Interview: Sophie Baron, Founder of Mamamade

Sophie Baron created her company Mamamade after realising how challenging it was to keep up with her baby’s changing weaning habits. It’s a common problem; just when you think you’ve found the foods they love and spend hours batch cooking, you find that your baby is now wanting something completely different to eat! A parent’s time is precious, and Sophie has come up with the perfect solution: frozen meals that are designed from weaning to four years. All the dishes are salt, sugar and honey free, made with organic ingredients and are plant-based; food that is nutritious for a growing child and offers maximum convenience for parents.



What made you start your business Mamamade?


It started when I was introducing solids to my daughter when she was 6-7 months old. I had gone back to work around the same time and I was shocked to find there was nothing to support parents beyond long-life jars and pouches. I was freezing batches of purees in ice cube trays but I found it wasn’t the right texture for my daughter. She went off purees quite quickly; I couldn't keep up with her pace and I wanted help. Parents deserve better in terms of support and convenience without having to compromise on nutrition, taste, and flavour; that was my lightbulb moment!


I wanted something in my house that would see me along the whole journey. That’s when Mamamade came in because we offer a full range, from purees and mixes to toddler meals. Currently, our best-selling products for babies are our pancakes, followed by our Hearty Veg and Quinoa meal; for toddlers, it's our Lentil Shepherd’s Pie.


How do you choose your products and taste test?


Since we’ve started Mamamade the tastes and preferences of the market have changed dramatically. When I first started out, parents were still giving their children the basics: root vegetables, apple and maybe kale or quinoa. Now we are basically re-doing all of our recipes because we see how much parents want even more flavour for their children. We turned to our community of existing customers, which is currently 40,000 parents, and asked for feedback. Having our own commercial kitchen means we can respond to what they are telling us; it’s very collaborative. We are on this constant journey communicating with our customers, understanding their desires for their children and making sure we are offering multi-cultural, flavourful food that is safe for children and babies, developed by chefs and made by hand from ingredients which are top quality and nutrient-rich.


Is it important for young children to have these food experiences?


Yes absolutely. The science shows the first 1000 days from conception to their third birthday have the biggest effect on a child’s food preferences and their relationship with food. Weaning is not only about what you're feeding but also the positivity of mealtimes, the social element of family mealtimes around the table. It’s a great time to bring children into the kitchen to learn to love new food and new ingredients; certainly my four-year-old daughter is confident around new foods and is not a fussy eater. Some of it does come down to who they are, but persist with those flavours, offer variety and be patient. Sitting down eating a family meal really affects how much they learn about food.


Do you have a food background?


I’ve always had a personal interest in food and nutrition and when I had my daughter I wanted to make sure I was setting her up to have the best possible relationship with food. I took a course in child nutrition before starting Mamamade but I’ve brought in nutritionists along the way, to make sure that we meet the quality that I aspire to.


What is Mamamade’s ethos?


Our food is organic and I made the decision very early with Mamamade that all our meals would be plant-based. I feel very strongly we should be empowering parents to be confident to feed their children with as many plants as possible.


Sustainability is also a huge concern of ours; it’s why our packaging is recyclable which is relatively unheard of in the baby food sector (long-life pouches are very difficult to recycle and often end up in landfill). We offer a frozen product as it gives more flexibility and helps parents manage food waste; they can basically heat up what they want and keep the rest in the freezer.



Has social media played a big part in growing your business?


Yes, 100%! We started off completely on Instagram, then set up a website with the subscription service. Even now there is very little paid spend on marketing; Mamamade has grown organically. We see ourselves first and foremost as a resource base for our community, offering not just food but looking at topics beyond food such as mental health issues. We provide a space for people to voice that some days just aren’t that great as a parent. Certainly when I started Mamamade there weren’t enough people saying it can be really hard, so we’re trying to create a space where parents can share what’s going on with them.


What are the long term plans for Mamamade?


Our objective at Mamamade is to be the leading parenting brand in the UK; not just a top food resource but to include other products that need improving. The legacy brands out there aren’t keeping up with the expectations of modern parents regarding quality, sustainability and all the elements that Mamamade is focused on.


Beyond that we are looking at markets across Europe and partnering with Gorilla the retailer. We are also focusing on building up our community and learning as much as possible from our parent base so we can keep serving them. It’s becoming a trusted resource for the modern parent and letting them know we’re here to help them in all the ways they’re telling us they need help.


Can companies such as Mamamade help reduce the pressure on parents?


There can be guilt as a parent; we say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ but in this day and age we don’t necessarily know our neighbours, so we need to create that community. You are not a bad parent for wanting convenience; let Mamamade take the load off so you can actually enjoy mealtimes.


Have you found running your own business has helped your work/life balance?


The pandemic has made the work/life balance change; in some ways it’s better and in some ways it’s harder. There is a reason why, after becoming mothers, many women are drawn to more flexible work or start their own business. Being my own boss has been a huge advantage in managing my time so I can be there for my kids as much as possible - though sometimes I think it would be easier to be able to finish work at 5.30 and come home! It's also good for me; there is something quite fulfilling about having this side of my life as well as being a mother.


Join the Mamamade community here:

www.instagram.com/hellomamamade

https://www.mamamadefood.com




Chatting Food Contributor: Susan Davies

I re-trained as a chef in my forties, it was tough, but I love cooking. I studied at Westminster College and worked at Food by John Lawson; both were amazing experiences. Now I run a monthly supper club local to where I live in Leigh on Sea and more recently set up Eat Well Together, to post recipes that anyone can cook. I love growing my own vegetables and if I’m not in the kitchen, I’m in the garden.


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