Gerber Debuts New Organic Line, 'Shocking' Study Results

PARSIPPANY, N.J. -- Gerber Products Co. here introduced its new line of USDA certified organic foods for babies and toddlers at a sun-splashed press luncheon held yesterday in New York City’s Union Square Park. The new line, which will be available at mass merchandisers and grocery stores this weekend, consists of whole grain cereals, juices, dinners, and pureed fruits and vegetables. The company also used the luncheon as the venue to release the results of its "Feeding Babies and Toddlers Study" (FITS), some findings of which global director of nutrition and regulatory affairs Dr. Kathleen Reidy termed "shocking" and "disturbing."

Although Gerber introduced organic products under the Tender Harvest brand back in 1997, the new line represents a more comprehensive approach to organics, with items to be integrated into the company's sets of mainstream baby and toddler foods. The introduction is part of Gerber's "Start Healthy Stay Healthy" program, which consists of science (including FITS), education, and new products and innovation. The new line also addresses convenience issues by packaging the purees in safe, lightweight plastic two-packs designed for parents and babies on the go.

Among the findings shared by Reidy were that by the age of two, toddlers may begin to lose their innate ability to regulate their calorie intake, thanks to such practices as parents placating their children with food; that toddlers are consuming too much sodium, exceeding the tolerable upper limit of sodium intake by 10 percent, a practice that could lead to hypertension; and that 20 percent of toddlers age 19 months to 25 months ate French fries high in sodium and fat at least once a day. Such eating habits were crowding out the healthy fruits and vegetables babies and toddlers should be eating, noted Reidy.

Gerber president and c.e.o. Kurt Schmidt told Progressive Grocer that depending on market success, which the company fully expected, the company would "expand the breadth of [organic] products available," although he conceded that sourcing and the time involved in gaining USDA certification were challenges. Schmidt noted that in some retailers with dedicated organic sections, the company would have dual placement in stores, but that the company's vision of the product involved the organic line "sitting right next to" the mainstream Gerber line. "We like to be where Mom likes to shop," he said.
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