If you’ve ever bought packaged snacks and glanced at the ingredients list, you’ve probably seen a slew of words that don’t sound natural—things like partially hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, red 40, fruit pectin, distilled monoglycerides. Things that sound more like the creation of a mad scientist than consumables that should go into your body.
July 14, 2015
SoarTriangle Mentee: With Kid Snacks in 300 Stores, Sweetie Pie Organics Positions to Grow
Raleigh food startup wins one of six spots in SoarTriangle female founder mentorship program.
Liliana Cantrell and Olga Kerr are changing that. With Raleigh-based Sweetie Pie Organics, they are disrupting the kid snack industry in the best way they know how—by bringing healthy, organic foods to children everywhere. Cantrell, the company’s founder and CEO, is a veteran of the children’s food industry. She worked for Nestle, (owner of Gerber), Organic Products and HIPP, a leading organic baby food company in Europe. Kerr (pictured top) is CMO and a specialist in market research and analysis, public relations, social media and marketing. She previously worked for a skincare company. Both women have MBAs. And both are moms who are passionate about moving the needle on dangerous kid health trends.
“One in four children in the US are at a higher risk to have diabetes by age 12,” says Cantrell. “One in three kids are now obese. Parents are looking for healthier options. They want organic foods for their children.”
One way to do that is to both monitor the competition closely and to listen to feedback from customers. That’s Kerr’s job—to talk to moms and to build audiences on all the right channels online. Through Facebook, Instagram, online distribution channels (Amazon and Zulily), product demos and more, Sweetie Pie Organics takes iteration and improvement to heart. For instance, mothers thought the carrot teething wafers were too savory. So Sweetie Pie is adjusting the recipe.
Mothers also wanted to know more promptly that the snacks are freeze-dried—the women are moving that explanatory picture from the top of the box to the front.
Sweetie Pie Organics is about making food a fun experience—with clean, easy to understand ingredients and bright and exciting packaging. But it has big business goals too. Another line of products is coming soon and the women are working to land larger accounts by targeting the toddler category. “Retailers are beginning to reach out to us,” added Cantrell. “It’s becoming easier. And the success rate is very high when we talk with a potential retailer. No one has ever said no, they don’t want to try this product.”
The Sweetie Pie Organics founders believe they’re nearing a tipping point. The SoarTriangle program will help Cantrell raise funding—that’s been a restraint to the company’s growth, and grow sales—to stay on the shelves, more product has to leave them.
They’re also hiring in the near future. The women need help with supply chain management and sales in the medical space. And they’re always hiring mothers who support the organic food movement to demo the products in stores.
I wrapped up our interview by asking an all-too-important question—if children have a favorite snack. Surprisingly, they said no.
“The carrot and beet wafers are unique and do equally well,” says Cantrell. “Apple is more the generic, but there is no outstanding favorite.”
More surprising though is another market for Sweetie Pie’s treats. According to Cantrell, “Adults love these too.”