It’s no secret that going organic is trendy. People want quality and transparency in everything from their produce to their beauty products these days. And it doesn’t stop there. The newest frontier in the organic revolution is baby food. More specifically, baby blends that are non-GMO, 100% plant-derived, dairy-free, gluten-free, and with no added sugars. Toddler mush that’s innovative and that has a purpose. Baby food from brands like Cerebelly, which launched today, brings a new competitive edge to the growing global organic baby food market, which is predicted to reach $18.23 billion by 2026, according to MarketWatch.
Cerebelly is the latest player in the ever-growing industry of fancy, natural baby food that includes brands such as Beech Nut and Peter Rabbit Organics. The new label wants to set kids up with a nutritional foundation by offering “brain-focused” food that delivers precise nutrients to nourish specific regions of the brain. It’s co-founded by Dr. Teresa Purzner, a practicing neurosurgeon with a PhD in developmental neurobiology and a mother of three. The foods use nutrients from superfoods such as chlorella, squash seeds, algal oil, kelp, and maitake mushrooms to support healthy brain development. Purzner notes taking care of the mind is especially crucial for kiddos, because for their first three years, their brain is developing rapidly, particularly when it comes to foundations in seeing, hearing, memory, cause and effect, attention, and social awareness.
Cerebelly targets kids at their different ages and developmental stages, and as you track your child's milestones on their website, they'll send you different packets of food tailored to the way their brain is forming.
"The most complex and challenging aspect of its design was ensuring that we appropriately supported early brain development,” Purzner tells Refinery29. “The brain is an incredibly complex structure made up of many distinct regions, with each region growing during a specific developmental window. Each region requires its own set of nutrients to develop properly. Cerebelly is designed to ensure that specific nutrients are delivered at specific times to support each brain region as it develops.”
The company focused on 40 distinct regions of the brain and 19 different nutrients, she explains, and different regions require different combinations of these 19 nutrients. For example, at around seven months, your little one is getting better at balancing and coordinating muscle movement, thanks to growth in areas of the brain responsible for motor development. “Pretty soon they'll be sitting without support and moving from hands and knees to a sitting position all on their own,” Purzner explains. “Fine motor skills are developing too, like the ability to transfer objects from one hand to another. That balance and coordination is driven by the cerebellum and it’s supported nutritionally by zinc, folate, and niacin. Zinc can be found in spinach, beans, egg yolks, and beef. Look to things like legumes, broccoli and leafy greens for folate. Niacin [or vitamin B3] is found in squash seeds, beans, and legumes.” So, those nutrients are packed into the little pouches, which retail for $8.49 per variety pack (a box of three pouches) at Whole Foods. You can also sign up for a subscription that'll range from $2.31 to $2.89 per pouch depending on how much you buy.
Cerebelly is one startup in a lengthening line of innovators in the industry. Sharon Brown, a clinical nutritionist and the founder of Bonafide Provisions, says that the need for transformation in the world of baby food isn’t necessarily coming from scientists and manufacturers — but from smart parents.
“They're being more innovative than ever in their approach to baby food because, number one, parents are more educated than those of us who raised our babies 25 years ago,” Brown says. “Back then we didn’t have an instant encyclopedia, AKA, the Internet, at our fingertips where we could educate ourselves on how food affects babies’ development, brain health, immunity and overall health.”
Parents aren’t afraid to get a little creative, mix things up, and go past the classic Gerber label, Brown says. For example, when her son had to do continuous round of antibiotics, she incorporated bone broth into his routine. Similarly, Cerebelly’s founders hope parents will be into the idea of mixing up food types and flavors depending on developmental phases — and hope the kids won’t mind the changes in taste.
Purzner says she’s glad she found a place in the world of baby food, where parents are perhaps more open-minded than ever.
“I feel very fortunate to be entering the field in a time where there’s so much opportunity for improvement,” Purzner said of the baby food sector. “Being a start-up we really had the chance to get everything right, right from the start. Things like transparency, heavy metal testing, vegetable-first blends and adaptive nutrition that meets the current needs of the child."
[Editor's note: Christene Barberich, a co-founder of Refinery29, was previously a consultant for Cerebelly, but was not involved with writing or editing this piece.]