She initially co-founded Once Upon a Farm to create "farm-to-high chair" meals for children.
You may know Jennifer Garner as a box-office draw and a mainstay character on major television networks. And if you follow her on social you know her as an honest mother of three who is all too relatable.
But Garner is focused on a new venture that you may have missed: Making healthy, organic food for kids.
Alongside business partner John Foraker, the former president and CEO of better-for-you brand Annie's (sold to General Mills in 2014 for $820 million), Garner appeared at the Natural Products Expo held in California last week to share more details about Once Upon a Farm and her personal attachment to healthy eating.
We first heard of Garner's intent to shakeup the baby food space when she helped launch Once Upon a Farm early last fall. It's an organic brand that focuses on sustainably sourced cold-pressed baby foods and applesauce for young children.
You can buy the brand's pureés and children's applesauces for $2.99 in select stores and online. The brand's applesauce is a solid snack choice at 60 calories per pack with no added sugar.
In addition to baby food and applesauce, Once Upon a Farm has already broadened its horizons with a new line of organic smoothies, packed in on-the-go pouches for convenient meals and snacking. These smoothies are also available for toddlers as "tot blends," combining sweet and savory flavors in options like Blueberry Rosemary.
“We’re disrupting the category,” Garner said at the Expo, Supermarket News reports. “We can’t just talk about feeding the top 10% of kids, or 50% of kids. We have to talk about how to give that nutrition to the bottom half.”
Garner says she wants healthy options to be available to a full spectrum of customers, including mothers receiving income-based assistance through initiatives like the federal-backed Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program. She shared her hopes with the crowd, saying that she'd love if families viewed Once Upon a Farm products as something to "feel good about."
The social mission behind Once Upon a Farm isn't too surprising given Garner's work as a board member for Save the Children, an international NGO that works to aid children in distress. She's previously shared how her motto—'How you do anything is how you do everything'—pushes her to seek out philanthropic work, and it's carried over into how she approaches business with Once Upon a Farm.
Buy It: Once Upon a Farm Applesauce
Having access to wholesome food and insight on holistic nutrition wasn't an issue for Garner as a child. Her mother, a source of inspiration for Jennifer's passion for accessible nutrition, provided routine access to fresh food that Garner is hoping to replicate in your supermarket.
“My mom made all of our food,” Garner said on stage at the Expo. “I would just be desperate for anything in a package. I was so envious of my friends and their Little Debbie oatmeal cakes and things like that. When we were hungry she would say, ‘Go out to the garden, child, I bet those tomatoes are ready and grab yourself some sugar snap peas.’"
When it came time to raise her own kids, Garner faced a lot of challenges ("I thought I would never stop working"), but she couldn't help but worry about the quality of baby food she was using on set. So she started a small farm of her own in Santa Monica, teaching her children firsthand what she learned as a child. "I opened one of those jars and I was like, ‘No! I’m never feeding this to an actual human.'”
Now her company is focusing on harvesting real ingredients—kale, blueberries, persimmons, Garner shared. She's converted her mother's family farm into one of many sources of inventory for the company to use in their products.
Garner's business partner pointed out that baby food generates a lot of money in the food industry: $1.6 billion annually. Foraker, who lead the alternative Annie's brand into popularity, is trying to replicate success with Once Upon a Farm by being a recognizable name in the dairy aisle—Once Upon a Farm products aren't shelf-stable like other options in the baby food aisle.
“Millennial consumers and moms want to feed their kids better food, but it’s not available. So how can we be part of this change?” Foraker said. “We want to build a leading kids nutrition brand. We think we have an opportunity to increase the quality and healthfulness of food for all kids in the U.S.”