apple cinnamon & squash.
"We wanted to create a set of products that parents could feel good about because parents understand that every bite really does matter," said Rusli.
"I think snacks sometimes get relegated to being seen as empty calories or just a distraction tool," she added, noting how each of its products were developed with an eye towards addressing the most common nutritional deficiencies among children in the US. For instance, each Yumi bar contains nearly one-third of the daily recommended intake of iron.
'Snacks sometimes get relegated to being seen as empty calories or just a distraction tool'
Asked how the past few years have shaped family eating habits and how the company is responding to those shifts in consumer behavior, Rusli said, "Families today are far more informed than past generations," adding that discussions around heavy metals in baby food have become as commonplace as concerns around added sugar and essential vitamins and minerals.
To give parents further peace of mind, Yumi received the Clean Label Project's Purity Award, which tests for over 400 contaminants including heavy metals and other toxins in baby food.
"We want to empower parents with information and give them convenient snack time options where they don’t have to worry or be concerned about the way it was made. We as an industry have to take those steps because parents are stressed enough," she said.
Looking further ahead to its full retail roadmap, Rusli added that rolling out its full line of products to brick-and-mortar stores such as its baby food purées could be on the table but that the company is most focused on testing the waters with Target for its initial retail launch.
"It’s part of the larger plan to eventually bring all of the different categories into brick and mortar," added Rusli.