In this interview, we chat about all things Serenity Kids pouches, puffs, and formula.
(Use our code MHCfor 15% off first-time orders, too!)
Founders Joe and Serenity Carr are disrupting the baby food industry one product at a time by introducing paleo-inspired, low-sugar alternatives.
Their nutrient-dense baby food pouches are culinary treats that feature flavor profiles containing superfoods such as bone broth, high-quality fats, and grass-fed or wild-caught meats.
Listen in to learn how you can support your baby’s palate development by taking advantage of the Flavor Window.
You’ll also learn how you can raise a confident and adventurous eater from the time your little one starts solids.
*Check out our interviews with Serenity Kids founders on their toddler formula.
- 00:49 – How have babies and parents alike reacted to SK’s culinary flavor profiles and pouches?
- 03:02 – What is the Flavor Window and why is it important for your baby?
- 05:47 – Why is meat an important first food for babies?
- 10:44 – How have Serenity Kids’ products been received by the medical community? Has there been any pushback or any feedback?
- 14:59 – Does Serenity Kids test for heavy metals in their products? How do they minimize this?
- 17:33 – What is the Clean Label Project and why is it important?
- 22:11 – A brief explanation of regenerative agriculture and why it’s a part of SK’s mission.
- 28:04 – What are some of the high-quality fat sources in SK products? Why are they important at this developmental stage?
- 32:44 – All about SK’s toddler formula.
- 46:24 – Practical tips for parents who want to instill and model healthy eating in their kids.
- 50:27 – Tips for parents who co-work together and run businesses together.
- 54:48 – How Serenity balances and flows with work, motherhood, home life, and self.
- 58:02 – Tips from Joe on how parents of autistic children can support them and nurture their superpowers.
- Interview resources are found at the bottom of this post.
Osmara – 00:02
Thank you guys for joining me. I’m so excited to have you here. I have to say I was really excited to interview you because you’re a staple in our house. You’re literally the only prepared baby food that I give my nine-month-old daughter and she loves it. When your team reached out, I was so excited because five days before I was telling my husband, ‘I love this company. I love what they’re about. I would love to talk to the founders and have the audience get to know more about the products.
Joe – 00:40
Thanks. We love your work too. I feel like we sculpted you out of clay or something. You’re the ideal supporter and customer.
Osmara – 00:49
I am your ideal customer! She started at six months and that’s when I found out about you guys through Lily Nichols. The thing that got me – I was like ‘bone broth in food? Amazing.’ The animal products, because I was looking for options. That’s one of the things that I was really impressed about was how culinary your pouches and your flavor profiles are. This is our favorite at the moment, the beef pot roast. When she drops some I take a bit and I’m so impressed because usually, that’s not the reaction you have with baby food. Tell me, how have the babies received your profiles, your flavors? Do the parents give you feedback? Do they try it?
Serenity – 01:46
Yeah. Really early on, Joe and I couldn’t figure out why no one was doing this right. In the baby food space. We did a ton of research and no one was doing it. I looked all over the world. Couldn’t find any. I thought, ‘oh no, maybe no one makes it because babies won’t eat it.’ So we stopped. I remember being in my car on my way to my other job. I said, ‘Joe, we’ve got to make this baby food. Get it into the mouths of babies and see if they’ll even eat it.’ We made up a bunch of batches in our kitchen. We asked – how do you do focus groups with babies? Cause they can’t fill out a survey yet.
Joe – 02:28
We didn’t know, we were just planning to get pregnant when we discovered the lack of baby food. We had to find all of our friends with kids, and their friends with kids rode them all around town. You made like eventually 30 different recipes of different versions to try to make sure babies would like it.
Serenity – 03:02
I came up with two survey questions, ‘how did your baby react when you gave them the food?’ and the answers are hilarious. They were: ‘spat it out and then opened,’ or ‘turned their head away and closed mouth and would not taste again.’ And then the second question was ‘how did you respond?’ About, I would say about three-quarters of the parents that we surveyed also did taste it. Not everybody did.
For our OG line – the chicken, the beef, the turkey, the bison, and the salmon. Those are kind of targeted towards slightly younger babies 10 months, and 12 months old. They’re more bland flavors because early on the tastebuds are really just waking up around the six-month mark. Having kind of a gentle ease into flavor is one route to go.
There’s also the flavor window, right? You want to expose babies to a lot of different flavors. Science shows and studies show that when you introduce babies to a wide variety of flavors, or really whatever flavors you introduce to a baby between the kind of five months to 18-month mark, that can set them up to enjoy later in life. If you give them only sweet stuff during that time, they’re going to only want sweet stuff later. Some spicy stuff, some bitter stuff, some sour stuff, kind of all along the way. You’re going to acclimate their palette to really adult foods, which is what you want adult, healthy foods.
So we put a lot of greens. We put a lot of different herbs and spices. As you said, that beef pot roast was an attempt for us to slightly increase the age range of our couches. That one has a more savory taste. It has a more complex flavor with aromatics. With we add Shitaki mushrooms to that one for that additional boost of nutrition, right? Mushrooms are super nutritious. When we make that particular one at the factory, all the employees are like, ‘Man, that smells like mashed potatoes and gravy. We just love this.’
Osmara – 04:53
Smells so good. It really does.
Joe – 04:56
It’s really important to us. There were a handful of other meat baby foods out when we started and they all were disgusting. They mixed them with rice. They mixed it with beans. They mix them with fruits, you know? It’s like fruit and grains with meat and no fat and no salt is like a recipe for gross. It was like people, babies don’t eat meat baby food. We don’t make any more because they don’t like the ones we made or like, yeah, because you may have discussed it. Our focus is on the right combination of vegetables and meats, really quality meats, and then the fat, which the fat really rounds out the experience of the taste and the texture. So babies love it. Now that’s one of the biggest reasons parents will buy our products because their baby wants it. They then want to eat more of it. It’s easy to get them to eat it and anything they will eat. It’s like, if it’s actually nutritious, it’s like, let them eat it.
Osmara – 05:47
It’s actually nutritious. That’s exactly right. That’s the thing. I feel like you guys are really disrupting the baby food industry because one of the things that I knew from my own health issues was that I really wanted to give my baby the best quality meats – grass-fed and wild-caught everything. You guys are just hitting that in and I thought to myself, I’m going to have to make purees because I don’t know how else I’m going to get the bone broth and the collagen and all of that good stuff. I can tell you, thanks to you guys. I have not made purees. I think I made it like once and that’s it. Now it’s just like, oh, you want your pouch? Okay. Here’s your pouch. Turkey bolognese.
So, okay. Let’s talk about that because your products deliver quality fats, which are super important for babies, even in utero, but also when you’re starting solids and quality meats. A lot of parents, to my surprise, are scared to start off with meat as one of the first foods. Can we talk about why is it important as a first food for babies and how did it dictate how you were going to deliver this in your products, as opposed to what you saw on the market?
Serenity – 07:06
Well, it didn’t take us very long to figure out there already was a perfect baby food out there and it was mother’s milk. So I dragged Joe to the milk bank here in Austin. I did all this milk research. There’s a ton, just a ton of fat and a lot of carbs and a decent amount of protein in breast milk itself. We knew that we wanted to make a baby food meal that approximated those macronutrients. We knew were going to need protein. We knew were going to want a clean meat source. It was just kind of a given. I don’t think we ever even questioned that…
Joe – 07:42
Well, breastmilk is an animal product. Animal protein, animal fat. Babies have all the enzymes they need to digest animal foods more than any other food. More than vegetables, certainly more than grains. It really is the easiest thing for them to eat.
Serenity – 08:00
And so it’s the most nutrient-dense. When you think about an ounce for ounce, bite for bite… Every parent knows that each little bite you can squeeze into that tiny mouth and make it go down into the stomach is so valuable, like real estate. You want to pack as much possible nutrition into that bite. Really well-sourced meats bite for bite just to have so many more vitamins and minerals and really health-inducing compounds and nutrition.
Joe – 08:29
Breastmilk is 60% fat. The fact that the aisle had no fat…Pretty much zero fat of any kind. Some products were made out of milk, a little bit of avocado here and there, but certainly didn’t have good animal fat beyond that. That was a big piece for us. In the beginning, was like, we’ve got to bring fat into here – animal fats, olive oil, avocado oil, the best, most digestible fats.
Serenity – 08:52
Really what we did was we swapped out the fruity carbs for veggies plus fat. Because the fruit pouches sell so well because they’re sugar bombs. Huge bags of sugar that you’re feeding your kid. When you look at the back and it says nine grams of sugar, it might not sound like a lot. Like nine little grams, that’s small. But when you think about a 15-pound baby and compare that to a 150-pound adult, you add a zero to that’s 90 grams. If I ate 90 grams of sugar for breakfast…
Joe – 09:30
And they eat two or three of them a day, which is a Snickers bar. It’s about the same amount of sugar as a Snickers bar. If you eat three of those pouches.
Serenity – 09:37
When we first started the company, we had a friend who was working at a daycare and she said, every morning the parents would bring these big bags of fruit pouches and drop them off at daycare. She said none of the workers would give them to them until 30 minutes before pickup. They were going to let the meltdowns happen then. These people knew what was up. They knew what sugar spikes do to your mood, to your mental state.
Both of my parents worked in mental health. I know the correlation between nutrition and gut health and microbiome. Your mental state, your mental illness, mental health, right. Just looking at the state of mental illness in our children, it’s a huge crisis. I personally think that diet plays a massive role. There are others – toxins, media, and all kinds of other things that don’t help. Right. I think that it’s rooted in diet. If people were willing to make that, I won’t say easy switch, but with that one switch, I think we would have a lot smaller crisis or not no crisis on our hands.
Osmara – 10:44
Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. And as someone who’s struggled with anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks… I’ve also struggled with inflammatory bowel conditions and inflammatory stuff in my gut. For me having our first baby, it was very important to really guard her gut health and to mold it and shape it. Unfortunately, high sugar really wreaks havoc on a baby’s gut. There’s science and there’s research behind that. However, it seems like there’s a contradiction between the science and the research and what we know about the paleo lifestyle and gut health, and what our pediatricians are kind of pushing in the offices. My question to you is, how have your products and received by the medical community, and has there been any pushback or any feedback in any way?
Serenity – 11:47
So far, a hundred percent of it, as far as I know, has been positive. We have a friend whose son ended up at Dell Children’s Medical Center for a little while in intensive care. We were giving him a bunch of our baby food to put in feeding tubes to help him stay healthy. She said, and it was right when we first launched years ago. She said she was showing these doctors – I’m getting goosebumps. She said that the doctors were like, ‘Wow, this stuff is amazing. Where can we get this?’ Because at the time it was only online or whatever, it wasn’t easy to find like it is now. We’ve had pediatricians, multiple pediatricians, reach out actually and say, ‘This is amazing. I recommend your stuff to my patients.’ There are some pediatricians that are obesity experts, where unfortunately they start seeing patients around 18 months old and they switched them to a paleo type diet. And switched them to our foods and things get better. For us, I personally think marketing plays a huge role in those recommendations that you talked about. The kind of old-fashioned, outdated recommendations.
Osmara – 12:56
The rice cereals and the…
Serenity – 12:57
Exactly. I think that the old way to do things was a drop-off of cases of these products at doctor’s offices and then the doctors recommend it cause it’s sitting right there and I don’t think that’s very ethical and that’s something that we, we don’t do that. Although I would love to because then more babies would have access to healthy foods. Right? It’s kind of a catch-22.
Joe – 13:23
There’s no debate in the medical community that meat and vegetables are great first foods for babies. The USDA guidelines were recently fully revised to say, basically meat’s really important. Sugar’s bad. You know, it’s all there. What hasn’t caught up is what they’re still recommending for babies that aren’t good. Everybody agrees meat and veggies are good. They also think rice cereal is good. They also think fruit purees are good. So that’s where there’s a dispute. Should we say, don’t eat rice cereal instead, focus on meat. For some reason, the pediatrician establishment still has that fortified rice cereal recommendation, despite all the arsenic, despite the constipation created by the fake iron.
Serenity – 14:12
But it’s also, there’s hope. There’s hope because it’s less and less every year. We just talked to one of the major baby retailers in this country and they were saying, they know that more pediatricians are recommending rice cereals less and less. And that just makes my mommy heart really swell up. Progress is being made and alternatives are out there. And so that’s what we’re here for to help educate and to provide the products. To really to give parents choices. Right. If they want the fruit stuff it’s there and we don’t necessarily think it’s super-duper evil all the time. Right. Whole fruits…
Osmara – 14:52
Serenity – 14:54
Exactly. There is another choice on the shelf now, and parents now have options.
Osmara – 14:59
That’s really awesome that you’re bringing that up because, in light of the recent findings in both baby food and formula, we’ve had major recalls. We’ve had congressional reports with alarming rates of heavy metals. It’s really scaring a lot of us parents who want to do better by our children. I was outraged when this happened, because it’s like, not only am I now overwhelmed with all the worries of first-time parenthood, but now I have to worry about heavy metals in things that are readily available in the supermarket aisles for my baby. This is crazy. So, given the current climate of this industry, how does Serenity Kids test for heavy metals in your products? How do you minimize those and how do you deal with this?
Serenity – 15:56
Yeah, so we actually found out about heavy metals – it’s been probably 10 years in the news, but we didn’t really know much about it until probably the year we launched our products or the year after. Right? When I had a baby – your baby’s age – and I was like, wait a second. What? I felt like I’d been blindsided, like a freight train. It seemed impossible to me to think that the FDA doesn’t care enough about our children to help keep them safe and keep their brains functioning properly. Like it was just preposterous. I could not believe it. And I was like, you know what? We’re not doing that. We’re not gonna participate in that stuff. We’re going to find a way to build a quality program.
We went out and hired an amazing quality director, and she’s been with us for two years. She has a kid, just younger than mine. Her kid was raised on our foods as well. We give our babies, the actual foods that we make. We know that they need to be the best possible. So we have a rigorous quality program. We test raw ingredients before we produce and we test finished products. And we have a third-party verifier. We work with the Clean Label Project, which does a great job of comparing baby foods and different categories. And they do pet foods. They do all different kinds of products too, to see if they’re free from, or, the lowest levels. They do heavy metals, pesticides, plasticizers, and environmental contaminants. Over 200 levels of contaminants that they test for.
Osmara – 17:32
What’s this called the Clean Label Project?
Joe – 17:33
The Clean Label Project. And they have different levels of certification you can win. We have achieved their Purity award, which is the highest, the best-in-class, and the lowest levels in the industry. We had to set our own standards because the FDA does not have heavy metal standards. We had to hire a lot of researchers, and scientists to figure out, well, you can’t ever eliminate all of them. They’re naturally occurring. Our soil is polluted. There’s only a certain supply we can get, so we can’t get it to zero. What is the level? We originally based our program on the European Union standards, which restrict us in the world. All of our products fall well below your opinion, your standards, but most of those standards are high compared to our products which were well below. Even with those standards, the FDA is now in the process of creating a standard.
They said it’ll take seven years to implement it as a standard. We, baby food companies, need to be joining with a bunch of State Attorney General’s offices led by New York State’s Attorney General. That’s pressuring the FDA to create an interim standard that will come into play sooner. It’s more rigorous because they want to take, they want to do an average of all the metals in the industry and say, ‘Hey, whatever the average is, that’s the new standard.’ And we’re like, it’s all too high. You can’t regulate it based on that. We should set regulating off of what’s possible. Not what’s currently out there.
Osmara – 19:01
Seven years. That’s, almost 2030. This is 2022. How are we still dealing with this stuff? So, that’s what I like about you guys. Because I know some of the biggest baby food companies, they either were testing levels with the raw materials, but they weren’t testing the finished product. You guys are testing what goes in and you’re testing what goes out. independently testing it all. That’s awesome. That’s great. Because you’re right. There’s no way to get around sweet potatoes and these types of things. They pull the nutrients from the soil.
Serenity – 19:39
I also think that if we have a contaminated food supply, right? Think like big macroeconomics problems. If we have a contaminated food supply who should get the good stuff? It’s the little babies who are doubling their spine size in their first year of life, and whose neurological development is still happening. They’re not the brains aren’t even full sides yet. Right. These neurotoxins can really hinder that and really affect their learning and their cognition for the rest of their lives. So that’s what we are talking about. We know there’s contamination and we’re going to have to make decisions about who, which citizens, get the best stuff. And we argue, it’s the little ones.
Joe – 20:21
Right now, our foods are safer than buying them yourself. Using our sweet potato puree is less likely to have heavy metals because we do such regular, rigorous testing than if you were to buy a sweet potato on the shelf and make it right? What Serenity is saying is maybe it could always be that way. Because if the supply was prioritized for babies. But that’s a policy decision. That’s a macro kind of thing that we’re doing it as a little company. Bigger companies could certainly do it, but the government has to be involved there and say, ‘Hey, this is the standard. Grocery potatoes at this level.’ It needs to go to baby food first.
Osmara – 20:56
Absolutely. You mentioned you started selling your products online and now you are in major retailers. I mean, I get you guys at Thrive Market, but you’re where? Whole Foods, Walmart, everywhere?
Joe – 21:11
We just launched in a thousand Walmarts all over the country. We’re in all Kroger’s now and most Targets. Every natural food store, you can think of Sprouts, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, and lots of regional chains co-ops and we sell them. We’re the fastest-selling shelf-stable baby food in the entire natural food channel and all of the natural food stores. People have really adopted us, and meat has traditionally not been a big seller with natural people. There are more vegetarians. There’s more of this idea that meat isn’t good for the planet, or isn’t good for your health. So we really proved that… The paleo movement in general has proven that ‘it’s not the cow it’s the how’ right? It’s the way it’s raised. So committing to ethical sourcing or generative sourcing is both better nutritionally, but also better for the planet. Ethically, it feels better for the consumer to buy.
Osmara – 22:11
Okay. So let’s just jump right into that. You have, you have a beautiful mission. Part of that is your environmental mission. Most of us aren’t really versed in what regenerative agriculture is and why it’s important. Can you briefly explain – what is it? Why should we know more about it? And what made you go in that direction?
Joe – 22:32
Yeah. I’m a pretty passionate environmental activist and have been for a good part of my life. I used to sleep in trees. First, in college, I would sit in trees to keep them from cutting down. Chaining myself to bulldozers and things. I’ve been very passionate about it. I was actually vegan during that time. Vegan vegetarian for four years, because I thought it was better for the planet. It didn’t work at all for my body. I discovered that was not the right thing for me. But I was always very interested in local farming, local agriculture, and how we can minimize the carbon footprint just by sourcing locally, which also means animal products. Because you can’t get local food in the winter unless it’s meat, usually in the Midwest. So we knew we wanted the most nutritious meat. That was our first priority – it was nutrition.
We knew that pasture-raised systems – grass-fed, pasture-raised poultry, and pork are better nutritionally. There are lots of studies that compare it and the omega-3 ratios are better… Everything’s better about pasture-raised meat. I also want to support family farms because my grandparents are family farmers and I grew up watching their struggles, but also their connection to the earth. So we have this family farm’s mission as well. And in sourcing family-farm pasture-raised meat, we discovered this regenerative agriculture movement. We were taught a lot of it by the founders of Epic Bar and they’re on our advisory. They’re great, they’re from Austin. And they’ve been huge supporters of us. Our branding is very similar.
Osmara – 24:02
I can see that you guys are very aligned.
Joe – 24:05
We share their branding… They gave us their branding person to do our branding.
Osmara – 24:10
I mean, your branding is spot on. So good for you guys.
Joe – 24:14
So, regenerative agriculture is really the future of food and environmentalism. It has the opportunity to sequester the entire carbon load that we’ve dumped in the atmosphere over the last hundred years. Our agriculture has built a huge part of the problem. Animal agriculture gets a really bad rap. Plant agriculture is just as bad in terms of how much carbon emissions, tilling, heavy machinery, pesticides, and all that stuff. So, the whole agriculture system is broken and is destroying the planet.
Particularly in America, where highly industrialized agriculture and regenerative farming can fix all that. Animals are designed to live in harmony with nature. They interact with nature. They create harmony and balance, particularly in ruminants that lived in huge herds. Bison regenerated North America for thousands of years. The white settlers systematically killed the bison in order to remove American Indians. Which also then deserted the Plains, and broadened industrial agriculture to till. We’ve got the huge problems that we have today.
The solution is to bring these herd animals back – bison, cattle, goats, they’re all ruminants. They digest grass, and essentially sequester carbon through the process of eating dead grasses, leaving their manure fertilizer, and moving onto another area. What regenerative farmers have done is that they’ve mimicked this. The Savory Institute is a big leader.
Serenity – 25:54
Allan Savory has a great Ted Talk for whoever’s interested. It’s 12 minutes and changed my whole life.
Joe – 26:00
Yeah. He outlines why it works and they revitalized millions of acres of desert in Africa and turned it into grasslands, creating food supply, and changing villages, creating economic security.
Serenity – 26:21
Kiss The Ground is a great movie that’s on Netflix. It’s narrated by Woody Harrelson. It’s more interesting than it sounds. It took me a while to watch it, but after I watched it, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s so hopeful and inspiring and positive.’ The movement that we have joined and we’re building up the supply chain of these meats. You know a lot of the farmers that we work with didn’t sell to businesses before us. They built out like, how do they sell the businesses? It’s a completely different business selling to consumers and selling to businesses.
Joe – 26:53
It’s an ancient indigenous farming practice that mimics the harmony of animals with the earth. It requires multi-species approaches to farming. A lot of farmers have been doing it just intuitively figuring out how to revitalize their land, but the fundamental core principle is that it regenerates, it actually moves the land and makes it better than they found it through the soil. Microbial growth is one of the key indicators, although microbes in the soil, have a lot of parallels to our gut microbiome. The soil and the gut microbiome have this incredible and metaphorical symbiosis. That’s like, oh, the meat that is regenerating the planet is also regenerating our gut. And that’s the turning. It’s also hurting our gut. By increasing soil microbial growth, you’re reducing water runoff, which sequesters water better. So we’re not having the drought issues. And then the question is carbon. It pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it back into these microbes to then create more plant life. That essentially creates cleans the air, and creates green grasslands from the desert.
Osmara – 28:04
Oh, I love that. We’re going to post the links for that Ted Talk and the Kiss The Ground documentary because I recently just saw it too and it blew my mind. So, that’s part of the reason why we love you guys in our household. You taste good and you’re doing good for the planet. I think becoming a parent this year, or no, sorry, last year. Not this year, last year. I don’t even know the time. Becoming a parent has led me to be more conscious of the environmental aspect of things. I love that you guys have that social component. Let’s circle back around to your products because I really wanted to hone in.
So we’ve talked about the quality meats. Let’s talk about the quality fats that we find in your products. I remember reading Lilly Nichol’s book and also Rebecca Fett’s Brain Health From Birth when I was pregnant. They talk about how important it is to eat a lot of great quality fats, even before you get pregnant to prep your body for pregnancy. When the baby’s growing, to get the brain cells going and the nervous system forming and everything. Once the baby’s out and they have weaned themselves from formula or from breast milk and they’re starting solids, it’s even more important. What are some of the high-quality fat sources that we can see in your products? And, and why are they important at this developmental stage?
Serenity – 29:37
We knew that we were going to have a lot of fat in our products from the outset, right? Because breast milk has a lot of fat. We wanted to bring fat and protein back to the aisle. We knew that one of the best fats we could choose was fatty cuts from the animals themselves. In one of our flagship flavors, beef, sweet potato, and kale, we use 70% lean, 30% fat beef to make it. That one is completely ‘fatified’ by the meat itself. We’ve chosen the chicken thighs for our chicken flavor to make sure that we include that chicken fat, that really healthy, a super nutrient-rich fat source that one didn’t have quite as much fat in it. We added in – I think that one’s got avocado oil. Avocados are super nutritious, right? Everybody kind of agrees on that one thing. We also included some of our other flavors that are leaner cuts of meat. Like our wild bison. It’s just a leaner cut. It’s a leaner animal. We use some olive oil.
Osmara – 30:47
I saw the olive oil. Fantastic.
Serenity – 30:50
One of my favorite flavors we have is salmon. We buy wild-caught salmon from Alaska, and the DHA and the omega-3s in that come from the fish itself. Right. I think that one’s also supported with a bit of oil.
Joe – 31:09
To go up to five grams.
Serenity – 31:09
We really wanted to opt to make sure that all of our pouches have a significant amount of protein and a significant amount of fat. When you’re looking for a full well-rounded balanced meal, you can find that in one little container. Super convenient. So those are our pouches.
For the fat side of our puffs. We came out with a grain-free puff about a little over a year ago now. We knew we wanted to include some fat and we wanted to include as much fat and protein in all of our products as we can. It is pretty hard to snackify fat and protein, but we did succeed. We’ve got some olive oil in those puffs. We wanted to have more, but messy and baby snacks don’t really go well together. We had to particularly back off of it a bit but that one’s got olive oil.
Joe – 32:03
And we got bone broth. We dehydrated bone broth and included it in the puff. Which is, I think we’re the first to snackify bone broth.
Osmara – 32:11
I told you, that’s how you guys got me. You had me at bone broth. I give her one at a time and she comes up and then you see the dogs because once she accidentally dropped it. They went for it and they’re like, oh, we’re in on this too. I love the Pumpkin and Cinnamon, who doesn’t love that flavor.
Joe – 32:40
If we’re going to talk about fat we’ve got to talk about our formula.
Osmara – 32:44
Let’s talk about your formula, that was another question. Especially in light of the recalls and everything. So I had some issues producing a lot of breast milk when my baby was born. Luckily I had done some research and I did not find… I had no idea because you guys just came out with that. Right? I did not find anything in the US that was as strong of a profile as the European brands. After a lot of research, I went with Hipp, but even Hipp I really wish there were some things that were not on there. Let’s talk about your baby formula or your toddler formula. And let’s talk about the difference between what’s marketed as infant formula versus toddler formula. How soon can a baby drink your stuff?
Serenity – 33:42
Yeah, that’s a good question. So I also had trouble nursing. I was never planning to make a formula product, but then she weaned at nine months and I was like, ‘Oh no, I have to find formulas to give her.’ I chose a German formula, I chose the Holle, which is harder to find these days as the FDA is really cracking down on European formula imports. Kind of right around that same time, I knew I wanted to try and make a better formula. We succeeded in making the best formula on the planet as far as I’m concerned in terms of your question. Ours does say on it – it’s our grass-fed A2 whole milk toddler formula. There are, of course, really strict regulations around infant formula, which there should be. It’s a product for our nation’s most vulnerable population.
There’s kind of three major categories of rules for that. One is 29 nutrients that have a range – must meet this range. Can’t be higher than this range that the FDA puts out and ours does meet those 29 nutrients. The other big requirement is that it’s made as a formula that has been inspected properly, right? That’s the facility that makes it has really high cleanliness standards. That can actually do something that’s safe for those babies. Ours is produced in a facility like that. The other requirement that the FDA has right now is that there are infant feeding studies that are performed. So, this is kind of the one that we don’t meet. I have some issues with it just on moral grounds. The way that the studies work, I’ve looked into it, because we might do that at some point.
The first thing you do is test your formula on baby mice. If these mice grow a certain amount by eating your formula, then you can test it on live babies. And baby mice hate lactose, which is the natural carbohydrate source that’s in mother’s milk and that’s in cow’s milk. Baby formula companies, instead put corn syrup, maltodextrin, and all these other starches. Mice will eat them and grow more. They’re also cheaper and more shelf-stable and easier.
Osmara – 35:55
I had no idea.
Serenity – 35:56
That’s a huge problem that I have with it. Also testing anything on human babies. I don’t know.
Joe – 36:03
They literally pay the moms. They’re paid to feed their baby this unapproved formula and then monitor their growth. No other country that we know of requires this. Europe certainly doesn’t require it. It costs millions of dollars. Takes many years, three years to complete. It really limits small companies. It depends on, plus there are all these ingredient rules, it’s all regulated by the Formula Act of 1980, which is based on the science from the seventies.
Serenity – 36:35
So 50-year-old science.
Osmara – 36:38
I’ve heard that. I was flabbergasted. Meanwhile, in Europe, that’s not the case, right?
Serenity – 36:47
They revise their standards every few years. In fact, I just downloaded the most recent one that’s 106 pages long. I can not wait to read it. And they’re doing all these interesting studies, like what about goat’s milk? And what about probiotics? What about, I’ll look up saccharides for toddler formula, or just for infants. They have a huge prevalence of toddler formula actually in Europe. The US is, for good reasons, some lawmakers and watchdog groups have really poo-pooed toddler formula primarily because a lot of the ones out there contain corn syrup mixed with synthetic vitamins. So that would make sense because our standards are lower. In Europe, their standards are much higher and they actually do recommend follow-on or toddler formula more often to their one-year-old and two-year-old patients, the doctors do.
Joe – 37:41
The simple explanation is we’re only allowed to recommend our formula for 12 months and up. We’re only allowed to call it a toddler formula. There are a lot of benefits to toddler formula, it is better than just plain milk because we start with A2 whole milk, to begin with. Regeneratively farmed whole milk, which is pretty hard to find.
Osmara – 38:02
I was going to ask you about that. What’s the difference between A1 and A2? How do you explain that to people who don’t know?
Serenity – 38:10
Yeah, so there’s a beta-casein protein there. They’ve been named A1 and A2. And most mammal milk in this country, I mean, the whole world is A2. So human milk is A2, goat’s milk is A2, a lot of cows’ milk is A2, and camel milk is A2. But there have been some genetic mutations in certain breeds of cows that now produce A1 milk. And A1 milk, the way that it’s digested is more irritating to the human digestive tract and can be harder to digest. A lot of people who have trouble digesting milk or milk products, it might be the A1. You might not have as big of an issue if you try the A2.
Joe – 38:57
Well, if they can tolerate goat, they could tolerate A2 dairy cows.
Serenity – 39:01
Likely. I mean, there are still real things like allergies. They are just a lot less prevalent than we think they are. It might be more of an intolerance in a lot of people.
Joe – 39:11
Fundamentally human milk is A2. If you’re going to try to mimic human milk with a formula, one of the things is to get the protein right. The second thing is to get the fatty acid profile right. Which is incredibly complex. That’s kind of what led us to this topic because most of the other brands use industrial seed oils. Canola oil, sunflower oil, and so forth. We hate those they’re inflammatory they’re essentially industrial waste products we’re feeding the baby. We have the most complex fatty acid profile of any formula ever created where there are eight different fat sources.
Osmara – 39:52
Different fat sources, let’s read them off.
Serenity – 39:55
It’s my favorite thing about this product. The first one is the A2 whole milk itself. We don’t strip the milk fat out. We won’t. Most formulas are made with skim milk, they strip the milk fat out.
Osmara – 40:07
I did not know that.
Serenity – 40:08
Yeah. We want to leave the milk fat in.
Joe – 40:10
I wonder if it’s to do with the mice studies.
Serenity – 40:12
It’s possible. I actually think it’s because the industrial seed oils have… It is really hard to get the right balance of these certain fatty acids. Industrial seed oils are a little bit easier that way.
Joe – 40:23
Yeah. It looks good on paper.
Serenity – 40:25
This one has A2 whole milk. We use extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil. We use palm oil, which, kind of gets a bad rep too. This one is sustainably sourced. The reason we include it in a small amount is that one of the most prevalent fatty acids in human milk is palmitic acid. It was really hard to find that source if you’re not looking at industrial seed oils. Their industrial seed oils do contain palmitic acid and palm oil also contains palmitic acid. There are some studies that show that formulas with a really high prevalence of palm oil can be irritating to a baby’s gut. That is true, but we use just a little to kind of round out that fat profile. We also use cocoa butter, which is a saturated fat that we didn’t intend but makes it taste really good, which is a bonus, right?
Osmara – 41:24
Man, we’re going to have to try that.
Serenity – 41:27
One of my other favorite ingredients is algal oil. We use wild algal oil for the DHA content, and it is wild-sourced. So it’s not certified organic, because it’s a wild food, so you can’t have a wild food be organic. Therefore our product technically is not organic even though everything in there is organic, but we couldn’t call it organic. Yeah, so we’ve had to sacrifice, the organic standard, but we make the choice in favor of nutrition. Whenever there’s a hard choice to make and, a hard call we choose the babies every time. The other fat that we use is egg lecithin, which is another really good source of choline.
Joe – 42:21
There are a lot of studies that show that egg allergies are not triggered by egg lecithin. We have to put an egg call-out on there, but if you’re worried about allergies, the egg lecithin is actually a safe, or pretty much a safe ingredient.
Serenity – 42:33
Sunflower lecithin is another really super nutrient-dense fat that provides the right balance of fatty acids. Actually, even just helps in the manufacturing process, which is just a convenient by-product of using that ingredient. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud about, of what the formula, I mean, we’ve upgraded every single macronutrient source. We’ve upgraded the protein, we’ve upgraded the fats, we’ve upgraded the carbs because we use lactose. It took us so long to figure out how to, or which best to include and which ratios. It was just a really complicated science problem and math problem, but I’m really, really proud of the results that we have.
Osmara – 43:16
That’s really admirable and it’s so timely. Where can parents find your toddler formula? Is it the same? Like I know I’ve seen it on Thrive and things like that, but is it anywhere where we found that find the pouches, are we likely to find this?
Joe – 43:33
Yeah. For sure online, so on our website, on Amazon, we just launched the larger can on our website, the discount size for the heavy users. Whole Foods is carrying it as well. You can get it any Whole Foods. Just launched it at Sprouts. So, you know, we’re rolling it out. It’s a slower adoption, but it’s coming out. There’s, you know, out-of-stocks everywhere. We try to find infant formula throughout this country. They’re putting limitations on it. Cause they, the FDA, have these outdated regulations that prevent innovation. They crack down on European formulas. They banned it last year. Then they failed to regulate the listeria and the plant, despite the regulations, they didn’t enforce the well, they knew about this issue since last September. Then, it became public knowledge a couple of months ago. And that led to the shutdown. Now you can’t get formulas, it’s like what our parents do. Meanwhile, we can’t advertise our formula as infant formula, even though it’s superior.
Serenity – 44:39
We do have some customers who tell us that they take our formula to their pediatrician and they’re like, ‘Hey, I think I’d like to give this to my eight-month-old. Pediatrician, what do you think?’ We’ve heard reports of some pediatricians saying, ‘Oh, this is fine for your baby.’ If you’re interested in the ingredient profile,, if you think that it might work for your baby, particularly.
Osmara – 45:04
Ask your pediatrician.
Serenity – 45:05
Ask your pediatrician and find out.
Osmara – 45:09
Yeah, that’s so good. I mean, we just covered that about the rationing and the shortages. Poor parents trying to get supply. And I mean, it’s really scary stuff.
Serenity – 45:19
Osmara – 45:20
Really scary stuff. So that’s amazing. You guys now have the formula, the pouches, the puffs, anything else in the works?
Serenity – 45:30
We have all kinds of stuff in the works.
Joe – 45:32
We’re going to keep growing our products with our daughter. She is three and a half now. We’re looking at toddler snacks that can continue to age up. Eventually, we want to be a leading children’s food company. In the long run, we’re going to keep aging up well past babies and, become a children’s food company. For now, we’re focusing on babies and in that older toddler segment. We’re about basically everything on the aisle needs an upgrade.
Serenity – 46:03
Anything that I have to buy from somebody else it’s painful.
Joe – 46:06
It’s all compromised versions of all that other stuff. So we’re considering all of them. It’s really just a matter of which one’s next. Not which one, eventually we’ll do them all. We’ve got a lot under development and always need taste testers. I might send you some prototypes if you want to give them…
Osmara – 46:24
Bring it over. We’re working on cooking baby number two over here. You just, keep it coming. That’s awesome. You guys have done such a good job with, the company, the brand, the mission, and the education, and that was one of my other questions, right? Like a lot of us weren’t raised with healthy eating habits, we’re children of the eighties and nineties. I feel like a lot of us really want to do better for our children, but maybe perhaps we haven’t adopted optimal eating habits ourselves. So what would you say? What tips can you give the parents who aren’t personally quite there, but really want to instill and model that in their kids, as they start eating solids and the flavor window importance and all of that?
Serenity – 47:19
Well, we eat our ice cream after she goes to bed. I do think one of the big problems with helping parents feed their kids… So, french fries are the number one vegetable for children under two years old. I mean, it is criminal. And why is that? Why is that? You know, of course, they taste good. French fries are awesome, but it’s also, that the parents themselves are eating them and you can’t deny your kids the foods that are in front of you. Right? I mean, you could try, but look… And then there are also parents that are dealing with their own sense of self-worth their own, body issues, their own health issues.
For me, it has been, I don’t know, super convenient for my health that I do want to model these good behaviors for my kid. That I do show her the vegetables that are on my plate, that we do cook vegetables in our kitchen. I’ll tell you, I probably eat healthier now, that I’m a mom. I don’t know. I was always pretty healthy.
Joe – 48:34
Compared to being pregnant you were healthy…
Osmara – 48:41
That’s the biggest exception. My first trimester. I don’t know about you, but that first trimester, I just wanted carbs. I didn’t care what form. The only thing I could stomach.
Serenity – 48:48
I’ll never forget this. One day Joe came home and I had a pizza on the table, whole pizza in front of me. I would eat one pizza a year. I’d go like once a year. I had this whole one, cause I just hadn’t eaten all day. It was the evening I was starving, but I was, I just felt so sick and I couldn’t stomach anything other than comfort food.
Joe – 49:11
So there are practical tips – try to only buy, have healthy foods in our pantry and kitchen so that if we eat weird at a restaurant or at a party or french fries at a restaurant, chicken fingers, whatever, it’s not as big a deal, but like day to day, we have only healthy food choices. You can do anything in the kitchen. You can eat it because it’s all healthy. Like she said if we’re going to have junk food or going to indulge in food, do it just away from her. Don’t let her see you do it. These days with her being three, it’s a sugar debate all the time. She’s always wanting sugar. It’s like, so we have this protein before sugar rule, which we explained is not a rule we made. It’s a rule. Our bodies have that.
You know that like our body said if you don’t if you eat sugar without protein, you can get sick. You can be prone to be, it’s not good for you. So we tell her about those consequences. She’s very clear about eating hot dogs before if we go to a birthday party.
Serenity – 50:10
We’ve had a lot of birthday parties.
Joe – 50:13
She has a way to eat and celebrate and be part of the group. We’re not faced with that awful sugar crash later.
Osmara – 50:27
And you’re teaching her to understand the consequences of choices, which is brilliant. I think I’m gonna adopt that too. So you guys are husband and wife. You’re parenting together. You’re business partners. As someone who – my husband’s my business partner too. We work, especially since the pandemic, we’re working mostly from home now. What tips do you have for other parents who are in the trenches and who are wearing all these different hats, but all together as one, how do you guys do it?
Joe – 51:10
We’ve talked about starting a support group for parents who work together, but there are a few things we’ve learned doing this for several years now. A big challenge is when to talk about work and when not to talk about work. It’s easy to just talk at work all the time. One of the rules we have is not talking about work in bed. We break the rule at the time, but at least one of us can be like, ‘Hey, we’re in bed, no work talk.’ We’ve been able to maintain, we try for a weekly date night. Of course, it doesn’t happen weekly. If we try weekly, at least it happens two or three times a week. Sometimes we talk about getting a babysitter every Friday night, like a fixed babysitter. Like we have to go out, we have to basically have a babysitter. We haven’t gotten to that point, but that’s one way it’d be like make yourself have a date night. To talk about work in the car on the way to wherever we’re going to just like discuss last things out.
We’ve always had coaches or counselors with us. Like you just cannot do it alone. We just saved the s**t list we call it, the list of stuff that we just, for those sessions. We just have the conversations in front of some of them. They don’t do anything, but it’s like, we’re more professional.
Serenity – 52:31
Joe – 52:32
We started going to coworking spaces or we opened an office because we’re more professional at the office than we will be like on the couch, or triggered or fight. So there are little things like that.
Serenity – 52:47
We learn – who’s gonna make the decision. Is this a decision we both need to make together? We need to come to an agreement or is this a decision I’m going to make or a decision he’s gonna make, like making, figuring that out ahead of time? Oh, well that’s an operation thing. I’ll make that one. Figuring out where we don’t actually need. You’re a mom, we’re parents. We don’t have time to have needless discussions that aren’t important. If I trust him to make a decision with this certain thing, I’ll just be like, ‘I trust you. Just go figure it out. I don’t care.’ You know, it’s just, let’s keep moving. That’s one way that we’ll do it. Keep the harder discussions for the ones where you really both actually have to be making the decision and really high-level strategy, where you both need to be in agreement and fully aligned with how it’s working the with the day to day.
Joe – 53:37
You just have to be committed to not letting the business relationship hurt the personal relationship. The personal relationship is the foundation and any success we have in business together is going to come from a strong connection that we have. If that starts to hurt it, like it’s off, it’s not worth it. It’s going to come from that foundation and being a rock.
Serenity – 54:06
That’s something we talked about with Della when we go on our dates because I’ll never forget when she was, like two and a half maybe. The light bulb turned on. No, actually I think she was three, the light bulb turned on her brain when she started realizing that when we’re going on dates, we’re choosing to not take her.
And she’s like, you’re not taking me. I’m like, no, it was really hard for me. We realized that we needed to explain to her how important it is that we go on dates together. I go on dates with her and she goes on dates with him, right.
Joe – 54:30
Concept of one-on-ones to grandpa and grandma. Like she gets the idea. So we try to have a weekly – I have a weekly date with her. Serenity has a weekly date with her.
Serenity – 54:50
We go to the playground.
Osmara – 54:48
Yeah. Everyone gets their quality time. Oh, I love that. Well, it seems like you guys are really playing, like you really know and are aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and you’re honoring that. I think that’s, it’s apparent in terms of what you’ve created the results and just how you guys are showing up, even in this little conversation that we’re having here. So that’s great.
That’s great to wrap things up. I would just like to ask one question to Serenity and one question to you, Joe. To Serenity, you, as a fellow entrepreneur, mom, wife, woman, self, right? Like there’s that part of whatever it is, like the spirituality, or just like the self-connection. How do you, I want to say balanced, but maybe it’s not balanced. Like how do you flow with it all? How, what have you learned along the way of this journey?
Serenity – 55:52
My advice is, and I think the purpose of parenthood and from a human, existential kind of perspective is one. You get to revisit your childhood wounds and finally decide you can feel them in a different way because you’re a grown-up now. Two, I think it is to, like you said, balance is to attempt in everything that you do to attempt to balance. When I start working too much, I know I need to pull over this way and spend some more time at home or mostly with myself. Self-care for moms in my opinion is our biggest challenge for probably most moms out there. I know actually, I just book it into my calendar. My calendar runs my whole day, take Della to school, go to this meeting, go get a haircut, do all these things. If I book it once a month, I look at my calendar, I book my workouts. I book my dates with Joe. I booked my dates with my daughter. I book my dentist appointments and my massage, and I’ll get a massage every month. Oh yeah, and acupuncture. Right. So it’s, And it’s accountability. I have to go to these appointments cause that’s scheduled then. I’m not gonna, like just back out on that. For me, it’s how do I love myself enough to commit to me and know I’m fully aware. My brain knows, right? That if I am in a calm, balanced, healthy state, I’m going to be an awesome mom and I’m going to be an awesome employer. That’s really what my mission is. To help make babies healthier starts with me. If I forget that, which I’ve had ups and downs, right?
We’re here and it’s been six years and we’ve had crazy hustle times and we’ve had baby time. Right? But I know that the most creative and the most problem-solving and the best manager that I can be always come when I put me first.
Osmara – 58:02
I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And being intentional on that. The reason why I created the site was because I didn’t see a lot of self-care support from moms. And what you said is just so true, right? There’s a reason why they tell us to put our oxygen mask on first and then someone else’s. So absolutely.
Joe, so you didn’t share this in this interview, but in checking you out, I came across, I was really surprised to find out that you discovered that you were autistic in college. Right? I actually know quite a few parents who have children who have been diagnosed as on the spectrum and they really want to just do good for their children and they want to really support them. From someone who has walked that path, what advice would you give to parents who are looking for better ways to support their children?
Joe – 59:10
Thank you. That’s a great question. I think the first thing is the attitude towards autism, that it’s not an illness to be treated or cured. There’s a hot overmedicalization of autism. When really it’s an orientation, it’s a way of interacting with the world that has amazing gifts, a lot of really beautiful gifts that come with it. Also very strong challenges, you know? It’s not committed not to minimize how hard it can be for parents or for children, or even for us as adults, lots of challenges. The reason I don’t think of it as a disability or illness is because every, for every challenge there is, there’s a flip side superpower. Really balances it out. Parenting these kids is all about, how do we emphasize those gifts? How do we like really feed their interests and then help them mitigate the challenges? But not in a way that has them feel like they’re broken. Oh, you poor thing. Oh, you’re sick.
Or you need this therapy, and these are some things that are harder for you because you’re autistic. I encourage parents to talk about autism a lot too so there’s no shame. There’s no hidden thing about it. Teach them to talk about it, and tell people they’re autistic. I need this because this is harder for me. I’m really good at this because I’m autistic. Like really emphasizing the gifts, helping mitigate the challenges, avoiding that pity or victim mindset of like autism of some kind of curse. Just like if you adopted a kid of a different race, that’s going to be a weird experience for them. Or kids with alternative sexualities or different genders. There’s nothing to fix in them. It’s just a hard world for people who are different. Having compassion for that, helping prepare them for that world.
While also making it clear that you love them exactly as they are, and they’re, you’re going to support them and let them use it. For autistic kids, because we want to do the same thing for a long time. Like, we’re very into what we’re into. Some parents are worried that it’s like too much. I’m like, no, it’s not too much. Like, let them get tired of it. They’ll find a way to make a career out of it. They’ll find a way to be creative in it. Either give them more and more. That’s what our economy needs are specialists. People who are really good at one thing. Kids aren’t set up for that. They just are told they’re supposed to be good at a little bit of everything, which they will never be. I could never do math, awful for me. Some autistic kids are geniuses at math. Right. It just depends. I was a performer. I wanted to be on stage all day. My mom did the best she could to let me do that. Now I lead sales and marketing for Serenity Kids. Right. I found a way.
Osmara – 01:01:57
I love it. Oh, you guys are such a good pair. It has been such a pleasure talking to you. We look forward to whatever else you guys cook up for us and really just congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished in these short years. Can’t wait to see what else you guys do.
Joe – 01:02:16
Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate everything you do for moms.
Osmara – 01:02:20
Thank you, guys. All right. Well, that concludes our session and hope to speak to you soon. Bye.
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