Retail

How One Startup Aims To Become The Blue Apron Of Baby Food

Aiming To Be The Blue Apron Of Baby Food

Square Baby has an innovative business model, but according to CEO Katie Thomson, it’s all about the ingredients. When the company announced its new line of allergen-introduction products last week, the standard pithy executive quotes were absent. What replaced them was a detailed list of the organic ingredients and proteins involved in that new product line. Because at Square Baby, the ingredients are everything.

That business model takes the food subscription service template developed by Blue Apron and other companies and brings it to moms and their babies. Unlike other companies, Square Baby is all about allergen-introduction (for food allergy prevention), and high-quality foods that fit into one of the Square Baby systems.

Consumers can sign up for monthly subscription tiers starting at $79, and can choose the system that best fits their baby’s needs. The food shows up packaged and frozen. Although the service is currently available on the West Coast only, that is about to change. Square Baby will soon launch East Coast distribution for the seaboard and into the Midwest.

The company is the brainchild of Thomson, a registered dietician who graduated from college and then landed her dream job as head dietician for Starbucks.

“A big part of my job was helping to develop healthier products and helping the marketing teams know how to talk about food in a way that made sense to consumers, but also to follow regulations so we weren’t making claims about a product that weren’t compliant,” Thomson told PYMNTS.

After becoming a mom in 2008, Thomson took that knowledge and experience to the supermarket for her most important customer: her child. Despite overwhelming product choices, she was disillusioned by the lack of meal planning options. Thomson didn’t feel like any of the baby food companies, even the organic ones that were starting to sprout at the time, were making her food choices any easier.

“If you have no companies giving you any guidance on this and you just put a bunch of meals out, you’re not doing a good job,” she said. “We wanted to take the guesswork out of it for parents. We wanted them to know their kids have gotten enough of the right foods each day. We also wanted to create this square meal system, with half the sugar and twice the protein and healthy fat. Those are the proof points parents are paying close attention to. Our solutions are resonating with those that are paying attention to sugar levels and not just balanced nutrition.”

Thomson has been surprised by the customer profile the site has attracted so far. When she and her partner Kendall Glynn looked for an office space in San Francisco, they found one with a storefront. It has served as a selling point as well as a customer lab.

Initially, the company started out with a focus on the upscale market, as the ingredients in Square Baby’s foods are not cheap. But now Thomson sees a wider demographic.

“They’re working moms, stay-at-home moms, mostly higher-income moms, but we’re starting to see some of that lower-income bracket,” she told PYMNTS. “Our customers include anyone who’s looking for the best nutrition. Parents who want to start out on the right foot and outsource their choices for homemade baby food.”

And yes, the company has seen a dramatic bounce as the COVID-19 crisis has compressed shopping visits. That bounce is welcome to the Square Baby team, but Thomson knows that marketing will be needed to take the concept nationwide. The company is seeking funding for that expansion. Brand awareness will be important, as they strive to spread their mission of offering premium, allergen-free organic baby food.

“My co-founder and I are both evidence-based, with a focus on medicine, nutrition and science,” Thomson noted. “Research is showing that an early introduction to allergens actually helps prevent up to 80 percent of food allergies. So there’s an opportunity in this window of immunity for babies to be introduced to shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts and eggs. We can make a big impact on their potential food allergies, nutrition, development, and food preferences in the future. What is Square Baby? It’s a square meal. It’s how we’re different that’s really important.”

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