By Leena Rao. Source: Fortune.
What she found was that many baby foods derive more than 50% of their calories from fruit sugar, putting them in the realm of junk food. Even many of the brands that were organic, and natural (and came in nice little pouches) were high in sugar, Sutherland explained.
The eye-opening experience prompted her to create organic baby food company Yumi, which she co-founded with former New York Times and Wall Street Journalreporter Evelyn Rusli. It’s focused on delivering healthy, freshly made baby food to your doorstep so you don’t have to shop at your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or spend hours pureeing sweet potatoes and peas.
Yumi’s premise, revealed first to Fortune, is simple: Moms and dads can get baby food that arrives every week by subscription via a third-party shipping company. It plans to start shipping its food in late spring.
Each serving of baby food comes in a small jar, with pairings sounding more like something you’d find at your local health food restaurant than in a baby food jar. Options include “broccoli mash,” which includes layers of sweet potato, broccoli, apricots, barley and ground Flax seed; and “blueberry chia seed pudding,” which includes blueberries, quinoa, chia seeds, banana, dates, and wheat germ oil. Yumi also adds spices to its blends such as curry powder or cinnamon.
The startup promises that there is no added sugar and salt in its purees, and that all vegetables and fruits are organic and locally sourced from California farms, said Rusli. At launch, Yumi will deliver to homes across California only, but the company hopes to eventually expand nationwide.
While Rusli and Sutherland declined to reveal any prices for the food, they said that they want it to be broadly accessible—and not just to a small elite. According to Rusli and Sutherland, Yumi will be affordable to the average Whole Foods shopper. The challenge, of course, will be setting prices that are low enough to compete with the Gerbers of the world considering the higher cost of organic food along with production and delivery.
At launch, Yumi also aims for its website to be a resource for new parents by providing nutritional information, and wellness and health content. As Rusli explains, Yumi is also about “empowering parents” with better food options and choices.
The startup has raised several millions of dollars, including from early Dropbox investor Ali Partovi, Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic (the company behind website software firm WordPress), and Philip Krim, co-founder of mattress company Casper.
Legions of well-funded startups have tried to gain traction in the food industry, a generally low margin business dominated by huge established companies. But many, particularly those focused on delivering food to your doorstep, have had a tough time.
Munchery, a San Francisco startup that delivered prepared food, has reportedly burned through $120 million in venture funding and is struggling to stay afloat. Blue Apron, which sends its subscribers a box of ingredients each week to cook at home, is reportedly putting its aspirations for an initial public offering on hold as it tries to figure out how to become profitable.
Yumi will face competition from a number of companies that already deliver baby food including Thistle and Yummy Spoonfuls. And Yumi will challenge giants in baby products such as Nestle-owned Gerber, Earth’s Best, and Plum Organics, which all offer organic baby food in pouches and jars. In 2016, e-commerce giant Amazon started selling its own line of organic baby food, called Mama Bear.
Partovi believes that the convenience of Yumi’s subscription and delivery service and its emphasis on fresh food will help the startup avoid some of the problems others have faced. For one thing, baby food customers don’t necessarily switch brands just to save a few pennies.
“Parents care about their babies’ nutrition, ” he said. “Food consumers are notoriously capricious, and that’s a challenge for most food startups. But not for baby food.”