Millennial parents are driving many changes in foods and beverages designed for their children, often with no limit on the cost. One slice of that market seeing some interesting activity is in the digestive health of infants and small children.
"At NurturMe, we're all about keeping tiny tummies happy and healthy," says the company website (nurturme.com). "Our tummy friendly foods promote good digestive health and are free from common allergens that can upset sensitive little bellies – helping take the worry out of feeding your little one."
The company claims to be "the first and only baby and toddler food brand committed to improving overall digestive health," according to Caroline Freedman, CEO and co-founder of the Austin, Texas, marketer. "As the tummy-friendly brand, we’re committed to offering meals and snacks that help parents take the worry out of feeding their little ones. That means using natural ingredients that are easily digestible and removing common allergens that can irritate sensitive little tummies from all of our products -- so zero gluten, soy, dairy and egg."
The company takes a wide-ranging approach. Its products range from squeezable pouches and cereal mixes for babies to hand-held snacks for toddlers. NurturMe is particularly fond of ancient grains because they "feature naturally occurring nutritional benefits that are superior to traditional rice and other grains. In addition to being hypoallergenic, quinoa is a complete and balanced protein that is gentle on the tummy and supports baby’s growth and immune system naturally."
Another attraction is its charitable program, "1% Nurtur for Ninos," which gives back to children in Peru, where its quinoa comes from. "We purchase our Fair Trade organic quinoa from local co-ops in South America and give back to the families there," Freedman says.
Probiotics also play a role. "Incorporating probiotics was a natural choice for us to increase the 'tummy friendliness' of our products," Freedman says.
Probiotics have become increasingly popular in infant and older children's products as awareness rises about the importance of boosting beneficial bacteria from the start of life. Babies are born with sterile digestive tracts, and a variety of factors can affect the natural gut flora and the development of their digestive systems, says Ganeden Inc. (www.ganedenprobiotics.com), maker of the BC30 strain of probiotics, the first to receive FDA approval as being generally recognized as safe (GRAS) to use in infant formulas.
"Whether a baby is bottle fed, delivered via C-section or has to be put on antibiotics, all adversely affect their GI system," explains David Keller, vice president of Ganeden's scientific operations. As immune health is a top priority for parents, the company is also targeting children’s products for its new Staimune probiotic technology for the immune health category in foods, beverages and companion animal products. Utilizing the cells of GanedenBC30 to support immune health at what Keller says are cost-effective inclusion levels, Staimunie will be available at the end of this summer.
Probiotics for slightly older kids are found in tiny gummies, yogurt and fig bars from Little Duck's Organics (littleduckorganics.com), a New York-based producer of organic, non-GMO snacks, freeze-dried superfruit products and oat-based foods. Little Duck's ingredients include BC30 probiotics, selected not just for taste but to contribute to a healthy diet, says Arthur Pergament, president and CEO.
"With the increase of C-sections over the past 50-plus years along with other factors, babies are more susceptible to obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system and poor digestive health," Pergament says. "This, coupled with the over-prescription of antibiotics to infants and children, has made it necessary for parents and pediatricians to recognize there is real need for babies and children to take prebiotics and probiotics to help balance out these negative factors."
Mom-founded HappyFamily adds probiotics to its powdered cereal and select Happy Tot pouches. In addition to their digestive health benefits, probiotics can enhance the absorption of omega-3 and increase body-wide omega-3 tissue levels, according to some studies. The medical community cites DHA omega-3 fatty acids as crucial for the development and function of a child's brain, eyes and heart.
Plum Organics named one product in its Grow Well line “Tummy,” but its sole digestive-health focus is on the addition of 3g of fiber.