Here’s the thing: Children are being set upon an unhealthy dietary path that starts when they’re born. When starting solids, many parents lead their children down pre-made baby foods with few nutrients. Many contain high sugar levels, some are promoted for use from four months of age – when infants should be on milk.
“There’s a lack of delicious and nutritious baby foods. Brands stocked at supermarkets have a shelf life older than your baby,” says Qadreya Al Awadh, Founder & CEO of Bumblebee, a UAE-based baby food startup, adding that she wants children to experience a variety of tastes and textures, something impossible when sucking food out of a foil pouch.
The spark to launch a baby food business started, Qadreya says, when she babysat her friend’s son and had to feed him from a store-bought jar that lacked flavor, color, and nutrition.
“I soon began researching and developing nutritious recipes and eventually started Bumblebee,” adds the 27-year-old Emirati entrepreneur, who saw the lack of a fresh, organic option for parents who might typically try to make their own.
HEALTHY AND BALANCED MEAL
Qadreya, who has been selected to be part of a UN Women’s Program, says it is essential for kids to have a healthy and balanced meal as early as possible as those habits are often carried into adulthood. “For instance, studies have shown that babies who consume more salt from a younger age are more likely to battle obesity as they grow older. Even with sugar, it is so cleverly hidden in all our foods but contributes to dependence on sweet foods and eventually childhood obesity.”
The brand sources local ingredients, vegetables, and fruits, but Qadreya also described her social impact mission: making healthy baby food more affordable.
“Every parent must have access to affordable, delicious, nutritious meals to feed their child, without compromising their child’s health and the monthly budget.”
She says that innovation is important in any product as it gives a business an edge in a competitive market. Bumblebee’s the only frozen baby and kids food in the UAE. “Frozen food allows for an easier meal plan as all you have to do is defrost, heat, and eat.”
“We do not yet have a sophisticated supply chain. However, we have an in-house R&D team composed of two certified chefs and three pediatric nutritionists. Our team continuously explores new ways to innovate and develop nutritious and delicious recipes,” she says.
Starting her business with the gains, a little over $27,000 she accumulated over ten years of investing in the stock market, Qadreya says it took her a year to develop the menu and products fully.
“We wanted to launch in early 2020. However, the pandemic slowed things down, which is great in hindsight as it allowed us to develop the menu further.”
Businesses aren’t born overnight, and having a source of income while getting the business off the ground is crucial. And that’s why she hasn’t made the leap from full-time worker to a business owner yet.
“I am still working in the financial sector, gaining knowledge and experience.”
But convincing investors to put money into a new startup in a niche market wasn’t easy. “It was a challenge being young and rather inexperienced in the F&B market.”
It’s difficult, she says, to market baby food when major companies own more than half of the market. “The ease and convenience of supermarket brands is an attractive solution for parents on the go. Moreover, major companies have a first-mover advantage and have built a loyal customer base. It was difficult to penetrate this market.”
“However, we are slowly building a customer base and continue to expand our reach in the UAE,” she adds.
Aligning with UAE National Wellbeing Strategy 2031, she plans to hold seminars to educate parents and schools on the importance of a healthy and balanced meal. “We also plan to develop our supply chain and stock in supermarkets in the medium term. We hope to expand to new markets, perhaps across the GCC.”
Loading the player...
Tim Draper shares his views on how Saudi Arabia will impact the future of tech