Product Focus: Baby Food

Sept. 18, 2015
The baby food category has grown with new players and product and package innovations.


Jarred baby foods containing pureed fruits, vegetables and simple mixed meat recipes, as well as simple cereals based on single grains were the norm at the turn of the century. Since, and despite a recession, the category has grown with new players and product and package innovations. These days, baby food products come in numerous forms, including dried/dehydrated snack bites, microwavable prepared foods (shelf stable and frozen) and pouched foods. In fact, it’s the recloseable pouch package, which entered the U.S. market in the early 2000s, that transformed and sophisticated the baby food products category. These products are intended for consumption from about six months of life to two years, when most toddlers are weaned to table food. They are designed to be easy to consume and provide for the nutritional needs of growing babies.

Pouch foods are the rage and their popularity shows no signs of abating. Lifeway Foods Inc. was the first company to put cultured dairy in the pouch. For more than 10 years, the company has been selling ProBugs Kefir, a refrigerated dairy product with live and active cultures. Since ProBugs’ debut, other dairies have entered the refrigerated cultured dairy pouch business.

On the shelf-stable side of the pouch business, this package has helped busy parents feed their growing babies who eat every few hours … often while parents are on the go. The shelf-stable versions typically consist of fruits and/or vegetables, as well as puddings, cereals and heat-processed yogurts. A recent innovation comes from HappyFamily, which has introduced Love My Veggies, a shelf-stable pouch containing one full serving of organic vegetables. Available in three flavor combinations -- Banana, Beet, Squash & Blueberry; Carrot, Banana, Mango & Sweet Potato; and Spinach, Apple, Sweet Potato & Kiwi — the 4.22-oz. pouches are sold exclusively at Target stores. They come four pouches to a box and retail for $5.89.

Organic and Transparent

Moms and dads can put their aprons, steamers and food processors down, as Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. now offers an extensive line of organic baby foods. Sold in transparent honeypot glass jars featuring the USDA-certified organic seal, the company prepares the foods using what it describes as the “just gentle cooking” process. This method doesn’t add any excess water or cook the nutrients away, resulting in food with textures, colors and flavors that look, taste and feel as close to homemade as possible. Further, to be completely transparent with parents regarding the composition of all of its jarred and pouched baby foods, the company recently began listing the percentage of each ingredient in a recipe on its web site. Beech-Nut is the first U.S. baby food company to provide this information to parents.

Soft Foods Encourage Chewing Development

New Gerber 3rd Foods Lil’ Bits Recipes are made using a proprietary cooking method that yields perfectly sized soft pieces of food to help babies master the essential chewing developmental milestone. Gerber invested more than $100 million in the technology, working with 80 experts who spent over 120,000 hours developing the product. Research found as older babies develop side to side movement of their tongue, they can begin to move small, soft pieces of food to their jawline for mashing, the early skills of chewing. Introducing pureed foods with soft pieces at this time allows children to explore multiple textures before transitioning fully to solid, table foods. The Lil’ Bits line comes in convenient plastic tubs and a variety of flavors, including seven fruits and three veggies.

Single-Serve Pasta Packets

Plum Organics offers a single-packet “add hot water, stir and serve” pasta kit as a stage-three meal, for babies over six months old. Stage 3 Hello Dinner baby meals are a hearty medley of whole grains, real veggies and a hint of herbs. The single-serve packs come five to a box and are available in two varieties: Broccoli & Cheese and Pumpkin, Spinach, Quinoa and Baby Grains. A serving provides 11-12g of whole grains, and about 2g of both fiber and protein.

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