Interviews

Interview Series: Serenity Kids’ Toddler Formula

Updated on 18 minute read

Overview

In this interview, we chat about all things Serenity Kids Toddler Formula.

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Given the current formula recall and shortage crisis, it’s more important than ever to hold baby formula makers accountable for producing the highest quality nourishment for our littles.

Founders Joe and Serenity Carr are both parents and entrepreneurs on a mission to create the highest quality, nutrient-dense baby food, and formula.

Their toddler milk may be a suitable and safe option for your babe. (Always be sure to check with your pediatrician before changing formula.)

Listen in to learn how why their formula is superior to a lot of what’s currently out on the market, and what steps they take to ensure subscribers can continue to order without fears of stock issues.

You’ll also learn to recognize what ingredients to avoid in baby formula and why.

If you’d like to watch our first interview with Joe and Serenity to find out more about their other baby food products visit here.

Highlights

  • 1:05 – Why SK Formula was crafted for babies not just toddlers, and why outdated systems are keeping companies like them from advancing in being able to market to babies under 12 months old.
  • 5:18 – Why you should avoid industrial seed oils in formula and any food you offer your baby.
  • 8:23 – The very important reason they decided to add palm oil to their formula.
  • 10:56 – Why they chose algal oil vs. fish oil as the main source of DHA.
  • 13:41 – Why they aren’t able to certify the product organic even though every ingredient is either organic or wild-caught.
  • 15:12 – We discuss their sustainable milk source and why it was a match made in heaven.
  • 20:11 – What systems does SK have in place to preempt shortages and ensure you can keep depending on their products.
  • 24:58 – The two big differences between their formula and most other products on the market

Interview

Full transcript

Osmara (00:02):

Okay, so welcome back. I’m so glad to have you guys back because last time we talked all about your, product line in general and your pouches, but today we’re going to talk about something very important. Given what’s happening right now in this country, in terms of this crisis that we’re in, parents are having a really hard time getting their hands on formula. And if they do get their hands on formula, they’re wondering, is it contaminated? Is it safe? What can we do to help our babies? So I’m really glad that we’re here talking about your formula. And I have all sorts of questions, but I’ll preface this by saying that I have been feeding my baby HIPP European formula, basically since she was born. And we started your formula maybe like a month ago and it’s been a smooth transition.

Osmara (01:05):

It’s been really great and I’m so happy to be able to give her something that I know does not have questionable ingredients in it. Which, even though HIPP was, in my research, it was a better option than what was out here in this country. There were still questionable industrial seed oils and things like that, that I was just not happy to give her all the time. So welcome back. Let’s chat about all things formula. And I guess the first thing to talk about, and what parents might be wondering is the label says toddler formula, right? So what about babies that are six months or even infants? How can we approach this? When is the best time to introduce it to our children, especially right now with, what’s happening?

Joe (01:57):

Such a good question. So the FDA regulates infant formula as one of the most heavily regulated products as it should be. The FDA’s process is quite old. It was designed during the Infant Formula Act of 1980 and was updated again in 1987. But that’s the last time it was updated. So it’s based on very old science. They have a lot of archaic rules that are full of red tape, which makes it very hard to get an infant formula certified. So a lot of companies like us release a formula and they call it a toddler formula, which is allowed to be marketed to babies 12 months up. You have to say it’s for 12 months up. So we are not certified as an infant formula yet. So we have to call it toddler, are only allowed to recommend it for 12 months up. You can consult with a health practitioner and find out what’s best for your baby. What we can say is we formulated it to be an infant formula, so we based it on the nutritional needs of babies four to six months old.

Serenity (03:00):

Cause that’s, that’s typically when a mom might go back to work, and the range when a lot of moms who wean it’s often around that timeframe.

Joe (03:08):

We’ve matched breast milk as closely as possible. In fact, it’s more similar to breast milk than any other formula ever created. Our scientists read over 200 studies on breast milk worldwide. They evaluated, hundreds of ingredients to match the nutritional profile of breast milk as closely as possible. So that’s one of the reasons our formula has so many unique ingredients because we started from scratch with the real basis of breast milk. The most nutrient-dense ingredients and put it together in our A2 grass-fed whole milk formula. So it is classified as toddler. So it’s a little confusing for parents, you know, but if you do your research, we do meet the 29 nutrients required by the FDA. All of our ingredients have some kind of evidence globally that they are there safe for infants. So that’s the European standard. If we were in Europe, Europe says, are your ingredients recognized as safe? Do you meet our nutrient profile? If so you get to be an infant formula. In the US, that’s the first two steps, but then you have to complete infant feeding studies that take three years and many millions of dollars to complete. And that’s the stage that we’ve not completed yet. And we’re actually advocating be removed as a barrier to entry that has caused this formula crisis

Osmara (04:26):

Agreed a hundred percent. So basically you formulated the formula with infants in mind, meaning that the nutritional profile is there, but red tape is stopping you from marketing it as such. So we talked about this in the last chat, what parents can do, what you guys can do out there is take the formula or the nutrition label, all the information, talk to your pediatrician and say, look, this is what I wanna give my baby. Is it okay? These are the ingredients. What do you think? And then have a conversation with your pediatrician and see what they say.

Joe (05:06):

We have a one-pager that we can send you that you can bring to your pediatrician that outlines all of the information and how it compares to other formulas and breast milk and so forth. So feel free to contact us and we can send you that one-pager.

Osmara (05:18):

I love that. I love that. Okay. Serenity kids, your website, serenity kids.com. Perfect. I’ve got, the packaging here. Let’s talk about it. So it’s made with my favorite, no corn syrup, no refined, no rice or corn syrup, no gluten, and no industrial seed oils. Let’s talk a little bit about what are industrial seed oils and why do we not want them in our baby’s formula?

Serenity (05:45):

Yeah. So industrial seeds have a long history and they’re basically industrial waste products. A lot of the time, it is things that come from food processing and certain crops are grown to be industrial seed oils. They are highly refined, bleached, and deodorized. They have all kinds of chemicals in them, solvents, and all kinds of things to make them easier liquids, to make them more shelf-stable. So they can last years and years and years on the shelf without going bad while they actually are going rancid, they just don’t smell rancid because they’re deodorized. So they’re full of just bad fats, right? Trans fats are bad fat. They’re not full of that, but they are not a super healthy fat and they’re highly inflammatory in the body. But I’ve learned since I’ve started making formula that they’re really easy to use for factories. So our fats, which is the thing I’m most proud of, frankly, in our formula, we use eight different sources of fats and a lot of them are solid, semi-solid, sticky, um, kind of, they don’t come in these giant thousand pound totes that are with this little vacuum thing.

Serenity (06:58):

They have to be melted or they need to be dug out with a big spatula. They’re kind of harder to work with. And that’s what helps them be more nutritious. And it also has them be more expensive. So our formula is the best formula on the planet from all the ones I’ve seen so far and the fats and not having the industrial seed oils and having all of these, this wide range of fatty acids, because of course, breast milk has a huge wide range of different types of fats, fatty acids, lots of saturated fats. Industrial sea oils just don’t have that nutrition.

Osmara (07:37):

That’s great. And so many parents might not know what let’s give examples of what are industrial seed oils? What might they recognize in a nutrition label?

Serenity (07:46):

It would be canola oil. It would be safflower oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and grape seed. There’s a long, long list of them. You go Google, industrial seed oils and they’re all there. Most of those have the word seed in it.

Joe (08:04):

It’s easier to say what isn’t. There are fewer oils that are not. So these oils are coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, algal oil, and then any animal fat like butter, ghee, chicken fat, duck fat…

Serenity (08:20):

We use coco butter.

Osmara (08:23):

So I’m looking at your ingredients here and you’ve got whey protein, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Um, and then you’ve got algal oil that’s for the DHA, correct? I had a question about that in a minute, but now we’re on oils. I think there’s a big thing right now about palm oil and sustainability. What can you say about the role that palm oil plays in your product?

Serenity (09:03):

We thought long and hard about palm oil as we did with many of the ingredients in here. And basically, every time we got, we bumped up against a decision, a hard choice, like the palm oil choice, do we include it or do we not? We went back to what is best for babies. And palmitic acid is the most prevalent fatty acid in breast milk. And palm oil is one of the best sources of palmitic acid outside of industrial seed oils. So we had to choose, did we want to find that palmitic acid in the palm oil, or did we want to use an industrial seed oil for that? Now you and I know we were anti-industrial seed oils. We went with palm oil, but it is sustainably sourced. Certified sustainably sourced. And that was really important to us as parents and as friends.

Serenity (09:53):

And there’s a very small amount. The percentage of palm oil. There’s, there’s also some, in my opinion, a myth out there that palm oil period is bad for babies. And, should not be put into formula because of the way it’s digested. Those studies were done back in the forties, fifties, and sixties. And they were done on formulas that actually had a very high percentage of palm oil. Like 60% of the fat was palm oil. And so there haven’t really been studies since then that are showing smaller amounts. But as you’re a mom of a kid who eats our product, right, you have not had adverse reactions. And we have a lot of really positive testimonies and we get, I mean, we, don’t not everyone who buys our product or tells us how awesome it is, leaves an actual review. We get a lot of emails, a lot of comments about baby’s digestion and things like, ‘oh, wasn’t doing so great on this other formula. And now my kids having great poops,’ I mean, it’s good news.

Osmara (10:56):

Yeah, it is. It’s great news. And so to recap, the major formula makers are choosing to use a lot of industrial seed oils because as you said, it is cost-effective. From a business standpoint. And it’s a lot easier to mix with all the other ingredients.. So the fact that your fat sources require more processing is actually a good sign because it shows that it’s not as denatured. It’s in its more whole form versus being stripped and processed. And again, what we said about the industrial seed oils being inflammatory. If a baby’s having, you know, however many ounces a day of that every single day, that might also be another reason why they might be experiencing some kind of digestive upset and parents might not even know it. So we’ve got super healthy fat sources and DHA being super important for babies’ developing nervous system and their brain. What I’ve wondered was what was behind the choice to go for algal oil versus fish oil? What led you to that?

Serenity (12:15):

Yeah, we actually, one of the formulas that I had fed Bella when she was a baby was Sammy’s milk and they used fish oil. And so I was sort of planning to use fish oil, or that was in the back of my mind because I knew I wanted a great source of DHA. But Dr. Sarah Valentine, who was our scientist behind this project, she said, ‘you know what, the reason that those fish have that great DHA in their bodies is that they eat the algae.’ It comes from algae in general. And I also knew as the mom of a toddler who had drunk fish oil fortified formula, it doesn’t smell so good.

Serenity (12:58):

So we decided we were going to use fish oil unless we could find a really great source of algal oil. And man, we sure did. We found wild algal oil sourced off the coast of Canada that is super duper clean. And we had to work with the factory. They’d never used algal oil before, as you can imagine. So we worked it in where they kind of add it in one of the later steps in the process so that it doesn’t get cooked too much so that the smell and the taste remains pretty mild in the formula itself.

Joe (13:41):

And the wild algal oil also is one of the things that kept us from being fully certified organic. You can’t get USDA organic certification on something that’s wild. They only certify products that are grown so they can control the inputs. So, you know, the same thing for our, our wild salmon. We’ve got a salmon product in our baby food line also can’t be certified organic because it’s wild. And so again, it was a place where, well, do we use a lesser quality DHA and get this certified organic? Or do we go for what’s healthiest for babies and forgo that certification. We decided to do that and tell the story and you know, all the products are organic. They’re just not certified because all you can certified algae you can’t certify wild because they haven’t figured out how to do that.

Osmara (14:24):

Yeah. Well, thank you for bringing that up. Because that was something that I was gonna ask. So yeah. I noticed everything in there on the ingredients is organic, but it’s not certified organic. So I guess this is a lesson for myself and for other parents. Sometimes I can try to be a little too myopic in the sense of like, everything has to be certified organic. But then there are so many other factors that we’re not seeing. And you don’t think about that. And thank you for weighing out, you know, which direction did you want to go. Sometimes the decision that’s good for the bottom line or for the business is not necessarily in harmony with what’s good for the end consumer. And I know that your mission is babies first above all.

Osmara (15:12):

Thank you for that, because we need more of you guys. We need more companies like this on the market. So let’s talk about your A2 milk source and we can kind of like geek out on the, A2 versus A1 and all that. But what I really wanted to share with the parents watching this is that you partnered with a really cool farm in the US. They practice regenerative agriculture. And if you guys don’t know about regenerative agriculture, which is another part of your mission, then listen to the other interview that we did, and Joe goes deep into detail in that. But let’s talk a little bit about that. The quality of your actual milk and why it might be superior to most things out there right now.

Joe (16:01):

So Alexander Family Farm was one of the keys to this product (the formula). We knew it was going to be milk. Some kind of milk is the base, whether goats or cows milk. And we wanted it to be the best quality milk possible. And particularly we wanted to have the A2, beta-casein protein, which we’ll talk about in a minute. So we were sure we were able to find that that had the right quality, the right sourcing, the quantities that we would need, and the quality standards that formula requires. And all of it came true with Alexander Family Farm, this beautiful six-generation family farm in the very north tip of California. Beautiful, beautiful farm, long time regenerative farm.

Joe (16:52):

They were the first farm in America to be recognized by the Savory Institute as regenerative. So they’ve been doing this for 20 years before regenerative was even a term they’ve been regenerating their land with the way they raise their cows. They have a multi-species approach with dairy cows, beef cows, chickens, and some crops and they rotate everything. And it is a whole beautiful plan where they manage the land in a way that is regenerating. They’re increasing their soil and microbial growth. They’re reducing run-off, they’re sequestering carbon. And the quality of the milk is so high. We tested it for nutrition and determined that we didn’t have to add as many other vitamins because it was already so quality and the taste and smell you alluded to a lot of it comes from that milk because these are animals that are grass-fed.

Joe (17:45):

They’re living the lifestyle nature intended for them. They’re in herds on grass on really well-managed land and producing this really incredible A2 whole milk. And, you know, we used the whole milk, most other formulas, almost all other formulas use skim milk. They take non-fat milk, which is cheaper and easier to get. And then they add the fat back in with these industrial seeds. So, we kept all the milk fat in there. Which had a lot of raw, basic nutrition in it. And then we supplemented with the other fat, as we said, but we went out there with this really awesome video on our website about the story of the farm and, and getting to,

Osmara (18:24):

Yeah, I saw. Great video.

Joe (18:29):

Our whole team, the whole time we were there they were like, they’re really good.

Serenity (18:32):

I remember the first time I talked to her, it was me and Joe and Stephanie and Blake, and we were on a zoom call. COVID had just started. So like, we were trying to figure out how to use zoom. And at some point, Stephanie and I were both crying because we were so happy that we found each other because they had been wanting to help make a better formula and to figure out how to do that, because they knew most formula was junky, right. Full of junky ingredients, but it just wasn’t their thing. They’re dairy farmers. And so then she had heard us on a podcast years before, and then we reached out and it was like this, this beautiful, magical relationship where both of our hearts really got satisfied by making something that we know how to make really, really well, that just elevates the health of babies everywhere.

Osmara (19:20):

Oh, I love that. I love that. I was mentioning this before we started, the interview, but you know, we just switched from HIPP to you guys. And the one thing that I noticed when I opened the can is how fresh this smells compared to HIPP. And I think that goes back to what you were saying right now, Joe, about the quality of the milk. But also I think it’s important for parents to understand the process of making infant formula. That they start off with the skim milk, they strip the fat and then they add in the industrial seed oils. So the smell difference was just man. I had to tell my husband, ‘Ash, come over here. You have to smell this.’

Osmara (20:11):

It’s like night and day. Let’s see, I think we’ve talked about all of the major ingredients. I mean, what a great profile. Great ingredients, organic trusted sources, clean label, project purity award, um, which if you wanna know more about the clean label project, we also talked about that in our last chat. I guess my question is, as a mom and as someone in the business of supporting mothers, being the best mothers, they can be, I’m really excited for you to bring this to the market at a time like this right now, where everyone is just scrambling. Supply chain issues led to this perfect storm of a catastrophe. So my question is, do you have systems in place to preempt that from happening with you guys, with your formula, and to make sure that the families that are served by your products can trust that we’ll be able to find your products for the long term?

Serenity (21:29):

Yeah. So that was a big concern of mine. In fact, when we started selling this formula, I had a big meeting with everybody. I was like, okay guys, we can run out of beef pouches every now and then. We can run out of puffs every now and then. We cannot under any circumstances run out of this. It is a baby’s only food. The only thing that they eat for a lot of the babies. So that’s not an option. What do we have to do to maintain our supply? And it has not been easy. Our sales are for the roof, right? It is hard to get time on a manufacturing line, but I will tell you, our factory is in Ohio. And it is by far, hands down, the cleanest factory I have ever been to in my life. You could eat off the floor, there, literally eat off the floor.

Serenity (22:16):

They have a shoe capture program where you can’t even take your shoes outside the factory. Like they only get worn in there. And it is, it is super duper clean. It’s brand new. It’s a two or three year-old facility. So it’s state of the art. It’s the best one in the country. And they are really working hard to take. They’re already really great with quality controls and increase them even more given all the news They’ve been studying every single issue that’s happening at other plants. They’re making sure that they increase their quality protocol, that they don’t have that issue in the first place. They have better drains. They have better air exhaust systems and airflow systems. They just have, they kind of have better everything. So our factory itself is amazingly clean and I feel really, really strongly, and I’m committed to great quality.

Serenity (23:05):

And I know that they can help us achieve that. From a supply chain perspective. It’s not been easy. We’ve got all these new customers, right? So we’ve done a really good job at maintaining our supply and for the new customers, we’re trying to get as many of them onboarded as fast as possible. We have switched our online sales to be subscription only for those babies who it is, their only food, right. We want to protect those customers first and foremost. So we do sell online mostly for subscribers at the moment we’re working on expanding that to be one-offs here and there.

Joe (23:40):

Protect our subscribers first for formula and really all of our products. Like whenever we have shortages, we withhold a certain amount for our subscribers because we know they’re the ones who are the most dedicated. They, you know, obviously are relying on the product. So we’ve even with the shortages that we’ve experienced with the increased growth, we’ve still never gone out of stock for our subscribers on the formula product. And we are actually back in stock for non-subscribers now as well. So you can still go and you can buy.

Osmara (24:09):

That’s really great. Cause I know some of the other new players on the market have had to stop accepting new subscriptions.

Joe (24:20):

Yeah. We never stopped accepting. We withheld enough that people could join new. Now you can buy one time as well in addition to a subscription. But if you’re worried about the shortages, the way to make sure you keep it is to be one of our subscribers. And then you really, you also get the best price. It’s the biggest discount.

Serenity (24:37):

And then we also sell in retail. So Whole Foods and Sprouts are two of our big customers. For moms that maybe use this as a supplement who are just every now and then, right. That’s an easy place to go grab it.

Osmara (24:49):

Yeah. Fantastic. Is there anything else you’d like the moms and the dads watching this to know?

Joe (24:58):

Two other big differences in our formula. One of them was folic acid. Also, the European brands all still use folic acid, synthetic folic acid. You wanna talk about that?

Serenity (25:10):

So, you know, I can get super nerdy here, but I’m not going to put everybody to sleep talking about epigenetics and genetics, but people that have the, you may or may not have heard, of the MTHFR genetic mutation, which a lot of our population in the United States has 40%. It makes it hard for the liver to process unmethylated B vitamins. So synthetic folic acid is one of those unmethylated B vitamins. I have one of the mutations. Joe has one of the mutations. So our daughter likely might have one. And I wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any synthetic folic acid in there. So we buy folate, which is 20 times the price of synthetic folic acid. Our supply chain director was like, ‘Are you sure you want me to buy this? Like I might need to send it by armored vehicle.’

Serenity (26:01):

I’m not sure how this is going to work. Can we even afford to do that? Right. But it was really important to me. So we used folate and we used methylcobalamin for the other one of the other B vitamins. It’s the methylated version. Because I knew that so many babies were going to be eating it. And that processing those vitamins is it can actually, if you have the MTHFR mutation, it can actually be harmful. And, all that folic has, it can build up in your liver and in your system and be toxic over time. So that’s something that really freaked me out. And I knew that I was committed to that. And also as many natural forms of vitamins as we could, you know, there are some synthetic forms in there because some of the natural ones just aren’t stable at room temperature, or can’t be processed through the processing or that kind of thing. Wherever we could, we used the natural form, most natural forms of the vitamins. And that’s something that long term I want to get even better at and help build out supply chains for better sources for those vitamins.

Serenity (27:08):

Oh, we also have fiber in ours, which not everybody does, and it’s not a lot of fiber, right. It’s not gonna make your kid gassy, but it’s just enough fiber to feed their little gut flora. The gut microbiome, it’s such an important thing. So we use prebiotics, we use Jerusalem artichoke, and some of those saccharides that really help build up a great microbiome.

Joe (27:29):

It’s something breast milk has that most formulas forget to add. They say, they’re like breast milk, but then they leave out this key macronutrient. So we’re one of the few that has that as well.

Osmara (27:39):

True. So when babies drink this formula, they’re feeding their good gut bugs and keeping things in tip-top shape there with their microbiome. I think we talked about this last time, but I’m crazy about gut health because of my own gut health issues. So, this little girl, my daughter loves sauerkraut. Yeah. So they can find you, if you want to subscribe to the formula, do it directly from the site. If you want to just, try it out, go to Whole Foods. And then what was the other one Sprouts? You said Amazon…

Joe (28:18):

Sprouts, Wegmans, Fred Meyer. We’re about to launch in HEB.

Osmara (28:21):

The major ones. Thrive Market?

Joe (28:24):

Yeah. Thrive Market yes. And then Amazon and our website, myserenitykids.com.

Osmara (28:32):

Fantastic. Okay. Well, like best of luck for you guys with all of this stuff and just thank you so much for caring and you know, you’re parents and you’re also business owners, but thank you so much for caring about the quality and the end results with everything that you guys produce.

Joe (28:51):

Sure. So glad we can feed your baby.

Serenity (28:53):

Right? Makes my heart happy.

Osmara (28:55):

Perfect. Well, thank you guys for joining me today, and let’s see, we’ll catch you guys next time. Next time you guys have a new product out. I want to test it and try it out.

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