AUSTIN, TEXAS — Within a little over a year of launching, Pure Spoon organic purees have landed shelf space in Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Hy-Vee, Wegmans and ShopRite. The secret to the business’s early success?
“Moms talk,” said Alyson Eberle, who founded the brand to fill a void in the baby food market. Packaged in transparent, single-serve tubs, the purees contain certified organic produce and are made using high-pressure pasteurization, which is said to preserve taste and nutrition better than heat-based processing. The products have a refrigerated shelf life of roughly 65 days, she said. Flavor varieties include spinach, pear and banana; butternut squash, apples and oats; and creamy avocado and apples.
The seeds of Pure Spoon were planted in September 2010, when Ms. Eberle scoured her local supermarket for fresh baby food for her infant daughter. Unsatisfied with the heat-treated options available, she decided to make her own.
“You had two choices; you could buy the shelf-stable stuff at the store, which a lot of people don’t trust, or you could make all of the food at home, which sounds great, but when you have a baby, it’s a lot of work,” she said. “I wanted to give parents what I couldn’t find at the store. And that’s how Pure Spoon got started.”
Carving a new niche in the baby food market hasn’t exactly been child’s play, she said.
“Because nobody had done HPP purees before, there was nobody I could pick up the phone and call and say, ‘Hey, can you let me know how you’re doing it? We’d like to do something similar,’” Ms. Eberle said. “I had to figure it out myself.”
Several other HPP baby food brands have entered the market, including Little Spoon Organic Babyblends and Once Upon a Farm. Ms. Eberle differentiates her product by its packaging.
“I wanted our packaging to be clear because food is pretty,” she said. “I want people to see what they’re giving their kid. I don’t know how people are okay with opening up a pouch that you can’t see and sucking it down. I didn’t get that.”
Read on for more business insights from Pure Spoon’s founder.
Food Business News: How will consumers find Pure Spoon if they’re looking for baby food in the shelf-stable baby food aisle?
Alyson Eberle: That’s our daily uphill battle. When you’re the first in a new category, that’s always a struggle. As the category grows, which I think it will because parents are demanding better options for themselves and for their children, this will not be an issue. It’ll be a moot point in a couple years. But for now, that’s an issue.
How did you get Target’s attention?
Ms. Eberle: Because we’re the first company in this category and we have traction… We have a good reputation, and we have a safety record. We have never had a withdrawal or a recall. We haven’t had any issues with our products... We haven’t had to pitch to anybody. People have reached out to us.
The Target buyer reached out to me and said, “We’re interested in offering better options for parents. I’d like to talk to you.” And it just progressed from there. That’s how it happened with Sprouts and Hy-Vee and ShopRite and everybody that we’re talking to.
Take me through your product development process.
Ms. Eberle: It started with the recipes I made for my daughter as a mom, concerned about her nutrition… We worked with a licensed pediatric dietitian, and she helped us make sure we included certain things.
For example, there is an epidemic of iron deficiency in American children, so we wanted to make sure we included ingredients that were packed with iron. We don’t fortify anything … there’s nothing in our product that doesn’t grow in the dirt. So we tweaked some of the flavors depending on what she had to say.
And then the interesting thing she had to say is, if you look at the baby food aisle, there’s no fat. Babies need fat for brain development, and there’s a lot of neurological issues going on with children — autism spectrum, things like that. We determined that avocados were a great first food, and it’s loaded with omega-3s and DHA and all the really good fat that everybody needs, really.
Are you planning to expand to other product categories?
Ms. Eberle: Yes. I have so many ideas. We’ll add on to what we have available. There’s stuff in development all the time.I’ve had great feedback from parents: “I’d like to see this or that.” And then, because of the people that are buying it for themselves and their parents, we’d love to do a line that’s specific to adults, where we add things like whey protein, which I wouldn’t necessarily give to babies or young children. We’re actually working on the packaging right now for our adult line, and I’m hoping that will be available summertime 2016.