EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There's a mini baby boom taking place in some supermarket frozen-food cases.
Growing Healthy's frozen line of baby foods, available in Minnesota since its birth in 1991, has steadily grown throughout Illinois and Colorado, and is now climbing its way onto shelves in California, Texas and Arizona.
Three California chains are among the latest retailers to add the product: Ralphs Grocery Co., based in Compton; Lucky Stores' Southern California division, Buena Park, and Stater Bros. Markets, Colton. "We're just selling into Dallas, Houston and Phoenix," says Bill Bastian, vice president of sales for Growing Healthy. The company has considered Tom Thumb, Randall's and Kroger as prospective customers in some of those markets, Bastian said. He said the East Coast is the next target area, but declined to get more specific.
Retailers contacted by SN report the line is doing well, even though it carries a higher price than traditional baby food. Two-serving packages range in price from 79 cents to $1.19.
"It started off slow because it was a brand-new item. I think people were kind of reluctant to pick up a frozen baby food," said Sidney Applebaum, president of Rainbow Foods, Hopkins, Minn. "But my, has it ever caught on."
Frank Kirchner, general manager of Knowlan's Super Markets, a seven-store chain in Eadnais Heights, Minn., said sales are "going pretty good" and people are willing to pay the premium price. "It's a little more expensive," he said. "I think it's kind of a modern-technology baby food. It's been accepted pretty well. It was a little slow in starting, but now it seems to have done a little better for us. We've got 24 items available to us. We probably carry about half that many."
A buyer for a Midwest chain, who requested anonymity, said he's pleased with the line's sales. "I looked at it as a bit of a risk when we took it on," he said. "I liked the concept, but I wasn't sure how consumers would respond. Well, they've responded, and I'm happy I went with it. "
Rainbow's Applebaum said a recent merchandising revision by Growing Healthy has spurred sales of the line in his stores.
"I told [Growing Healthy's founder Julia Knight] when she came in that the packages were small and they're kind of getting lost in the frozen-food cases," he said. "This past year she came up with a beautiful frozen-food case we put right next to the regular baby food. It's just picked it up, and it's going like hell."