When it comes to how we feed our little ones, you don't have to be on the breast end of the spectrum to want what's best. As parents, we strive to offer the best for our babies no matter how we choose to feed them.
While we are raising our babies, we hope that companies are raising their standards to meet our expectations. We say it takes a village to raise a child. Who is that village? Today, the village represents the companies selling us products, the government setting the rules, and influencers amplifying the message.
The formula industry doesn’t always have the best reputation–confusing, complex and controversial. The industry is changing before our eyes, and Bobbie is at the forefront. I believe that the baby formula space is one of the remaining, untouched industries– moving away from the current landscape of industrial options to one that represents parenting today. But like any major shift, it takes time.
I set out on this journey with a realistic view that tackling formula was going to be hard. I knew there would be conflicts and made a promise as CEO that I will always champion the 2.0 company I wish to see in the world–one that is transparent, honest, humble and always be the voice of parents. And now more than ever, parents are speaking up about the change they want to see in formula.
Understanding our journey means understanding the industry. After years of studying this space there's a few salient points that shape an understanding of the formula industry as we know it today in the US.
2 out of 3 parents in the US feel guilty feeding their baby formula.* This is like saying parents feel guilty feeding their babies. Why is the stigma and shame so dominant here in the US? Mostly because parents are not satisfied with their options, and secondly due to societal pressure that public media has put on the topic.
87% of pediatricians recommend German formula.* It might be the most underestimated black market of our generation— so out in the open, it doesn’t feel illegal. While the New York Times recently reported that these imports could be dangerous, their June 2019 article attracted hundreds of dismissive comments from passionate parents.
Only 4 US facilities make infant formula. While there’s easy access to 80+ manufacturing facilities who make baby snacks, you need to be made in one of four FDA-vetted facilities for infant formula to be considered FDA-approved.
LOOSER NUTRITIONAL STANDARDS
100% of the carbs in US infant formula can be Corn Syrup, but the EU restricts it to <50%.* While there are many differences between the EU and US nutritional requirements, the regulations around the use of sugar are what parents speak to the most.
The checklists are not the same. Requirements for infant formula in the EU and US are broadly different. Why are popular German formulas not legal here? Essentially, the checklist is different–everything from approved ingredients, manufacturing processes, right down to the labeling. Simply put, they are not easily transferable.
Our Moment of Truth.
We made a very deliberate decision to make our first product in Europe, partnering with a gold-standard, veteran manufacturer in Germany who was able to meet our bar for the quality product we were set on producing. Bobbie is the first formula in the US free of syrups, soy, starch, made from grass-fed dairy, and is a proven recipe that has been consumed by thousands of European babies.
Manufacturing in Germany in accordance with European regulations would involve some tradeoffs–mainly, we could not be FDA approved.
Within weeks of launching our Bay Area pilot of this pristine formula, the FDA came knocking on our warehouse door, resulting in a voluntary recall, questioning our strategy and wondering what just happened?
Nurture the Tension.
One of our core values at Bobbie is Nurture the Tension. A value you need every minute as a parent (or spouse).
We’ve been thinking about this value a lot at Bobbie. During our moment of truth, we had many questions from customers and the community. Why doesn’t the US allow European formula? Who is responsible for these bottlenecks? Why does the US allow so much table sugar in formula?
As a CEO, one of my core responsibilities is to provide peace of mind to parents, after all, that’s why I started this company. And the truth is, everyone involved in the industry is spiritually aligned on the same outcome: to support the public interest.
The FDA is protecting the well-being and safety of consumers, manufacturing facilities are looking to offer quality ingredients, lactivists are advocating for positive breastfeeding experiences, established players rely on operating at scale. There’s not a story in the industry that doesn’t speak to the polarity of these audiences at some point. Over the last year, I’ve come to know many of the individuals behind these groups and can attest that intentions are good.
Change is hard and it’s no different for the FDA or the industry at-large. Bobbie took a path less traveled and although it is clear to parents how we fit in, it wasn't to regulators. Looking into the future, securing FDA infant formula approval is the only way we will be able to continue to bring our vision to the market, so we will do just that. We’re moving forward with a strengthened belief in our mission, bolstered by more formula experts and industry change-makers to help us accomplish it.
I believe that parents have never been in a better position to lead.
I believe that newcomers are essential for incentivizing industry growth.
I believe that regulators need to catch up.
I believe that innovation and compliance don't have to be at odds.
I believe that silence on the topic is not an option.
I believe that advocacy is a responsibility.
And I believe nothing is impossible.
This industry will attract more scrutiny than most, but we have a responsibility to face it and push forward.
CEO & Co-Founder of Bobbie
19 July 2019
Curious to know what happened with FDA? Check out our response
1. Survey of 363 pediatricians, conducted by Bobbie in April 2019 via SurveyMonkey.
2. A national survey of 1,000 moms carried out by Wakefield Research on behalf of Bobbie.
3. Report of the Scientific Committee on Food on the Revision of Essential Requirements of Infant Formulae and Follow-on Formulae - page 86 (adopted on 4 April 2003)
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