One of the best things about writing Julia's Child was interviewing all of the real life women who have started organic kids' food companies. I learned so much from them, and came to admire their risk taking and fortitude. Jennifer Broe of Baby Gourmet shared a taste of her story with me, and I gobbled up every word.
When her daughter was six months old, Jennifer Broe made all her food at home. She used simple ingredients of very high quality—and the results were heads above anything she could find in the store. “The food in the jars was sub-par. I would never eat it myself. How could I feel good about feeding it to my daughter?”
Broe quickly identified that there was a big hole in the market, but she needed to do her research. Her first step was to put in an application at a thriving Calgary farmers’ market. Even though there were 300 applicants ahead of her, Broe was quickly given a stall. “There wasn’t anyone making fresh baby food in Calgary.”
She spent three weeks putting the recipes together. Her original product was a frozen one. “I used ice cube trays,” she says.
Immediately business was so good that she couldn’t keep up with the demand. She rented space in a commercial kitchen, and put in special freezers. On the weekends, she sold food at the market. At the end of her two year stint, she was selling an eye popping $30,000 CAD in baby food each month. Sometimes, she sold baby food while her second child helped out from his infant carrier on her front.
Then Broe took a big risk. She discontinued her market sales. She did more research, and spent three years reformulating her product into a shelf stable pouch. She raised funding and hired an executive management team.
The risk paid off, and Baby Gourmet re-launched in Wal-Mart in Canada, and in February 2011 Broe’s sister Jill Vos became the VP of Product Development. There are now three different textures of Baby Gourmet for three different stages. For the youngest babies, there are simple purees such as “Juicy Pear and Garden Greens.” The oldest babies get Tasty Textures, including “Vanilla Banana Berry Risotto.”
Now U.S. babies can enjoy the product, too. Last fall, Baby Gourmet launched in Wal-Mart Super Centers on our side of the border.
Ingredients are still of utmost importance to Broe and Vos. While researching the business, they were appalled to find that the fruit that was commonly sold for baby food production was often not first quality. Baby Gourmet is made only from tasty organic produce. They taste every batch to make sure that it’s as good as the last. “Because taste matters,” says Broe. “Better tasting food means easier mealtimes.”