Just a few years ago, Jade Ireland held the position of partner at an international property firm. But after having children the founder of Bellota baby, a premium food brand which specialises in creating organic, healthy meals that kids actually want to eat. This month, Bellota launches its subscription service so parents can pay monthly to have products delivered direct to their door. We caught up with Jade, 38, to find out what drives her, and how on earth she manages to get little ones to eat anything green…
How has motherhood affected your career path?
I studied Business at University and upon leaving I joined the large international property firm Knight Frank where I became partner, staying for 11 years. I have always had a keen interest in health and environmental issues stemming from childhood and a rather alternative-thinking mother. During maternity leave with my second child I was fortunate enough to be able to complete a handful of nutrition and cookery courses which steered me towards setting up Bellota Baby.
Is a healthy lifestyle important to you?
Incredibly! My husband Freddie and our girls Isabelle, 4, and Liberty, 2, live in Highgate, and we were very keen that the girls attend school and nursery nearby so we can walk everywhere. This aspect of life is very important to me as I am a great believer in children getting their daily dose of fresh air.
What inspired you to set up Bellota Baby? And what makes the brand unique?
When Liberty was born she had some health concerns, and the only way I could contribute was by providing her with optimum nutrition at every opportunity, and by trying to provide as toxic free an environment as possible. It paid off, she is now a thriving toddler and very much rules the roost!
While I was researching how to best feed Liberty, and provide all the necessary nutrients a six-month-old needs, I read the Mintel Report for the UK Baby Food Market. It gives a fairly damming and somewhat frightening picture of the market. There are now clear indications that parents are wising up to these shelf stable pouches and the gap between supply and demand is huge.
Taking that on board I decided to create a company that offers fresh organic baby and toddler food that parents can really trust. Our food has a 10-day shelf life and must be refrigerated. The commercial pouches often have a 2 year + shelf life, meaning the food may be 5 x older than your baby. This extended shelf-life is achieved by pasteurisation which can destroy up to 80% of nutrients. Also, we only use glass and paper packaging as most foil lined pouches can’t be recycled, which is ironic as they are ending up in landfills harming the very planet these babies will grow up in.
What obstacles did you face setting up your own business and how did you overcome them?
As we offer fresh baby food that doesn’t sit on a shelf we are a fairly new product concept. We are working hard on changing the way parents think about shopping for their baby food – looking in the refrigerated isle as opposed to next to the tooth brushes and toilet rolls…We have been achieving this via social media, getting influencers on board, in store tastings, attending and speaking at events and traditional PR channels.
Who are the women that inspire you?
Annabel Karmel (one of my old clients from my property days!), Lily Simpson of the Detox Kitchen & Tamara Arbib from Rebel Kitchen.
How did friends and family react when you told them you were starting your own baby food business?
‘Why didn’t I think of that?‘ Ha, no everyone has been extremely supportive & my friends’ children where amongst our first customers.
What do your children like to eat?
They have a fairly good palette and eat pretty much everything. I was conscious to avoid infant cereals, fruit juices and unnecessary sugars from the word get go, so they don’t have a sweet tooth which I think definitely helps them to enjoy & crave savoury dishes.
What research did you do before developing the brand and products?
Gosh, it took a year to launch the first product officially. We sold at farmers’ markets, held Mummy and Baby groups, picnics, coffee mornings, gave samples to nursery parents. No baby in North London hadn’t tried Bellota Baby by the time we had finished!
Do your kids eat Bellota meals?
The have the Bellota Baby almond and sesame porridge every morning, the quinoa bliss balls after the nursery pick up and they love our new roasted pepper, tomato and cashew puree (Isabelle has on pasta – it’s amazing!), so I would have to say those are the winners.
How do you get kids to eat healthily?
A wide variety of fresh, natural food is key and be persistent – keep introducing the ‘offending’ food & leave it in their bowl, pretty soon curiosity will get the better of them and they will pick it up and suck or eat it.
It is said the first 6-18 months are the most important in forming a child’s eating habits. I think reading labels on everything is paramount – starting with formula, baby rice and purees heavily laden with fruit. It is shocking the amount of unnecessary unnatural ingredients & sugars that manufacturers put into baby food, often contributing to children developing a taste for sugar at a vulnerable young age.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What’s next for Bellota?
We have doubled our range and launched our new products alongside a new subscription service at the start of this month. So watch this space! I stick to the motto “everything happens for a reason”. No matter how bleak a situation may be at the time it always comes good in the end if you believe it will.