There’s plenty of innovation going on in the UK children’s food scene. From adult-style flavours and textures to creative formats and packaging, it’s quite a good time to be a kid, with things advancing well beyond the raisin snack box in the last few years.
One particularly pioneering baby food brand, For Aisha, recently announced a seven-figure investment from private equity investment firm Foresight Group to help develop and expand further across the UK and internationally.
Founded by Mark Salter in 2015, For Aisha develops halal baby food meals in pouch and tray formats, with options including a Cambodia fish and coconut curry, and green bean and lamb curry with lentils. These are sold in Sainsbury’s and Asda, as well as online through Ocado.
The business has enjoyed a consistent 30% year-on-year growth since launching, making it one of the UK’s fastest-growing baby food brands.
With some of the most adventurous ingredients and flavours, it is blazing a trail in the category – and not just with Muslim mums and dads.
From dairy-free to tayyib
“We know that about half of all our UK sales are to non-Muslim parents – predominantly parents who have travelled and are familiar with our exotic and healthy recipes,” Salter tells Food Spark.
“Our meals contain around 20 ingredients per pack and many parents realise that buying For Aisha meals is a great way to introduce their little ones to a wide range of healthy ingredients – so they buy our food even though many don't necessarily need halal products.”
Halal food has been gaining mainstream traction for a while now, thanks to both a growing Muslim population and interest from the non-Muslim populace. Major supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco are providing a greater product range to meet the growing demand, while US chain the Halal Guys landed in London earlier this year.
According to the Pew Research Centre, the Muslim population in the UK is set to triple in 30 years, (from 4.1m in 2016 to 13m in 2050), with the UK halal food market a £3.5bn industry and set to grow over the next decade.
For Aisha are benefiting from the increased interest in halal, with their USP providing clear differentiation from other brands for consumers. And they’re also tayyib, a term meaning pure and wholesome that goes beyond the process of religiously-governed slaughter to align more closely with Islamic values.
“Our meals are uniquely halal,” continues Salter. “Our meat is certified by the Halal Food Authority and we purchase only stunned meat from leading British farms which is also Red Tractor Approved.
“The meals are also made without dairy, gluten or other known allergens so they're suitable for most parents – hence the new strapline: 'For Aisha, for everyone.'”
For Aisha will be divvying out the funds received this week into “six growth project areas,” including NPD for 2020, entry into UK independents and pharmacies, and international expansion. The company’s best seller, pouches for babies seven months and up, will be the first to head abroad next year.
“These [pouches] will be the lead products overseas but with new multilingual packaging,” adds Salter. “We have six languages for overseas customers, all launching in Jan 2020.”