Founder of Organic Baby Food Company and producer of Tomi’s Treats, Mrs. Debo Adebayo, spoke about her passion for introducing organic fruit and vegetables into babies diets from a young age and why it is always worth taking a risk in business if you believe in an idea.
Can we meet you?
I am a chemical engineering graduate of Surrey University and qualified UK Chartered Engineer and member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers. I have a 10-year oil and gas career working as a process engineer and project manager. I have worked for organizations such as Foster Wheeler, KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton and Amec Oil and Gas with assignments in Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Libya and the UK.
I also hold an MBA from Cass Business School. I am passionate about kids health and launched Tomis Treats to bring organic fruit and vegetables into the lives of children.
It has been over a year since you launched your business, what is your product about and how has it progressed?
Tomi’s Treats are organic fruit and vegetable purees that can be eaten from 6 months+. Organic foods are produced using organic methods of farming. So, there are no modern synthetic inputs added into the raw materials, for example pesticides or fertilizers.
Our products have no chemicals, or sugar added to them. They are completely healthy and serve as part of one’s essential fruit/vegetable five a day allowance. There are currently two flavours, namely mango and banana and apple and pear with new ranges in the pipeline.
Tomi’s Treats is ideal for weaning babies and also serve as healthy snacks for children. My son takes them in his lunch pack to school, and we also get a lot of parents that use them in their party packs. Nurseries are becoming very health conscious and we currently stock our products in a number of nurseries. It works very well whilst stuck in traffic when my kids get hungry and cranky.
Our products are packed in travel friendly colourful pouches and are quite unique with child safety baby caps. We are stocked in the supermarkets across Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and Ghana and have plans to expand to other outlets across Africa.
Don’t you think your product is too new for the Nigeria market?
It is funny you said that. We met with one of the leading supermarkets in Nigeria last year and they said it was a great product but they were reluctant to take it as they felt the Nigerian consumers were not ready for it yet. They are now our biggest clients. With rapid investment in Nigeria and the new wave of supermarkets and malls growing across the country, we hope Tomis Treats will be in a good place and still thriving as the first indigenous organic baby food brand.
What prompted you to explore organic baby food as a business idea?
After I had my first child and I visited Nigeria on holiday but could not find any organic food to buy for my baby. So on returning to the UK, I decided to follow this idea up while doing my MBA and I created my own business, Tomi’s Treats – an organic baby food company.
Taking into consideration the standard of living in Nigeria, is Tomi’s Treats affordable for everyone?
It is a tricky situation, not all families will be able to afford our product. We are working on ways to reduce our price without compromising our quality. We feel not enough babies and children are eating healthy foods. Getting fruits and vegetables into their diets early is the best way to help children understand that health is wealth. Our aim is to make Tomis Treats affordable for everyone but with cost and quality issues this can never be a simple solution but we are prepared to give it a go.
How do you source raw materials and get the finished product to the consumer?
My products are all organically produced in the European Union (EU). Working with my suppliers has been a real learning experience into the organic baby food market. I have been able to leverage their years of experience in this area to get a quality product into the African market.
From sourcing the fruits, agreed pricing to shipping the product has really shown me the complexities of business. Our long-term plan is to source and produce our product in the African region. Currently, we are speaking to a number of suppliers/producers who we believe will be able to give the quality we are looking for.
The responses we have received on the product over the last year have been really positive. The real challenge has been raising awareness because a lot of people still don’t know what our product is and the health benefits of organic baby food. From the feedback we are getting, a lot of children love the product and we are steadily increasing our loyal band of customers. We supply to specific markets/supermarkets.
Our real demand come directly from nurseries, mothers filling lunch boxes/party packs, women’s groups and churches.
What has been the biggest challenge with the business and how have you been able to overcome such challenges?
The biggest challenge is realizing there is no better person to sell my product than me!! When people hear the story of how I started the business, they are intrigued, especially as my working experience is from a totally different industry.
I spend a lot of time with the business while juggling motherhood and keeping the home with three kids and consulting in the oil and gas industry. I think last year, we got the business into a good place and we are now focusing on our marketing strategy as well as building a super team taking it to the next level.
What are the 2015 plans for Tomis Treats?
We have just launched our new website www.tomistreats.com which includes a special baby hub section for new and expecting mothers. We envisage 2015 to be a good year with new flavours added to our range, developing our customer base and generating more awareness led to Dublin, Ireland and from the Tomi’s Treats brand.
– SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN