Moms turn dried fruit into organic baby-food empire
By Chanie Kirschner
Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)
Have you ever tasted jarred baby food? It isn’t that good. So why feed it to your little one?
That was the quandary facing new mom Caroline Freedman when she was pregnant with her first child. She couldn’t believe that nothing had changed since she had been a baby, and moms everywhere were still feeding their new babies the jarred stuff. Sure, some moms have opted to make their own baby food but there was still no other option out there for ready-made food. Often discussing the quandary with her pal, Lauren McCullough, in their happy hour conversations after work, (Freedman worked in mergers and acquisitions at Dell, McCullough as a culinary arts teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf) the two decided to turn the idea into a reality.
Freedman knew that drying fruits and veggies, as opposed to cooking them, keeps them healthier, locking in essential phytochemicals (plant chemicals that help fight off disease) and nutrients. “When you don’t expose food to heat,” McCullough explained on a recent phone call with MNN, “you maintain more of the food’s freshness and flavor.” They took that concept to Freedman’s condo, where they tried to dehydrate a sweet potato in Freedman’s oven. Needless to say, the experiment was a less-than-rousing success. “We just expected it to magically dehydrate into powder,” McCullough recalls with a laugh. “What we got was basically a sweet potato fruit roll up.” Yummy, yes, but not what they were going for.
With that, Freedman and McCullough turned to the experts – after doing extensive research, they enlisted the help of a few organic farms across the country that specialize in drying produce and set to work. And so NurturMe was born.
Today, NurturMe’s dried baby food line includes yummy organic first fruits and veggies like Scrumptious Squash and Crisp Apple right up to NurturMeals blends like Carrots, Raisins, and Sweet Potato for older babies. Quinoa is all the rage with foodies these days, thanks to its protein-packed punch in the guise of a delicious carb. One of NurturMe’s products that is flying off the shelves is one they just launched six months ago — their quinoa cereal — a healthier alternative to rice cereal for babies just starting on solid food. NurturMe also just launched a line of toddler snacks called Yum-A-Roos – dried fruit snacks with innovative blends like Happy Harvest (pea, sweet corn and apple) and Tropical Twist (banana, mango and pineapple).
Co-founders Freedman and McCullough even ensured that NurturMe’s packaging would be eco-friendly — it’s produced with wind energy and made from recyclable materials. And the slimmed down packaging (each serving comes in a convenient, lightweight sleeve) is attractive to moms whose diaper bags are already bulging with baby gear. The powdered singles weigh a lot less than traditional baby food and take up a lot less room. All you need to prepare the dried fruits and veggies is some water – more for babies just starting on solids, and less for babies who are ready for a chunkier texture.
Another thing that’s unique about NurturMe singles? “You can actually mix our fruit and vegetable powder with breastmilk or formula,” says McCullough, packing them with even more nutrients. And another plus: For moms struggling to get their mac-and-cheese loving toddler to eat their veggies, you can mix the powder into your kids’ favorite meals to give them a nutritional boost.
McCullough and Freedman credit their mentors in the Austin community with helping them get off the ground. “Austin is a growing mecca of natural products,” says McCullough. “There were so many cool people that were willing to support and help us, telling us that it was possible.” Indeed, Whole Foods started out in Austin and the company was one of the first to give McCullough and Freedman a shot at selling their products. Today, you can find NurturMe products in retailers like Whole Foods, Target and Babies R Us, and online at Amazon and Diapers.com.
Thanks to Freedman and McCullough’s ingenuity and perseverance, NurturMe has quickly gone from a failed sweet potato experiment to an award-winning line of organic baby foods, generating buzz across the country, all while giving moms and babies a great reason to feel good about feeding time.