New kid on the baby food market: Goodness Gracious Foods offer re-sealable pouches of organic baby food made using ancient ayurvedic principles. We asked founder Katherine Gubbins just what that means…
Katherine Gubbins, 45, lives in Switzerland with her partner and two daughters, aged seven and four
When did you decide to set up Goodness Gracious foods and why?
Like most mums, I wanted to cook for my baby when she started eating at six months but I had no idea what to do. I had previously done a 10-day fast in Thailand with colonics twice a day and when it came to eating again, I had papaya. It was not the act of eating but the sensory explosion of smell, colour, taste, texture and chewing that was in my mind when I started feeding Grace (my eldest, after whom Goodness Gracious is named).
I wanted wholesome, nourishing, balanced food, preferably organic. We were going away and pots of Tupperware food go off. I went to the shop and was disappointed. I wanted my kids to be interested by food. I didn’t find anything suitable and thought if I can’t find it, I will do it myself. So in 2011, that’s what I did.
Can you tell us about the ayurvedic principles involved – what exactly does that mean?
I had been teaching mummy and baby yoga and making ayurvedic teas and cakes for the mums and babies (sugar free, balanced and healthy). I find ayurveda works so my recipes are based on these 5000-year-old principles.
Ayurveda is a state of balance between the soul, senses and mind. It makes my family and I feel good. For example, fruit ferments in the stomach, inhibiting digestion, so it’s not advised to mix fruit with meat, fish or vegetables. I follow this principle in my recipes. I also use ingredients that bring a benefit to the body.
Our food is nourishing and wholesome. When children know they are eating something good for them, and become engaged, they choose it for themselves
There are six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. It is important that children know this variety, not that we eat lemons or fermented foods all the time, but neither should we eat sweet too much.
A baby’s taste buds are set in the first three years. If we can give them the right start, they know what’s good and what’s a treat when they come to make their own decisions. If my girls can have nourishing, healthy, wholesome foods, then all children should have that option, hence Goodness Gracious.
I never put in my food what I would not use at home: no concentrates, no additives, no added salt or sugar.
As their mother, I make the decisions for my girls, and am aware of their likes/dislikes. It’s my responsibility to give them a wide variety of foods and tastes and help build a healthy relationship with food, which will set them up for life.
Ayurvedic food excludes gluten, do you advocate a gluten-free diet for kids?
I don’t. We started as a baby food company and babies don’t need gluten. Their digestive systems are very delicate and we can introduce gluten when they can ‘stomach’ it better. There is no rush when it comes to feeding them. There are tonnes of other really good grains that they can eat which don’t contain gluten and a lot of them are better for us than wheat.
As they grow, introduce gluten slowly, and see how the body reacts. I do think it is important to try alternatives to wheat though, and some of these alternatives do contain gluten, for example barley. It has high fibre, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
And why is organic food so important?
Organic is how we grew/grow food at home. I don’t buy everything organic, I like local too. We need strong laws on food and what goes into it. It’s difficult to know what is in it/what it has been exposed to if it is not organic. Our children rely on us to feed them as well as possible.
If Europe signs up to the TTIP, and we embark on having American food, which has much less stringent food requirements, it will change dramatically the quality of our food and what is in it. We have to protect eco systems, bio diversity and increase our seed banks to protect what we have.
What’s the difference between your pouches and Ella’s Kitchen’s pouches?
We don’t mix fruit with meat, fish or vegetables. Fruit ferments in the stomach and inhibits digestion. Equally, children need to know there are six tastes, not just sweet. We use foods as they are intended to taste, we don’t hide tastes from children.
When they are older, they wonder why the individual ingredients aren’t sweet if you mix everything together at the start. We balance the ingredients for balance in the body and mind. We encourage mindful eating: thinking about what you are eating and why.
Until what age can children eat your meals?
Actually, we sell to adults too. Lots of sporty people (cyclists, triathletes etc) and people with busy lifestyles buy our products. Our food is nourishing and wholesome. When children know they are eating something good for them, and become engaged, they choose it for themselves. There is no age limit.
What considerations are taken into account when designing the packaging for the baby food? (environmental/health and safety etc)
When you become a parent, compromise comes much higher up your list. I don’t think that’s just me. The lid has a lot of plastic but it is big so that babies cannot swallow it. If they inadvertently do, then the holes in the lid help prevent suffocation. Also, if you are on a bicycle, you can twist the top off easily, rather than stop and undo.
Of course I would love to have recyclable/biodegradeable materials. They are available, but the consumer will not pay such a high price for food products.
Where do you work from and do you have a team?
I work from home and my husband helps. I have a small team of ‘GG Mums’: GG Mums, at its simplest, works like Tupperware. There are lots of mums with young children looking to earn extra money, or just be involved in doing something, and they like what Goodness Gracious does and want to be involved.
They talk about our products in their communities, the places they hang out with their children and use our products to get the brand out there. We pay a commission to them. We welcome any mums who believe they can add to our community. The more the better!
I think lots of mums are concerned about the quality of baby food by other brands. Of not being heard or listened to. I spend a lot of time engaging with my consumers, through events or in-store promotions/samplings. I think they like talking with me because I am a mum too and can empathise – I am either in it or have been.
What does an average day look like for your family?
I get up before my family and practise my yoga. It’s the only real time I have for myself. I do my emails at that time too. My husband gets the girls breakfast and then I take them to school. I take the dog for a walk or run and plan my strategy for the day.
I work until lunchtime. They come home for lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as there is no canteen at their schools. Also, there is no school on Wednesday or Friday afternoons. Activities are not included so there is a lot of ferrying around to play dates, sports and so on. I work until they come home.
I feel like a swan: graceful on the surface but paddling madly under water trying to keep myself above it
I try to cook a bigger meal at lunchtime than at suppertime. Bed for them is around 7.30pm. Then if there is work to be done, I work until it’s done. I do have some help, as I could not do it all myself. I just like to be there for the important parts.
How is business going for you?
It is hard work and my children are young and need me more at the moment. It is a myth that you can have it all. Life is a compromise. For me, it’s important to improve the way we feed our children. I think that’s the most important message so I make it work.
I have a UK registered company and my products are made there. I never expected to go on sale in the UK but I was asked by parents to come and one of them contacted Planet Organic in London and asked them to stock me and they said yes.
What are your hopes for Goodness Gracious Foods?
To help children everywhere have a better relationship with food and a better diet. This is more evident in western countries than less developed nations because they don’t have access to the amount of processed food we do. If we all work together, we can bring about change.
Any advice on starting a business?
A start-up is a long and lonely journey. People think I am doing really well and succeeding. They only see the outside. I feel like a swan: graceful on the surface but paddling madly under water trying to keep myself above it.
If you want to start your own business, go for it. Do your research and have a passion. There is no one who will be as passionate about your business as you are. But make sure it is a viable proposition before taking the steps.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and don’t, for one minute, think it is easy. It takes time. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and think ‘if only’ or ‘what if’. Life is there to be lived. Do it!