Welcome back to Products Worth Talking About — the show about disruptive physical products and the people who built them. Today, we’re exploring the competitive baby food industry and looking at why our three chosen brands stand apart from the others.
In this episode, we’re looking at Once Upon a Farm, Serenity Kids, and Little Spoon to understand how these relatively new companies focus on ingredient quality for babies. We’re a little on the fence about tasting them today. Still, we’re excited to jump in and understand the details of their success and determine which one we believe stands out.
With four boys between us (two under the age of two), we know how boring baby food is, but we want to give our kids good nutrition and just try to get them to eat something different every day. We’re excited about these brands because there are so many options we didn’t even know of — there are even products with meat in them.
In the last three to four years, the whole market has turned on its head. Let’s dive in and explore why.
This first one is Jennifer Garner’s company, which has been unbelievable to watch because they started in 2015 and have already taken $26 million of funding. LinkedIn says they’ve got 53 employees, which is impressive and considering they already enjoy a considerable distribution in retail — not entirely surprising.
What we love about this brand is that all the ingredients come from their farm.
The farm is in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, and has been in existence since 1936. It’s the family farm, making this uniquely authentic for a celebrity brand that often misses that original story. Jennifer is the face of the brand all over the website. She’s doing a bunch of PR with the company. She’s even involved in the recipe development. But even with her celebrity influence, they still haven’t lost that home-grown feeling.
This is a retail-focused brand, making it a must for the packaging to stand out on the shelf. We like their packaging and love the branding behind it. They’ve done an excellent job translating the healthy ingredients into the packaging — and we love the name too.
We can see there’s been loads of research upfront to ensure that all of this works well, and they don’t have too many skews (products). Most food brands usually dive in too fast with 50 different options, which is never a great idea. Beginning with six options keeps it simple yet effective.
Their challenge is that baby food is typically in the aisle. Instead, theirs is in the refrigerated section — and they’re the only one there. Getting the product to the customer in-store will take some education.
We each tried a flavor; RT snapped up the kale and apple flavor, which tasted more like applesauce than anything! RT loved that it tasted this excellent while containing kale in it.
Tyler gave the banana swirl (with pumpkin) a try and was just as blown away — it tasted just like a strawberry smoothie!
A great plus is that it comes in a pouch, making it super easy to transport.
They have 12 packs available for $39.48, or a 24 pack on subscription for $64.56 — or once-off for $75.60.
The second company is Serenity Kids, founded in 2016 by Serenity Carr. LinkedIn says they have eight employees — they’re a much smaller company — located in Austin, Texas. They’ve had about $1.5 million worth of funding.
They have chicken and salmon pouch, which makes that a first in baby food. They have a paleo coaching background.
Including meat in their ingredients is not a cheap option for a company entering into the baby food industry, especially considering the amount of research and development needed to create the finished product. We’re interested to see how this translates into taste.
The packaging is clear — their chicken one has a chicken on the front, and the beef one has a cow. Each package tells you exactly what’s in it describing the simple ingredients used alongside the free-range chicken or grass-fed beef. In the grass-fed beef pouch they include organic sweet potato, organic carrot, water, and organic kale.
It’s very modern packaging which we usually enjoy on most products – we’re just not sure that it works for baby food.
Tyler decided to try the beef with organic kale and sweet potato, while RT tried out the chicken with organic peas. These both have five grams of protein.
While we like the concept, the smell and look of it certainly made us second guess ourselves. BUT of the three, it’s nutritionally the best.
They taste healthy, and RT enjoyed the chicken one.
We do have a concern about sugar. Each pouch has three grams of sugar, and that can start to add up quickly over a week, especially if you’re giving them to your baby more than once a day.
A one-time purchase for six pouches is $23.95. You can also choose a subscription for $19.16 per order, choosing your frequency from one-week intervals up to nine weeks.
Lastly, we have Little Spoon, which started in 2013. They’re a little bit different, with a subscription-only model (no retail distribution) delivering the product directly to your house, which makes it a little bit different. The four founders are Michelle Muller, Ben Lewis, Angela Vranich, and Lisa Barnett. LinkedIn says the number of employees is about 13, and they’re located in New York. They’ve taken about $7 million in funding.
Interestingly, their baby food has a 14-day shelf life. Understandably, trying retail with a 14-day shelf life would require crazy logistics.
Little Spoon has been around longer than the other companies we’ve looked at today, and they have one of the most exciting investors: the San Francisco 49ers football franchise. It’s part of their push for children to be healthier.
With your subscription delivered directly to your house, their packaging is a little different. True to the name, they give you the little spoon, which is fantastic. Their packaging stands out — even though they don’t need to because they’re not in retail.
Each container is sealed and seems like a good portion size. They would fit in any bag that we have to take the kids around. That also has a cap to reseal open packages which is excellent, if your kids only eat half of it, you can put the rest away in the refrigerator.
Tyler tried the carrot, apple, and ginger, forcing RT to pick another one. He based his choice on the vibrancy of the color — his flavors are strawberry, basil, beet, pear, and chia.
RT tasted the strawberries and basil, and it worked well enough for him not to be too disappointed after Tyler “stole” his preferred flavor – enjoying it in front of him!
Our biggest concern would be handing these to the kids in the car — we’re afraid it will turn into a huge mess.
The subscription costs $54 (delivered every two weeks), including a $5 shipping fee.
These were three excellent websites that we ran through. They’re all focused on different things. Interestingly, none of them has much traffic each month, only gaining new visitors from direct or search results.
Once Upon A Farm sells on their website, however, it feels as though their focus is to direct people into their retail partners’ stores, like Whole Foods. The website is very good, but predictably highlights Jennifer Garner as the owner.
Serenity has a great website as well. Just like their packaging, they use all the same colors. It’s very authentic. They have a video from their founder on the front page, and it seems like they’re focused a lot more on nutrition education. That’s what the whole company is rooted in, or at least what it feels like to us.
Little Spoon is focused on their subscription-only model—meaning their website’s focus is to act as a funnel. As such, they need to get more people into the website and on the subscription as it’s their primary focus. Their funnel has been done in a creative way — they have a quiz, which we love, asking questions at every step of the subscription process. This is key because it gives them important information about their members’ needs, for example, how old their child is or are they a fussy eater. The process is designed to take the guesswork out of a first-time parent’s mind and put them at ease. Of course, even if you don’t buy, they have your email address. They can start to annoy you and ensure you’re coming back to join the subscription, so wholly different focus, but a great website, good use of founders too. We like how they have their founders front and center.
They have perfect HTML five on the homepage, where you have moving images that explain how the product works. It’s so good that we think they should think about using it as an ad on Facebook!
Interestingly, none of them are utilizing email. We estimate as an e-commerce company, 30% of your revenue should be coming from email, and there aren’t any pop-ups to grab your email address.
Little Spoon uses Intercom, which is the closest thing to that and which effectively enabled us to start a conversation with them.
The other surprise is the Amazon sales strategy. A subscription-only model limits Little Spoon but the other two use Amazon. The sales numbers (based on Jungle Scout, the plugin we use) showed Once Upon A Farm doing about $30,000 a month in sales followed by Serenity Kids at about $15,000.
One suggestion we have is introducing a variety pack for parents to see which flavors their baby enjoys most.
After taking all of these statistics and our subjective opinions into account, we give our final score — the Beer Score (AKA which founder we want to find and have a beer with).
RT gave Little Spoon 6/10, and Tyler gave them 8/10.
RT gave Serenity Kids 10/10! And Tyler gave them 7/10.
RT gave Once Upon A Farm 8/10, and Tyler gave them 9/10.
As you can see, RT’s clear winner is Serenity kids. The packaging, colors, and simplicity worked for him.
Tyler was hooked by Once Upon A Farm’s fresh food appeal, the fact that it’s in the refrigerated section means it feels fresh for parents buying it up on their weekly trip to Whole Foods.
RT gave Little Spoon 9/10, and Tyler gave them 9/10.
RT gave Serenity Kids 7/10, and Tyler gave them 5/10.
RT gave Once Upon A Farm 8/10, and Tyler gave them 7/10.
RT thought Little Spoon was the clear winner with customers’ cute pictures of kids’ inside boxes helping them be more organic and authentic about their social media strategy.
Tyler agreed, giving Little Spoon the same score as his clear favorite. He felt Once Upon A Farm was just a little too dull and predictable.
RT gave Little Spoon 6/10, and Tyler gave them 6/10.
RT gave Serenity Kids 9/10, and Tyler gave them 7/10.
RT gave Once Upon A Farm 10/10! And Tyler gave them 9/10.
RT loved Once Upon A Farm. The fact that they’re in so many retailers demonstrates a brilliant sales and distribution strategy — the epitome of what you want for a mass-market product.
Tyler also scored the highest because they’re doing something correctly. His concern for Little Spoon is their model’s scalability, especially comparing it to a gym membership where if you don’t go and you forget about it, they keep charging your card. Every two weeks, another box is going to hit your doorstep. Customers will cancel the subscription as the unused product starts to pile up, start going bad, and need to be thrown away.
RT gave Little Spoon 10/10! And Tyler gave them 7/10.
RT gave Serenity Kids 9/10, and Tyler gave them 9/10.
RT gave Once Upon A Farm 6/10, and Tyler gave them 7/10.
RT felt Little Spoon’s subscription model is challenging to scale, but the questionnaire is excellent and loves the fact that it’s every two weeks — it’s almost like they’ve found the sweet spot for subscriptions, especially when you consider most companies go the route Once Upon A Farm has with a retail strategy.
Tyler was most impressed with Serenity and their meat in a packet. They’re focused on nutrition and giving your kids the best thing in a pouch, and Tyler thinks that is disruptive in itself.
He did appreciate the Little Spoon’s subscription model for its fresh, zero preservatives product direct to your house.
Once Upon a Farm! Overall with a beer score of 64, Once Upon a Farm narrowly edged out Serenity Kids with 63 and Little Spoon with 61. That’s a close race! Now we have to find Jennifer Garner, anyone who knows her, please put us in touch and RT will give you a Vortic Watch worth $2000! The first prize would be to chat with her on the farm too.
RT: Customer Service. After going through the process of ordering the products either walking into the retail store or from Amazon, Little Spoons’ website with the Intercom facility messaging him struck home. He feels there’s a missed opportunity for Vortic Watches — figuring out how to incorporate such excellent customer service into his business is a win.
Tyler: Retail strategy. As the owner of a supplement company, going into retail is vital. Seeing the velocity retail has to help build the brand is too big to ignore. Additionally, seeing how aggressively Once Upon a Farm went after retail first and how they exploded after that is interesting.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you learned something today, we would love to hear from you. Take a screenshot of the episode and share your most significant takeaways with us on Instagram, @productsworthtalkingabout. And if you love the show, make sure to subscribe on YouTube so that you can get new content delivered to you directly! Let us know what products and brands you want us to review!
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Thanks for reading! Until next time —
RT and Tyler