This Michigan Ross Alum’s Organic Baby Food Company Is Expanding its Retail Presence and Making an Impact in its Local Community
It’s been a challenging few months for lil’gourmets, a company founded by Shibani Baluja, MBA ’04, that provides nourishing, global, and organic veggie meals and snacks for young eaters.
Fortunately, expansion plans have continued and lil’gourmets meals are now available for purchase in coolers located in Meijer stores across six Midwest states and on Meijer.com. The company is also preparing to launch into a national retailer in the coming weeks.
In 2018, Baluja founded lil’gourmets because as a first-time mom, she found the baby food industry to be filled with bland and over-processed foods. Given her background as a former Kraft Foods executive with experience in mergers and acquisitions and her MBA from the Ross School of Business, she saw an opportunity to study the baby food industry and research the impact of first foods for babies.
“Based on the research that shows there is a high correlation between our first foods and future eating habits, lil’gourmets strives to cultivate lil’ ones’ curiosity by exposing them to unique tastes, textures, and cuisines from an early age to help them fall in love with vegetables and diverse, culturally rich foods for life,” explained Baluja.
However, lil’gourmets’ products are not just for babies and toddlers — their sophisticated and globally inspired recipes are for anyone who wants a fresh, ready-made, nutritious, and delicious meal or snack, she said. In addition, all of the products are certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, and sold refrigerated.
There are now six varieties of lil’gourmets veggie meals, as the company recently launched two new flavors: pumpkin navy bean shawarma and spanish corn and bean gazpacho.
Making impact on children’s health and the local community
Baluja has looked to create a larger impact with lil’gourmets, including collaborating with Partnership for a Healthier America to further their shared mission of improving food options for kids.
“This partnership was formed to raise awareness of the benefits of more veggie-forward options for young eaters and to create more affordable and healthy options for parents to help raise lifelong veggie lovers,” she said.
During the pandemic, Baluja has also worked to ensure that children in need have access to healthy meals. The company has donated more than 10,000 of its veggie meals to local food banks, hospitals, and healthcare workers across the Chicago area since the pandemic began. For the long term, lil’gourmets has pledged to donate 5 percent of their annual profits to support causes they are passionate about, including reducing poverty, hunger, and socioeconomic disadvantages.