Happy Family’s Happy Ending: How One Woman’s Vision Modified the Baby Food Industry

The Harvard Business Review article entitled “The Female Economy”  identified big business potential for companies targeting female customers in six business sectors, and likewise promising opportunities for women-founded start-ups.

A notable example of a female founded company in the Food and Beverage Sector is Nurture Inc., the parent company of Happy Family Organics! A mom-founded and operated premium organic food that “changed the way we feed our children,” according to the company website.

Women Fix Problems That They Experience

Back in 2003, Shazi Visram observed that a lot of mothers weren’t happy with the selection of baby food sold in grocery stores.

Seems that baby food-in-a-jar from Gerber was just not doing it when it came to feeding their babies quality meals.

Visram, a recent graduate of Columbia Business School, laid out a clear mission and vision for her new company: To fill a gap in the marketplace by creating a line of nutritious organic baby food.

As Forbes recently reported, she had her “ah-hah moment” not in classroom at Columbia, but while chatting with a friend. She was a working mother of twins, who was feeling guilty for not being able to make homemade food for her babies.

After researching the market, Visram learned that baby food had changed little since the 1930s, offered low margins for retailers, and was ripe for disruption with a much better organic offering made from high quality ingredients.

Happy Baby (which was renamed Happy Family) was founded in 2003 and went into production and launched on Mother’s Day in 2006 – with a line of organic, fresh-frozen baby meals sold through a New York Grocery Store Chain.

Visram, who is 39-years-old and is married with a six-year old son, raised $550,000 in seed financing from friends, family and angel investors.

Women Build Diverse Teams

Shazi immediately sought out industry expertise that she lacked, and that complemented her own expertise.

With a background in marketing but not production, she started networking and identifying advisors such as Gary Hirshberg  former CEO of Stonyfield Farms, to learn the ins and outs of the food business.

Women Focus On Building Quality Products: Health Food

Happy Family’s product line targets babies, tots, kids and expecting moms using, “Delicious, premium organic foods that always offer the best possible nutrition using a wide range of natural ingredients.”

These ingredients include naturally gluten-free amaranth grain, coconut milk, DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid important for baby’s brain health), Salba Chia from Argentina and quinoa, once considered so sacred that Incas called it, “Mother Grain.”

“We always avoid using unnatural food or additives,” Visram said of the company products, which may be an understatement based on the clear effort the company has made to deliver an amazing array of high quality organic food products.

Visram’s new food business began to gain traction in earnest. Plenty of mothers wanted to buy healthy baby food, and Happy Family’s revenue skyrocketed.

By 2011 it grew to $34 million in revenue, nearly doubled in 2012 with $62.3 million and reached $100 million by 2013. Larger players were taking notice, including Danone.

“I knew that at one point we would want to bring on a major partner to take the business to the next level,” she said, adding that Danone’s focus on health and social responsibility made it an optimal fit.

Undoubtably, Visram accepted Danone’s offer and sold 92-percent ownership in June 2013.

Confidentiality agreements preclude her from revealing what it was sold for, but analysts said it was likely to be in the range of $250-300 million, based on gross sales. That is certainly “life changing money” for the founding mom.

Visram did not consider an IPO or private equity funding, stating that she wanted to focus on the continuing the improvement of her products.

Sure enough, a partner like Danone offered R&D and consumer marketing expertise in line with her health and wellness focus.

Happy Family’s distribution is now reported in 17,000 stores nationwide and includes Whole Foods Markets, Target and Amazon.com. The company has expanded to brands that include food for tots, kids and even expecting moms.

Women Build Community Process

The company has also built a variety of communities, including child-care experts (pediatricians, pediatric psychologists, and a global food industry analyst).

The company also has “Happy Mamas” who are real moms with real answers ready to support their customers.

Forbes went on to report that Visram wants to see Happy Family become a billion-dollar brand, and they have the potential to achieve that within the next 10 years. She added the goal is also to, “Keep the heart and soul of the brand alive.”

Seems there may be a nearly insatiable appetite on the part of many moms to give their kids health and good tasting foods, so we’d say the Happy Family sales goal is a realistic one.

Happy Family’s story is as inspiring as it is refreshing. In order to achieve a true happy ending, Visram’s success is derived by maintaining a tactful brand objective, a combination of consumer-driven focus, and a unified mission statement.

Profile photo of Neelam Brar
Neelam Brar

Neelam is an accomplished female entrepreneur, financier, and start-up adviser. She is the founder and CEO of District CoWork, one of the hottest hub for innovation in NYC and Empress, an empowerment platform designed to mentor and support women. Neelam founded Empress to unite the strongest stakeholders behind the economy: Women. Empress is the nexus of content, community and capital. With a dual MBA from Columbia Business School and London Business School and experience raising capital and advising growth companies throughout the US, Canada, Singapore, Mumbai and Hong Kong, she has tremendous first hand insights on several topics relevant to entrepreneurship and innovation. Neelam did investment banking and private equity for over a decade raising billions of dollars of capital and advising on high profile M&A transactions in the domestic and international markets across industries. She is a veteran deal maker and growth advisor with proven entrepreneurial experience and a firm commitment to support the progress of women.