A Fresh Way To Get Kids To Eat Healthy

Feb. 25, 2022
We recently sat down with Matt Cohen of Kidfresh to talk about the struggles of feeding children nutritious and delicious food.

With us on today’s episode is Matt Cohen, co-founder of Kidfresh. Launched in 2007, Kidfresh takes children’s favorite foods—like spaghetti and meatballs, mac’ and cheese, and chicken nuggets—and adds a nutritious twist to them. But that’s not all. Not only are they more nutritious, they’re also more convenient, a huge plus for busy parents.

Join us as we talk about the reason KidFresh was launched, why creating better-for-you foods for children has been a struggle, and how he managed to find the perfect formula for good-tasting and good-for-you frozen food products. And we cap things off talking about what trends Matt is seeing in both the children’s nutrition sector as well as in frozen foods.


Erin: Matt, Welcome to the Food for Thought podcast. Let's get started by talking a little bit about you. Tell me about your background, and most importantly, about Kidfresh.

Matt: Thank you for having me. Very excited to be on the show. My name is Matt Cohen. I'm the co-founder of Kidfresh. And Kidfresh has become the number one, better-for-you, frozen foods for kids in the U.S. Kidfresh started in 2007, first as a retail store in Manhattan, and evolved into a frozen food brand starting 2010.

A quick note about myself. I was born and raised in France, so bonjour everyone who's listening to the show. And I'm a French and American. I've been in the U.S. for over 26 years now. And, yeah, Kidfresh has been my entrepreneurial's life for the past, I would say, almost 15 years now.

Erin: Where did the idea for Kidfresh come from?

Matt: It really came from me being blessed with a son and later with a daughter. So really becoming a parent, and experiencing what the kids' food market was in the U.S., as a parent. Particularly, one event really triggered the whole chain of events that led to the creation of Kidfresh. It was one of these crazy mornings when the kids are running around and don't want to get dressed and they’re just driving you nuts, right? And it's, like, let's say 7:23 a.m., and we're about to leave, and I'm about to take them to school, and then my son looks at me and say, "Hey, dad, you forgot the lunch box."

And I'm, like, "Damn, I forgot the damn lunchbox." And I was, like, "So now I need to, at 7.23 a.m., in the middle of this crazy situation, I have to prepare lunchbox with, you know, sandwich, and a side, and a drink, and this and that." I'm, like, "You know, this doesn't make any sense." Obviously, the kids got fed and had their food for lunch, but then as my partner and I were talking about ideas for launching a business, I came to that sort of brainstorming session that morning, I'm, like, "Here's what happened to me this morning. This is nuts. You know, you can have your coffee at Starbucks, you can have your sandwiches everywhere you want ready-to-go. You have all your prepared food for adults ready-to-go from Whole Foods, Delis, and stores around the country. But for kids, you need to go in the trenches and, you know, prepare it yourself. It doesn't make any sense. Let's explore that opportunity." And that's really how it started.

Erin: You raise a really good point there about all of the things that you can get quickly. I'm curious, from your point of view, why did it seem like the kids' nutrition space was lacking in good-for-you foods?

Matt: I think it's two reasons. One is the demand for better-for-you food, in general, in the U.S. was really emerging and has really emerged, let's say in the past 20-25 years. Before that, there was less of the demand, in general. I'm not talking about kids' food here, I'm talking about natural and organic food, in general. People were less concerned about that.

As it relates to kids' food, in particular, the products offered to consumers were generally junk foods because for kids, you just put sugar in a box, and you put a cartoon character on the box, and you're gonna sell it. So really why bother doing quality food when the industry can just sell its processed food for kids with very basic ingredients, certainly many artificial ingredients, sugar, and cartoon characters? As the adult population evolved toward better-for-you foods, they became adults and parents and started to want the same thing for their own kids. That's really when we started Kidfresh, pretty much I think at that time, about 15 years ago or so.

Erin: What would you say is the most important thing to parents these days when it comes to their children's nutrition?

Matt: I think the most important thing for all parents is that the children will eat the food, that's where it starts. Nutrition or no nutrition, kids need to eat their food. That's the daily struggle for parents to have their children eat their meal.

That being addressed, then the second aspect is nutrition, right? Meaning, "I want my children to eat food, but I want them to eat good food." And that's where the odds and the science come into play because children will not eat something that is better for them but that doesn't taste good for them.

As parents, as adults, you would eat something that is not necessarily great. I’m thinking about a protein bar, for instance. You're going to eat that, it's not necessarily great in terms of taste and texture. But it's going to do the job from a nutrition standpoint, and so you are willing to do it. Kids, they don't think that way.

For parents, question number one is, "I want my children to finish their meal, to eat their food." And number two, "I want this food to be natural, organic, and nutritious, balanced with less sodium, less fat, no sugar, more protein, and the right sort of calorie counts." So these are the two priorities I think parents have as it relates to food.

The third one that I would add would be convenience, in the sense that we're all living crazy lives. I was referring to the lunchbox episode earlier, but the same happens at the dinner table. We need some form of convenience and help, so that there's a solution available for parents.

Erin: It would seem that you have had a lot of exposure to trends in the kids' nutrition and food space because of Kidfresh. What trends have captured your attention most?

Matt: I mean, really the move toward better-for-you, natural and organic nutritious foods for kids. This trend started about 15 years ago or so, and it's been steady, and there's no turning back. Once you have experienced solutions that are natural and organic, and healthy for kids, and the kids will eat them, you're not gonna back to junk food, right? That's a fundamental trend that is having a rippling effect not only in supermarkets and CPG companies, but also in what restaurants offer in their kids' menu, or what you find in school cafeterias, for instance, with more vegetables, with more, you know, natural and organic proteins, and so on and so forth. That's a major trend which, you know, is continuing, is accelerating as new generations of parents come to the market and are looking for these types of products.

Erin: Being in both the children's nutrition space and the frozen food categories, I'm curious what trends you've noticed in the frozen food space.

Matt: In that context of better-for-you, what you see in frozen these days is completely different than what you could find 10-15 years ago. I mean, you're looking at products now that are much more elaborate. Dishes that much more sophisticated with ingredient quality that has gone up with even some premium frozen offerings that you didn't have 10-15 years ago. Maybe that's part of my background, having being raised in France. In France, frozen food never had that stigma of processing junk. You could find great products, high-quality products in the frozen food aisle in France.

That's why, in a way, when we launched Kidfresh in frozen, we were not concerned about frozen in the U.S. We were confident that consumers would start seeing the benefits, and the value, and the quality of frozen food in the U.S., and it was just a matter of time. That's been really a wonderful thing to see and when you look at frozen food offerings today, from breakfast items to all trays size, and vegetables, foods, ice creams, the quality today is incredibly superior as what it was 10-15 years ago.

Erin: I'd love to hear your thoughts on how the pandemic impacted children and their food consumption. And follow-up to that: how have shortages and supply chain issues impacted things?

Matt: I think what we've seen at Kidfresh is growth and an acceleration of our velocities, or our units sold, per store per week because obviously parents and families spent much more time at home. The need for better-for-you solutions that kids would love was even more important during the pandemic. So much more at-home consumption and in that respect, more high-quality frozen food consumption, in general, and for kids as well. What we've seen though is a trend towards larger pack sizes. For instance, a Chicken Nugget that comes in a 7-ounce box or a 14-ounce bag.

What we saw is that consumers are doing fewer trips and fewer purchases, but more quantities per purchase. So our business has shifted from an individual, 7- or 8-ounce boxes toward value family bags of products like 14-, 16-ounce of products. Which makes sense because people would go less often to the stores. Or when they would order, they would order online, but less often that they would go to the stores. They were looking for that more quantity per purchase aspect, and we've seen that with over 41% in growth in our family-size business this year.

Erin: What has the parent response been to the Kidfresh products?

Matt: It's loyalty, loyalty, loyalty, repeat purchase, repeat purchase, repeat purchase. When parents try Kidfresh, eight out of 10 buy it again. And as they do, they increase the quantity they buy purchase after purchase. And for us, that’s an amazing performance because it's very hard to build loyalty, right, for brands. And for us, quite frankly, it's just a matter of consumers trying the product, and once they do they're hooked. It's as simple as that.

Erin: Where can people find your products and perhaps the most important question of all, what has been your kids' favorite products that Kidfresh produces?

Matt: So my kids are the guinea pigs, and they try everything. Some of the products they've loved are the Mac & Cheese and Chicken Nuggets. The Chicken Meatballs also are just phenomenal. And then they've had the chance to taste some of our new items that are coming to market the next year, with a Pasta with a Pizza Sauce, it's just amazing. Our Beef Meatballs are probably the best tasting in the market, even for adults.

As for where people can find our product: in most retailers nationwide. We're in about 11,000 stores in the frozen food aisle. From Walmart to Whole Foods, H-E-B Public, Stop & Shop, pretty much everywhere nationwide, Target also. And then they can also find us online at the retailer's website, so they can go to target.com, or Amazon, walmart.com, and so forth, and they can order the product there.

Erin: Well, now that we are all sufficiently hungry, I wanted to say, Matt, thank you so much for being on this episode of the Food for Thought podcast with me.

Matt: Thank you, and take care. 

About the Author

Erin A. Hallstrom

Erin Hallstrom oversaw our digital content strategy for the Food Processing brand from 2008-2023. She is now the Associate Director of SEO Strategy for Endeavor Business Media, where she holds technical certifications in both website analytics and search engine optimization. Most recently, she was named the 2022 Marianne Dekker Mattera Award Winner

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