How does one reinvent something as ubiquitous as infant formula? According to US infant nutrition company ByHeart, it’s all about going back to basics – in their case, spending five years to research, formulate and test a product that comes as close as possible to breast milk on nutrients and digestibility while retaining a clean label. The company uses organic milk sourced from Maple Hill Creamery, protein (alpha-lactalbumin) from Arla Foods, and organic oils from Adams to create its Whole Nutrition Infant Formula, which is sold via subscription through ByHeart’s website – though sales are now on pause while the firm is making changes to its supply chain.
“Building the company from scratch allowed us to personally source each ingredient, apply rigorous quality standards to every step in our process and innovate to create a formula that delivers the most important benefits closer to breast milk through clean ingredients,” said Mia Funt, president and co-founder of ByHeart. “We created the first clinically proven, easy-to-digest infant formula with no corn syrup, maltodextrin, soy, or palm oil. And our ByHeart’s patented protein blend gets closest to breast milk to drive ‘all in one’ functional benefits for a baby. Our results from our clinical study have been published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.”
ByHeart says it’s also the first new US infant formula brand to come to market in more than 15 years. At launch, it reported ‘tremendous demand’ for its product, and with shortages experienced by many infant manufacturers at the time, ByHeart made headlines for being among the few merchants able to fulfil orders. This feat was accomplished through what the company refers to ‘redundancy’ in its production ecosystem. “We would not have been able to create this product without this degree of ownership and oversight of our supply chain,” explained Funt. “We built an entirely new product and supply chain from the ground up, which meant it took us five years to launch rather than one. We knew we had to take the harder and longer path to market.”
To bolster production output, the firm has continued to invest in its supply chain, announcing two recent acquisitions: of Cascadia Nutrition, a manufacturing and blending plant in Portland, Oregon, and of DairiConcepts' FDA-registered facility in Allerton, Iowa. “Investing in end-to-end US manufacturing and owning three domestic facilities should allow us to provide formula to more families and strengthen the supply of this vital first food,” Funt said, estimating that this would allow the company to triple its supply capacity and achieve a goal of feeding half a million babies a year.
“Now that ByHeart owns three manufacturing facilities, we now have full oversight of our end-to-end manufacturing process, which was our goal from the start,” they continued.
“This provides us with sufficient manufacturing capacity to reliably and safely meet the needs of families across the country by fully reopening to customers in Q2 of 2023. At ByHeart, we will also be entering retail in the second half of 2023 and will have more details to share in the coming months.” - Mia Funt, president and co-founder of ByHeart
There could be more than meets the eye as ByHeart takes over DairiConcepts’ Iowa plant. The Dairy Farmers of America subsidiary has cooperated with the company since 2018, and ByHeart says it will ‘continue to explore potential ways’ to work with the co-op. “There are no current plans for them to provide milk for the facility,” Funt confirmed.
As ByHeart gears for re-opening in the second quarter of 2023, how has the direct subscriptions model worked out for the company? “Currently, direct subscriptions are a small part of the US infant formula market,” explained Funt. “However, we believe that, done right, it is a model that can transform the customer experience."
“Within six days of launch, we sold to customers in all 50 states, which demonstrated the power of e-commerce in the infant formula category. This year, we are looking forward to launching in retail in addition to selling on our website. We want to be everywhere parents need us to be.”