Many months ago, I was speaking with the buyer of a well-known natural foods grocery store about carrying frozen baby food from Little City Kitchen Co. I figured if anyone would appreciate the value of “real” baby food, it would be this person. After a minute, he looked me in the eye and said, “frozen baby food is dead”.
I must admit, I’m typically prepared to respond to just about anything in a business setting, but I was so stunned by his words that I sat there looking dumbfounded for about five seconds. In classic Jill fashion, I then spent the next day replaying that conversation in my head and coming up with a better response.
Fresh or frozen baby food isn’t a product you can just put on the shelves and expect it to sell. You have to educate parents about why frozen baby food is a better option, but once you have, they not only turn into loyal customers, they become advocates for real food within their respective communities. Which begs the question…
Why aren’t parents already insisting on real food for their babies?
I have a few theories.
History, Culture & Marketing…Oh My.
First, feeding babies food from a jar is the accepted practice in this country. It’s what you do, right? I think it never occurs to most parents that there is any other option. So why is it that in every other country in the world, baby eats what parents eat? In Italy, a well-known first food is hard boiled egg yolk mashed with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Yummy, right!!
Like it or not, we are all susceptible to marketing messages. Most people don’t realize that up until about 70 years ago, babies in this country didn’t eat food from a jar; they ate a pureed version of the family meal. It wasn’t until Gerber developed baby food in late 1920’s and launched an aggressive marketing campaign that baby food started to take hold.
Parents seem generally intimidated and scared about introducing solids. Don’t be!! There seems to be a perception that baby food from a jar is the “safest” thing for your baby, but to me there is nothing as healthy as a real banana, or cooked apple, sweet potato.
The first 4-6 months of introducing solids is the one of the most formative time in a child’s life. It’s a small, but definite window of opportunity to teach them what food should taste like, so why not pack in as much flavor, texture & spice as you can! More and more research shows that kids will grow up to be adventurous eaters and make healthier lifestyle choices when you start with an array of foods from the beginning. Check out How to Grow A Broccoli Lover if this topic interests you.
Let’s be Realistic, Shall We
I realize that there is a big time & convenience factor that shelf-stable baby food addresses, and I’m always an advocate for doing the best that you can with the time and resources that you have. Making your own baby food may not be realistic for you, but if there is a company in your area that offers this product, consider incorporating their food into your baby’s menu, even in just the smallest way.
My prediction: you’re going to see more baby food companies popping up all over the country. Some of them will offer fresh, some frozen. Some will deliver, some won’t. I’ve even heard of a few CSA and cooperative models in the works as well. I think that slowly people are coming around to the concept of offering fresh food to babies, and I just hope that the grocery stores can jump on that bandwagon to support that movement sooner rather than later.
And on a personal note, I’d love nothing more than to prove that buyer wrong! Frozen baby food isn’t dead…it’s just new.
Note to Readers: I’d particularly love to hear your thoughts or comments on this subject. What went into your food decisions for your child(ren)? What more could baby food companies similar to Little City Kitchen Co. be doing to make this product more available for you?
Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist. Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.