Welcome to, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.
Internet marketed direct-to-consumer subscription services are the new black – and bonus points if they’re aimed at a person with children. Offering expecting and new parents anything and everything from to , the new products extend a gleaming promise of being better, more hands-on, attentive, and nurturing parents than the previous generation (also known as “your parents”). Upwardly mobile millennials are an eager audience, welcoming the new disruptors to a growing industry, but it can be hard to tell whether they’re truly getting something better, or simply something that makes them feel better.
Among these emerging new companies disrupting decades-old businesses, is Yumi, a Los Angeles-based baby food company started in 2017 with a stated goal of changing the way parents think about baby nutrition. With fresh, seasonal offerings that also look beautiful, Yumi is hopping on the subscription service model popularized by the likes of Birchbox. They’ll ship a selection of baby food with ingredients that include chia seed, pitaya, and quinoa, directly to the customer, thereby bypassing the the grocery store shelves.
As of this moment, Yumi delivers the food, in weekly installments, to most western states as well as the tri-state area surrounding New York City. Parents can either pick their own baby food selections, or opt to have Yumi provide them with a “guided journey” where the company will curate their box based on their kids’ needs/age.
Fueled in part by fears of obesity, there’s now an intense focus on childhood nutrition, which has drifted further downward, to rest on the very first things babies eat. As with many parenting decisions, what was once a simple question—what do feed your baby when he’s ready for solid food—has become more complicated. You could go the baby-led weaning method, wherein you just give small and softer versions of what you’re eating to your child and gradually introduce him or her to new foods, or you could choose the baby food (i.e. purees) route. If you opt for the latter, then you have a choice of either making or buying your baby food, and should you decide to go the “buying” route, you can now add another premade baby food option to the mix.
With weekly plans starting at $35, or a little under $6 a jar (with average costs decreasing the more you buy), Yumi’s target customer base is informed, financially-secure parents who are looking for the best, most convenient option—and who are not turned off by the higher cost. The price tag can be explained by the fact the food is made-to-order, basically, and has a short shelf life—unlike the shelf-stable baby food you can buy in the supermarket.
Founded by Evelyn Rusli, a former journalist at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and Angela Sutherland, who cut her teeth in private equity, Yumi came about after Sutherland got pregnant. Like many expecting moms, Sutherland began to think about she should be eating while pregnant, and what her baby would be eating down the road with first solid foods. ”I remember thinking, what do I need to know and how important is nutrition?” Sutherland shared with me. “The first 1000 days has been widely written about—the Lancet wrote about it. This is the most important time in a person’s life for nutrition, be it brain or physical or metabolic development—and it puts a lot of pressure on you as a parent.”
When Sutherland started reading the ingredient lists of store-bought baby food, she found much of it was packed with “filler” ingredients like apple sauce — rendering the food high in fructose and low in nutrition. Used to organizing large swaths of data in Excel, Sutherland recorded her findings on spreadsheets, and discovered that on average 50 percent or more of the calories from the foods she surveyed were derived from fructose.
Together with Rusli, Sutherland set out to create a product built around babies’ first 1000 days, starting with conception, which pediatricians and children’s nutrition experts deem as critically important. Before solids, babies either nurse on breastmilk or formula, both of which include most essential nutrients for brand new tiny humans.
Since the human palate is predisposed to sweet, babies will naturally gravitate to foods that are sweet – bananas, sweet potatoes – and might to eat foods with naturally-occuring bitterness, like kale and broccoli.
When I was trying to figure out how to feed my baby solids, I felt had but one option — to make the food myself. After looking at many labels in stores and reviewing ingredients, amounts of sugar, vitamins, and so on, I concluded that baby food was not only expensive but also relatively unhealthy (as so many of the calories came from sugar, which was mainly supplied in the form of apple and pear sauces), and was exacerbating my kid’s natural preference for sweet tastes. As a food writer and editor, I wanted to give my baby whole ingredients, while limiting the amount of sugar in his food. I was also hoping to get him excited about real food he could see, not food that was in an opaque packet. So, I resorted to what many moms before me and since then have done—I started making my own baby food in the evenings after coming home from work and putting my baby down for the night.
It was fairly easy to make his food while cooking dinner. I started out by steaming some squash, carrots, or sweet potato, and when it was ready, puree it with some of the steaming water. As my baby got older, I started to incorporate more ingredients and spices. I knew what I was putting in my baby food, and because it wasn’t difficult to make—steaming and pureeing are straightforward— I went with it until my kid was old enough to eat whole foods and lost interest in his baby food.
In addition to enjoying making the food, I also liked the low-waste aspect of what I was doing. I would compost the vegetable and/or fruit scraps, use (and reuse) glass jars, and for a fraction of the store-bought baby food, I could make enough to give me a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. Plus, it made me feel uber-accomplished.
Sourcing ingredients mainly from local, organic farms near their facility in California, Yumi’s offerings aim to pack a nutritional punch, while keeping the food low in fructose and gluten-free. To get babies used to different flavors, Rusli and Sutherland add spices to some of their blends.
In the name of research, I decided to sample the food I was writing about before, well, writing about it. I received 6 jars (compliments of Yumi) filled with the following: minestrone soup, cran squash soup, kabocha buckwheat, a peach-sweet potato blend with coconut milk, a kale-pear-white bean blend, and porridge made with pitaya, sweet potato, and quinoa, among other ingredients. They were, at least to my palate, quite tasty. If I was looking to feed a baby, didn’t want to prepare my own food, and had the money to do so, I would absolutely order from Yumi.
For me, the two main questions were affordability and environmental impacts: Can you afford to buy this food, or is it easier now to make your own? And while the jars are curbside recyclable, the fallout in the wake of has left some communities in a pickle when it comes to what to do with their discarded plastics. Though it’s also worth noting that baby food pouches generally aren’t recyclable at all.
And should parents find themselves financially constrained by the expense, or concerned about their carbon footprint, Yumi shares its recipes and feeding tips to help families out, as well as provide advice, if needed, on what to order for a child off a restaurant menu. And while, at the onset, you may feel judged and turned off by the promise of building “a better foodie,” the ultimate goals are to help families feed their kids better food as well as give them options of making the food themselves.
Finally, there’s a disruption that might do some good.