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Woodstock couple create new line of baby food

DAVID F. ASHTON - The Organic Mealtime Bites creators, marketers, and chefs - Darcy and Dustin Kochis - prepare to make a batch of their Bites. Woodstock residents Darcy and Dustin Kochis said that the grocery store category of “baby food” wasn’t at all something they’d ever thought about – until their son Jude joined the family a little over a year ago.

Now, they’ve started a true “mom-and-pop” company, manufacturing and marketing their own of food for tots.

“When our son was six months old, we decided to feed him in a way called ‘baby-led weaning’,” Darcy remarked to THE BEE, as she and Dustin were working in a Brooklyn neighborhood commercial kitchen.

“This means letting the baby feed itself; you never spoon-feed the baby purées,” Darcy continued. “This really allowed him to explore the tastes and textures of food, and discover them for himself.”

Wanting to provide healthy foods, as they considered introducing more food options, like whole grains, they found a problem. “We quickly realized that cooked-quinoa-on-a-tray is very, very messy!”

So, using miniature muffin tins, they set about making “bites” that contained quinoa, and packed vegetables, herbs, and spices, that Jude could pick up and eat without help from his parents.

“As we experimented, one of our hard and fast rules was making sure that there was no added salt and no added sugar,” Darcy explained. “So many foods today are either prepared for adults, or are really bland foods for children. We wanted to make food Jude loved, but which contained healthy ingredients.”

With Darcy working in food marketing, and Dustin doing product sales for Frito-Lay, and more recently Pirates Booty, they had little time for food preparation, so they started making up Jude’s bites in batches, freezing them, and then warming them up in the microwave.

Early in 2015, while having dinner in a restaurant, it occurred to the couple that their solution to baby feeding might also appeal to other parents.

With their combined experience serving the food business, they decided to use their skills to create their own product.

“I did a market study to see if there’s anything else out there like this, and there wasn’t,” Dustin said.

“All I saw on the baby food aisle was what I call the four ‘Ps’ – purées, pouches, puffs, and pizza bites,” Dustin went on. “That’s when we said ‘we’re going to take a leap of faith, and trust in our experience at sales and distribution, and start our own food marketing company’.”

They spent most of 2015 writing a business plan, naming the company “Little Handfuls Organics”, researching ingredients, and working with food consultants, like their Registered Dietitian, Wendy Brazilian. “She helped make sure that the bites that we’re making were properly proportioned both in nutrition and in size for our little ones,” Darcy said.

Other people they met who were affiliated with the Oregon Entrepreneur Network gave them advice, tips, and ideas. “This is how we found Warehouse Café, to build our kitchen,” Darcy said.

They finalized on three products, and created packaging for what they call their “Organic Mealtime Bites”.

Finally, after their inspected and certified commercial kitchen was complete, the Kochis’ “went live” this past April, making their first sales at the store inside the Warehouse Café, at 3434 S.E. Milwaukee Avenue in Brooklyn.

And, as each opened for the season, the couple took samples and products for sales at the Moreland, Woodstock, and Hollywood farmers markets.

With their line of “Organic Mealtime Bites”, this local couple – who took a leap of faith by starting this business – may well be on their way to creating new food empire, right here in Inner Southeast Portland.

Find out more by visiting their website: www.littlehandfulsorganic.com .