NEW YORK — Bitsy’s Brainfood, a New York-based snack company, wants children to know there is zucchini, beet and carrot in its cookies. The ingredients are boldly labeled on the front of the packaging.
“When we launched, nobody knew what to make of that,” said Alex Voris, co-founder of Bitsy’s Brainfood. “So many people told us we were off the mark and crazy to be doing that… It’s a little bit self-defeating to trick kids into being healthy because eventually they’re going to be making their own choices, and we want them to choose healthy. And we feel that by putting vegetables in all these delicious contexts, we’re giving them the opportunity to understand how delicious vegetables are in lots of different contexts and to view snack time differently and to view the idea of treat differently.”
Bitsy’s Brainfood was founded in 2012 by Ms. Voris and Maggie Jones Patton, a pair of mothers and former educators on a mission to combat childhood obesity. The brand’s Smart Cookies debuted the following year in three varieties: Sweet Potato Oatmeal Raisin, Zucchini Gingerbread Carrot, and Orange Chocolate Beet. Featuring three-dimensional alphabet shapes, the cookies are nut-free, made with whole grains and vegetables, and fortified with organic-compliant vitamins. A year later, the company introduced organic, gluten-free ready-to-eat cereals in Fruity Number Crunch and Berry Blast varieties.
“The brand came from this place of wanting to make eating smart fun for kids, of wanting to speak straight to them and of wanting to ask the question, ‘Why should junk food have all the fun?’” Ms. Voris told Food Business News. “Our aim is to get kids excited about learning and eating healthy.”
Last month, Bitsy’s Brainfood launched a new line of organic crackers exclusively at Target as part of the retailer’s Made to Matter collection of better-for-you food and beverage products. Featuring half a serving of organic vegetables per serving, Smart Crackers varieties include Organic Cheddar Chia Veggie, Organic Sweet Potato Cinna-Graham and Organic Maple Carrot Crisp. The crackers feature puzzle shapes known as tangrams that children may arrange into a number of designs. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations that help keep children happy and active through the brand’s Farm to Playground campaign.
“We’re incredibly grateful to launch our crackers within Target’s Made to Matter program,” Ms. Voris said. “To have a major retailer like Target making wellness a strategic pillar and investing in programs like Made to Matter and by extension in a little brand like ours, is really exciting.”
In selecting Bitsy’s Brainfood for its Made to Matter program, Target recognized the brand’s commitment to simple ingredients, lower sugar content, and attention to allergens and dietary restrictions, the company said.
“We feel that just because a product is made with organic flour and salt doesn’t make it a healthy choice,” Ms. Voris said. “That’s not necessarily nutritious. I think that consumers are beginning to ask for more from snacks… In the kids’ category, when we were first starting off, people didn’t really know where to put us. There has been this huge explosion in the baby food space of convenient and organic packaged foods, but after those parents were through stage-four baby food, so often they didn’t know where to turn, and there wasn’t anything comparable when it came to kids. Bitsy’s was one of the first brands to fill that need and create that category. And now we’re becoming a huge part of defining it as people really catch on and understand how important it is to really market healthy to kids.
“When we launched Bitsy’s, the organic set was pretty boring, and we really felt that was a miss from the perspective of getting kids to want to choose healthy and knowing how to speak to them.”
In addition to Target, Bitsy’s products are sold in select regions of Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Sprouts, Kroger and H-E-B.“When we started, there was more of a pressure to focus on the natural channel,” Ms. Voris said. “But now that the industry is evolving, we have the opportunity to grow in more conventional retailers.”