Major life changes are often a catalyst for new innovative ideas for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. For new parents Sophie and Ian Baron, the idea for Mamamade was born when they came to introduce solids into their daughter’s diet.
The couple wanted to feed baby Liba a healthy diet of home-cooked, plant-based food full of flavor, but didn’t always have the time to cook from scratch. Having surveyed the baby food market, they were surprised to find that there were no convenient products that could come to the rescue of time-poor parents who didn’t want to compromise on quality, and so the seeds for a brand new business were sown.
Finding a Niche and Delivering Great Meals
Having spotted this untapped market, Sophie started making her own brand of healthy pre-portioned mixes, porridges and finger foods, sending them out from her kitchen in north London.
During the course of 2019, the new venture took off, and in June that year, Mamamade was officially launched. Although it is still early days, it is clear that the company has found its niche and is fulfilling a need for parents. “We have only been trading nine months, but we have already sent some 10,000 meals directly to customers all over the UK and have a growing audience of 15,000. We couldn’t have asked for a better reaction,” says Ian.
Mamamade offers three types of products: plant-based mixes for pureeing, mashing or serving whole, breakfast bowls and finger foods in a total of 16 flavor combinations. Each meal has been designed to be rich in nutrients and the ingredients are flash-frozen, which means there is no need for additives, or the kind of heat processing used to preserve most commercial baby foods. Customers sign up for a subscription that includes a regular delivery of The Mama 12 Box, which comes with 12 meals tailored to the age of their child.
The business is tapping into the healthy eating trend that has seen vegan food go mainstream as more and more consumers choose a plant-based diet. Subscription-based business models are also growing in popularity, and both trends look set to continue as people not only switch to healthier and more sustainable foods, but also want to save time and avoid the crush of the supermarket. But for Sophie and Ian this venture is not about being on trend, it was born out of necessity.
“When I started Mamamade, it was because I was desperate for a better support system,” says Sophie. “And these days, we’re busier than ever helping parents across the UK access nutritious, delicious meals for their children without having to leave their homes.”
To maximise the potential of the brand, the company has also participated in the Huckletree Alpha Programme, an accelerator programme for start-ups, and the Seed Fund, which is particularly focused on food businesses and offers help from a wide range of mentors, who themselves are entrepreneurs. Mamamade is the only baby brand to have ever been taken on by the Seed Fund.
Taking Packaging to the Next Level with Digital Print
Initially the primary focus was on the product, which was packaged in plain, clear pouches with labels attached to provide the relevant information. But as time wore on, thoughts turned to finding custom frozen food packaging that would communicate better with customers and give the products the professional look they deserved.
“Not coming from a manufacturing background, our knowledge of packaging was naturally somewhat limited,” says Ian, “but we quickly understood that digital printing was the way to go. With a very large number of SKUs and quite short print runs, conventional production methods were simply not a viable option. Fortunately, we were introduced to the ePac UK Silverstone team, who have great expertise in digital printing and pouch-making, so from the start, we knew we were in good hands.”
From sticking basic labels on clear to fully printed pouches in funky designs has been a milestone for the start-up. Sophie says, “We had a surge of new customers – growth in one month alone was 60% – so it was becoming too labour intensive to apply labels by hands. Launching these new professional looking pouches has taken us to the next level, and we are so happy to have found such a brilliant packaging partner!”
In this changing environment, the agility of the ePac business model means that Mamamade can pivot when they need to and adjust product lines easily. And with delivery times of less than 15 working days from approval of artwork and lowest minimum orders, new flavors can be launched almost instantly in great looking packaging that will delight parents and kids alike.
“Here at ePac, we are always excited to help start-ups on their journey,” says Nick Monk, Sales Director UK & Ireland and Managing Partner of ePac UK Silverstone. “Mamamade has been incredibly successful and very quickly hit the stage where their packaging was hindering more growth. When brands reach that point, it can seem an insurmountable climb, but this is where we step in with our expertise to deliver a sustainable solution.”
Help During a Crisis
During the COVID-19 crisis, Sophie and Ian have been supporting the UK’s NHS workers by offering them a free box of 12 children’s meals. With several of Sophie’s family members back in the US working in healthcare, it’s a cause close to their hearts. “At Mamamade, we have a personal connection with the coronavirus pandemic, as both my father and sister are doctors working on the frontlines in New York. Therefore, we understand the stress many are under and want to be there to support all NHS parents during this tough, tough time,” explains Sophie. “We want to give all NHS workers the ability to put their feet up and let us take care of mealtime.”
This great initiative has been augmented by the ePac team, who wanted to further support Mamamade. The flexible packaging specialist will be replenishing their stock of pouches free of charge to enable Sophie and Ian reach even more parents in need.
“ePac is all about supporting the communities that we operate in and we just want to do our bit where we can,” comments Nick. “Mamamade was already a very caring enterprise, founded to help parents get through one of the most challenging parts of their lives. What they’re doing for those fighting the battle against coronavirus for us all is admirable, and it’s a cause we really wanted to get behind.”