What started as simply preparing fresh baby food for her son, Cato, has turned into an organic empire for mom Gigi Lee Chang. The creator of Plum Organics, Gigi’s uber eco-friendly baby and toddler food line is yummy, affordable and good for the environment. Celebrity Parents spoke with Gigi about food, family and all things Plum.
Tell me a bit about your background.
I worked as a marketing strategist. I would work 60 hours a week, and travel a lot. When my son was still a baby, I decided to make a career change. I wanted to spend more time with him, but still work.
How did you decide on starting an organic baby food company?
My son was a good eater, but he didn’t really like jarred baby food. I didn’t particularly like feeding it to him, either! Instead, I would prepare food with fresh, organic ingredients and give it to my son.
I spoke to my friends about their experiences and most were feeding their babies jarred food and supplementing with fresh food. Everyone thought they were too busy to cook and puree, but what it really came down to was the lack of confidence to make and prepare their baby’s food. As parents, we worry about our babies getting a balanced meal.
As a new mom, how did you know what to make?
I didn’t have a nutrition degree, but I felt if I had all the colors of the food groups represented, he would be covered!
I made my children’s food, too. I just went by the label. If it read: “chicken, carrots and peas”, that’s what I would prepare for them and then puree it.
That’s great! I think people question how good the jarred food is, and then resign themselves to giving it to their babies. They think, “How bad can it be?” After all, name brands are trusted.
How did you go from preparing your son’s baby food to Plum Organics?
I didn’t want to just provide good nutrition to my own son, but for babies everywhere. It’s equally important to find out about nutrition for our babies and ourselves. Children’s food preferences are formed by the age of 2, so it’s crucial to keep introducing new foods and flavors to them in order to keep the momentum going.
In terms of starting the company, I was very methodical due to my strategic background. I spoke to experts and consultants. We received great insight from focus groups, where the moms had that nagging doubt about how good the jarred food was, but gave it to their babies anyway.
I knew I wanted a well-rounded line of healthy foods that did not contain hormones or antibiotics. Plum Organics has a wide-range of products so parents can feed their babies all three meals from our line if they choose to.
Where can people purchase Plum Organics?
We are in Whole Foods and Super Target nationally. The baby food comes in 3 stages; (6 months, 9 months and 12 months), and is packaged in a 2-pack of 4 ounce BPA-free resealable containers.
What are some of your best-selling products?
The products that have chicken, beef, and turkey sell very well. It’s all about fresh, simple ingredients put together in a unique way. For example, we have Super Greens, which is spinach, peas and green beans together. My favorite, though, is the organic Pumpkin Banana blend. It’s delicious!
Your son must be a great eater.
He’s amazing. He’s 5 now, and he eats everything, including raw onions! He’s at a point now where he can articulate his cravings. He loves sushi, dumplings and smoked salmon.
Were you a good eater when you were younger?
Yes, I was. I was raised on a traditional Chinese diet. I remember eating school lunches and thinking how terrible they were! At home, we would eat rice, tofu and fresh veggies every day. Even today, I don’t crave cookies or junk food. I’ll crave a piece of fish! It goes back to what I was raised on.
With a busy company, how do you find the balance between your career and your family?
I’ve learned that there’s rarely anything that must be done today. Before, I used to be obsessive; I had to finish my list, clear my desk, etc. I would carve time out for family, but I wasn’t really present. My husband, Vincent, said to me, “You’re here, but you’re not here.” That was about two years ago. Now, family time is family time. I try to be really present wherever I am. If I’m with my family, I’m with them and my Blackberry is off!
My career gives me so much more flexibility than before. Recently, I was able to do a project at Cato’s school for Chinese New Year. Now, there’s flexibility, fun, and fulfillment in our lives.