The idea for Baby Gourmet began in Jennifer Carlson’s kitchen in 2005.
In 2006, the concept was selling its product in farmers’ markets.
As it celebrates its 10th anniversary in business, the Calgary-based company, which is the leading maker of organic pouched food for babies, toddlers and kids, and founded by Carlson and her sister Jill Vos, has reached all major grocery retailers in Canada and represents 25 per cent of the baby food market.
It expanded into other edible products and in 2014 entered the U.S. market with a snack for active kids.
“It’s going fantastic. We’re up to over 5,000 distribution points or retail store points in the U.S. now,” said Michael Watt, chief executive of Baby Gourmet.
That astronomical growth has not gone unnoticed.
Baby Gourmet is one of 10 finalists for the 2015 Private Business Growth Award. The award, presented by The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Grant Thornton, celebrates Canadian private businesses that implement sustainable growth strategies.
“My vision was that it would be a household brand,” said Carlson. “What inspired me was the lack of innovation in the baby aisle 10 years ago . . . So I knew from the very beginning I was setting out to change the way people fed their babies and to have it become a household brand and we’ve achieved that. So it hasn’t surpassed my expectations. It’s lived up to my expectations.
“It was very good timing for us. There was a need for a change in the baby food aisle and we were very fortunate to enter the market when we did.”
Baby Gourmet was selected for its leadership, innovation, market development and ability to build a successful private business that plays a pivotal role in the Calgary community-and beyond, say the award presenters.
Carlson said the company is looking to expand its reach.
“We are continuing to look for other export opportunities. Obviously it has to be the right fit but we are investigating beyond North America,” she said. Phil Noble, executive partner and chief executive of Grant Thornton, in a statement, said the purpose of the award is “to showcase those companies that are getting it right – fearlessly introducing new product lines and entering new markets, developing new employee engagement strategies and demonstrating different models of leadership – and setting their businesses up for long-term success.’
An eight-person jury used growth across the following five criteria to select the finalists: innovation; market development; people and culture; strategic leadership; and improvements in financial measures.
“When Canadian businesses get the edge on their competitors, they create new jobs and generate greater prosperity for communities across the country. Those that grow strategically by looking past the next quarter raise the bar for others that follow and deserve to be celebrated. This year’s finalists are examples of companies that are building a Canada that wins,” said Perrin Beatty, president and chief executive of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.
The winner of the award will be announced November 25 at an event in Toronto.