You may have heard of organic baby food and even gourmet baby food. But locally grown? Once the domain of food co-ops and high-end restaurants, the locavore movement has now made its way, in the form of nutritious mush, into baby spoons and onto bibs across the land. Small companies—such as Bébo Organics in Hilliard, Ohio; Local Baby in Austin; and Goo Goo Gourmet in Pittsfield, Massachusetts—are mashing, boiling, and packaging the stuff for an adoring following.
Bébo is the idea of three sisters, all with small children, who were dissatisfied with the baby-food choices at the supermarket. "We knew if we were having this problem, others were, too," says Ariana Ulloa-Olavarrieta, who rents a commercial kitchen with her sisters. They prepare the food themselves and sell it on a website and at local farmers' markets. Each week, they sell about 100 5-ounce containers of frozen Black Bean Sweet Potato Blend and Harvest Turkey Stew at $2.50 each.
Businesses like Bébo aren't about to rock the $5.5 billion baby-food industry, but they are carving out a niche. If they expand, though, they will inevitably sacrifice their identities as local producers; they will join the more-crowded field of plain old organic producers. Even tiny Bébo already sells 20 percent of its output beyond its metro area. "Local is our competitive advantage," says Ulloa-Olavarrieta. "But at some point, we're going to have to pick."