Every parent knows how crucial it is to give their babies and toddlers the best start in life through a healthy diet, and yet in our increasingly busy lives, the convenience of a ready-made baby food makes all the difference. Finding options that are fresh and healthy, however, is a challenge. However, one South African company is changing all that. Nikki Davies, the inspiration behind and co-founder of Orchard Baby and Toddler Foods company is producing real food that both parents and babies will love.
LoA found out more about the Orchard Foods philosophy and its ambitions for the future this month from Nikki Davies.
What does your company do?
Orchard Foods creates food fresh from, well, the Orchard. We are unique in that all our food is sourced fresh. It’s convenient and it’s real. No preservatives, nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s how nature intended baby food to be.
“Orchard Foods creates food fresh from, well, the Orchard. We are unique in that all our food is sourced fresh. It’s convenient and it’s real. No preservatives, nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s how nature intended baby food to be.”
What inspired you to start your company?
I was a pre-school teacher and when I stopped teaching, I got really bored at home. Cooking has always been a great love of mine and brings back amazing childhood memories. Coming from a Portuguese family there were always joyful family meal celebrations. I really wanted to remove the stress from baby and toddler meal times and aimed to create a happy environment. My absolute love of food and my unquenchable quest to educate moms on natural meals bursting with aroma and goodness, was the spark, which ignited the first jar of Orchard Foods.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
What makes Orchard Foods so unique is our recipes and flavor. Our secret? – fresh herbs and even fresher ingredients. Every single morning the farm trucks arrive at our premises brimming with veg harvested at dawn. Freshness, taste and convenience. Freshness is key for our taste. Our recipes with their fresh herbs are unique.
“My absolute love of food and my unquenchable quest to educate moms on natural meals bursting with aroma and goodness, was the spark, which ignited the first jar of Orchard Foods.”
Tell us about your team
Dhrupal Amin is a co-owner of the business and looks after marketing – he combines his phenomenal business experience with my love of cooking. Then we have two head chefs who we are training through upliftment and education. Amanda Mdlankomo has been with me for many years and in fact, was my class assistant in the nursery school we ran from home. Apart from being a chef she also co-ordinates the daily fresh stock and runs the kitchen. Her best friend Ntsiki Mthi is head chef number 2 and handles merchandising and deliveries. Between the two chefs, they are unstoppable. Then my face of Orchard Foods has to be Jacob Mawela – he is my driver and stock advisor. He is the man who keeps our suppliers happy and the stock shelves full.
Share your entrepreneurial journey
I began cooking baby food from my own kitchen and passed the jars onto friends and family who had babies and toddlers of their own. Their reactions at the delight of their “little fussy eaters” gobbling up the contents persuaded me to consider offering the goods to a wider market. I began with 3 recipes for the 6-12 month market: a Veg Medley; jars of Roast Chicken & Veg; and Beef & Sweet Potato. Today I have not only increased the range to include different textures for different ages, but we have also outgrown the Orchard kitchen facilities twice. The company has expanded by over 70% in half a year. Today we now distribute nearly 6000 jars of this convenient real baby food that are cooked and distributed in refrigerated trucks every month.
“I began cooking baby food from my own kitchen and passed the jars onto friends and family who had babies and toddlers of their own. Their reactions at the delight of their “little fussy eaters” gobbling up the contents persuaded me to consider offering the goods to a wider market.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I was hugely excited when I unpacked my first pots in the new kitchen premises. It was ridiculous how amazing I felt. Then my absolute delight at the efficiency of a Steam dishwasher! But the best is when I get emails from grateful moms. I will stop everything I am doing to read and respond to the emails. It makes it all worthwhile and it’s what I am here for. My confidence grew once I realized that Baby City and Superspar believe in the brand and proudly sell Orchard Foods in stores around the country. And I was so proud in November 2015 when Orchard Foods pioneered the country’s first Baby and Toddler Meal bar during the Mama Magic Show.
Biggest piece of advice to other women looking to start-up?
Just keep on believing in yourself and don’t take no for an answer. Pursue your dream and pursue your customers. Don’t ever let them down.
Contact or follow Orchard Foods
Why LoA loves it….
Passion is one of the key attributes of any successful woman entrepreneur and in the case of Nikki Davies, co-founder and CEO of Orchard Foods, passion for producing a world-class product that can make all the difference in young lives, is definitely a key to the company’s success. Nikki and her team are not only giving South Africa’s babies and toddlers the best nutritional start in their lives, but they are also building a great baby food brand that is proudly South African. We love it! — Melanie Hawken, founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa