August 24, 2023
Erica Bethe Levin cautiously fed her firstborn, Charlie, traditional one-ingredient pureed baby foods. "Now he's a horrible, very picky eater," she says. "It's very sad—and embarrassing! My husband and I both have careers in food. So, we said, 'We're not making that mistake again.'"
When their daughter, Neve, arrived, they decided to feed her whatever they were eating. First meal? Coconut curry. She devoured it. Saffron and sausage risotto? Yum! Pesto pasta? Baby thumbs up.
When Levin searched to find baby food to delight her daughter's budding palate, she couldn't. So, she decided to make it herself. She dug into research and learned that introducing kids to diverse ingredients and unique flavors during the "flavor window" between 4 months and 18 months old helps prevent picky eating later. Plus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends feeding allergenic foods early and often: The exposure could lead to allergy reduction.
Over two years, Levin convened an expert panel of chefs to help create Globowl's first four meals, which launched this summer: Pad Thai for Tots, Veggie Tikka Masala, Yaya's Medi-Bowl and Baby Spice's Bean Bowl. The meals, manufactured in Rhode Island, are all-natural, preservative free, low sodium, low sugar and shelf stable, making it easy for parents to bring the world to kids' plates.
Forget pureed pea mush. Levin learned the importance of texture in influencing a baby's healthy, diverse eating habits and created meals that help young eaters explore it. Pieces are cut even smaller than recommended standards and cooked to a required soft texture to minimize any risk of choking.
Chicago, Illinois-based Globowl makes it easy for parents to feed kids nutritious, diverse foods. Levin's goals, however, go beyond kids' bellies.
"I deeply believe that food is a universal unifier—the sooner we introduce kids to other countries, people and cultures, the sooner they practice more acceptance, open-mindedness and curiosity for others," she says. "The idea of creating little humans with big hearts is what motivates me every single day."
Globowl won Naturally Chicago’s Pitch Slam for companies with revenue under $1 million—a division that the Chicago chapter created—so the brand will exhibit with the Naturally Network regional Pitch Slam winners but not compete in the Expo East Pitch Slam competition.
We caught up with Levin ahead of the show to learn more about this emerging company.
Did you have a diapered panel of baby taste testers? How does it work without words: Do you record how many panelists throw it back at you? Or compare bibs to see how much was spit back out in protest?
Erica Bethe Levin: You judge it really based on their reaction and by how much they ate. I tasted it so many times it's not even funny. The chef advisory board tasted it, my kids, all my friends' kids [so by the time it reached other tasters,] we really had unanimously positive feedback. No kids throwing it back!
How do you determine the best level of spice for babies? Is there some sort of scientific scale?
EBL: There's no real science for that. There are rules around sodium and sugar. But in terms of spice, everyone's different. One thing for certain is that kids' taste buds are more pronounced than ours. Things are a little bit more powerful for them. For instance, in the Latin bean bowl, we have cayenne, but it's such a small amount that they're not tasting spicy per se, but their palate is accepting that spice. So that way, the next time their palate tastes it, it's already been there, so they start to become accustomed to it. But in no way, shape or form is the food, you know, spicy.
What flavors are you working on next?
EBL: The goal is to bring the world to kids' plates and palates and hopefully to their hearts, inspiring curiosity for the world, so we obviously want to go beyond the first four SKUs. We're working on Italian, Mexican and Ethiopian. We've got lots of plans!
What sustainability steps is Globowl taking?
EBL: Our whole mission is making the world a better place through food. So there was no doubt from the very beginning [that] we were going to be in recyclable glass jars. All those pouches [that other baby food brands use] end up in landfills. We're getting our organic certification and, although we've just launched, we're committed to one day becoming a B Corp.
What do you hope to get from your Expo East experience?
EBL: The last two years have been all about building the brand and formulating the recipes, so I am so excited to talk to buyers. I went last year, and it's just a very inspiring situation, meeting really great people. To be able to take buyer meetings for the first time, it just feels like we've finally arrived. So I'm very excited!
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