Everyone wants the best for their baby, especially when it comes to anything that could have a potential impact on an infant’s health — and that’s how Alyson Eberle stumbled onto an untapped market in the baby care industry.
After becoming a mother, Eberle was looking for fresh baby food for her daughter and was shocked to find that no such options existed — not in Houston’s upscale grocery stores, not even online. Frustrated, Eberle began making her daughter’s meals by hand.
“It was extraordinarily time consuming,” Eberle says. “It’s hard enough being a mom, and I was a working mom.”
This frustration was on Eberle’s mind when she sold her Houston-based tutoring business in 2013 and moved to Austin. She decided to use the capital from that sale to launch PureSpoon, a company that creates freshly made meals for babies and small children.
Pure Spoon baby foods first hit store shelves about a year ago at Whole Foods, and is now sold in 150 stores across Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, including Walgreens, Target and ShopRite. This summer, the brand will also be sold across the country in Sprouts and Hy-Vee as well as online. That’s 720 percent growth since launch. Clearly Eberle wasn’t the only one looking for fresh baby food.
All the ingredients in Pure Spoon’s products are certified organic. Pure Spoon fills a much-needed void in the baby food industry, and Eberle says the products are also helpful to older children and seniors, who sometimes consume baby foods or products such as Ensure due to health reasons.
Diving into the baby food industry was a new move for Eberle, but Pure Spoon isn’t her first innovative business. She attended the University of Texas for graduate school and came out knowing how to start and run a business. Eighteen years ago in Houston, Eberle began a tutoring service with a new concept, where the tutors came to the students.
“I had never had experience before with food manufacturing — I don’t even like to cook!” Eberle says. “I was green of all greens going into this, but I knew what I wanted the end result to be.”
Since no one was creating fresh baby food for the market, Eberle had no one to look to for advice. Instead, she forged her own road to success.
“I knew I didn’t want to make the product and drop it off at one or two stores,” Eberle says. “I wanted to make it an option for all parents to give their children. I wanted to make it big.”
The research and development process for Pure Spoon was a lengthy challenge. After two years of trial and error, including splattering pureed fruits and veggies across the food lab, Eberle discovered the high pressure pasteurization process for preserving food items. HPP uses a chamber of cold water to apply extreme pressure, preserving the food and killing off bacteria without any loss of vitamins, enzymes or other nutrients. Already used to preserve cold-pressed juices and precooked chicken, Eberle was the first to use the HPP process for purees.
“HPP is a new technology. It’s expensive, it’s difficult, and doing anything perishable is complicated,” Eberle says. “It was an uphill battle to get it right and to not acquiesce on the things I found essential: using fresh ingredients, keeping it certified organic, not putting anything in the food that doesn’t grow in the dirt and figuring out not to lose any nutrition or flavor.”
To get the best results, Eberle even created her own packaging and equipment for the HPP process.
“A lot of people will try to steer you to the easier path, but you have to stick to your guns,” Eberle says of her drive for innovation. “Tenacity is a huge quality that you have to have in doing this.”