“As women, we have the unique opportunity to support fellow female entrepreneurs so that we can all rise together,” says Caroline Cotto of Renewal Mill.
She, along with Renewal Mill CEO Claire Schlemme are leading by example alongside the women of baby food brand Square Baby, Katie Thomson and Kendall Glynn, through a special collaboration.
Renewal Mill is a food waste reprocessing venture that upcycles fibrous byproducts from food manufacturing into high value end-use goods while Square Baby makes high-quality, nutritious baby food and focuses on early food allergen introductions.
So what could a collaboration look like? It's a unique baby food blend that addresses two issues important to both parties: food allergies and food waste. The blend is Square Baby Peanut Pumpkin Pie puree with Renewal Mill’s nutritious okara (soy) flour.
We caught up with the two former Natural Products Expo Pitch Slam finalists to break down what this partnership looks like and how missions are being woven into this collaboration.
What does this partnership look like?
Renewal Mill: Okara is being used in Square Baby's new flavor Peanut Pumpkin Pie which is a seasonal fall meal that's intended for early allergen introduction of peanut and soy and is supporting a more sustainable food future for all of us. We are marketing it as "Next generation ingredients for the next generation," and explaining the duality of our missions as follows: "Food waste is a growing problem; food allergies are a growing problem; fight both with a single spoonful!"
Square Baby: We’ll [also] be providing Renewal Mill chocolate chip cookies to our parents in all of our Square Baby orders.
Okara is a fairly unique and new ingredient in the U.S. market. Why choose this over say, more common flours?
RM: It’s actually a traditional East Asian ingredient that's been used for centuries. We really believe that soy is an original superfood, and we are reclaiming the health benefits of soy for all ages, starting with children. Okara has five times the fiber of soy flour and a much more neutral taste. It also has 40% of the carbon footprint of other flours like wheat and soy, so it's a better for you, better for the planet option.
SB: We had been looking for the right soy ingredient to introduce to our meal lineup. When we met Renewal Mill, we knew we’d found it ... organic, highly nutritious, upcycled, local, women-owned. And after meeting Claire and Caroline, we were even more determined to make this partnership soar.
Thoughtfully choosing and sourcing high-quality ingredients is important for you both. How do you see these values filling a gap in the baby food space?
RM: We are focused on improving the food system at every level, and that means producing products that are better for the environment and better for our bodies. Our okara is organic and non-GMO, minimally processed and has no preservatives. Nutrition is such an important part of setting children up for success, and feeding our children nutrient-dense ingredients made with intentionality is vital to their development.
SB: Nutritional quality, ethical sourcing and sustainability are more important than ever, especially for our littlest bodies and brains. Thankfully, we are seeing a lot more organic and even fresh options in baby food in the last few years. But, we’re still seeing a lot of fruit-heavy purees that lack a variety of proteins, veggies, healthy fats and allergens. Square Baby is committed to sourcing the highest-quality ingredients and combining them in a way that offers 100% daily nutrition through truly balanced, “square” meals.
What about using upcycled ingredients? Why focus on and incorporate food waste?
RM: Food waste is a massive issue. It's the third leading cause of climate change, and globally, 30% of the food we produce is never eaten. As the climate crisis continues to escalate, our focus on waste reduction becomes more imperative.
Using upcycled ingredients in baby food further hits home the point that we need to take every step we can to reduce our environmental impact now so that the generation growing up today can actually have a safe, healthy planet to live on. Investing in upcycled ingredients is an investment in our children's future.
SB: We are proud to partner with a company whose mission goes beyond quality, beyond nutrition, beyond branding. Their commitment to upcycling is exactly what our next generation needs to preserve and protect the earth they’ll acquire.
What advice do you have for emerging brands seeking an impactful, complimentary partnership like yours?
RM: Being a female entrepreneur is hard enough. Only 3% of venture capital funding went to women last year, and if you look at the percentage of funding that went to pregnant women or moms, it's virtually non-existent. However, where there is challenge, there is also opportunity.
My advice would for emerging brands exploring partnerships is: be open to all possibilities. Even if it seems like there might not be an immediate opportunity for partnership, don't be afraid to dive in and explore. You'll be surprised with the amazing things you come up with! I'd also say, don't be afraid to make the first move. If Katie and Kendall had not gone out of their way to come up and introduce themselves to us during Food Funded, this entire partnership would have never come to fruition.
SB: Joining together and supporting like-minded brands is a no-brainer. And supporting female founders is even more important, because we all rise together. Because there is always someone in the room you can help and someone you can learn from. It’s our job as entrepreneurs to reach out, follow our gut, push through our comfort zone to connect, learn and grow. You never know what beautiful connection awaits you.