This New Organic Infant Formula Startup Aims To Destigmatize Bottle Feeding for Good (2023)

Like many moms, I set high breastfeeding goals for myself during my first pregnancy. I aimed for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of breastfeeding for at least one year and exclusively for the first six months in order to fully reap the extensive health benefits it provides to new mothers and babies. Where I live, in France, the average duration of breastfeeding is three months, and only 19 percent of babies are breastfed at six months—which is probably why the intake nurse at the hospital laughed out loud when I informed her of my plans.

When my daughter arrived, I cried every time she fed, until a lactation consultant taught me a hack for my cracked and bleeding nipples. I breastfed exclusively until she was 5 months old, at which point supply issues left her constantly screaming for more. I gave in to my husband’s pleas and added one supplemental bottle per day, which helped me nurse until her first birthday.

I'm not alone in struggling to meet the current breastfeeding recommendations; in the U.S., 58 percent of babies are breastfed at six months and 35 percent at one year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between the gap of breastfeeding goals and reality, two warring camps have formed around “breast is best” and “fed is best," sparring over how to best feed infants while meeting mom's needs postpartum, too. The new infant formula company Bobbie (which launches today) hopes it can help change the conversation—and maybe even elevate the standards of infant formula in the U.S.

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The polarization of formula vs. breast milk

Aside from nutrition, breastfeeding confers a variety of important health benefits for mom and baby, including stronger immune systems (for the baby) and reduced risk of postpartum depression and improved postpartum healing (for moms). But the emphasis in the U.S. on breastfeeding overlooks the reality that “not everyone can exclusively breastfeed," says Laura Modi, Bobbie’s CEO and co-founder.In fact, about 10 percent of women cannot breastfeed because their milk never comes in or they have a medical contraindication.

For Modi, she had to stop breastfeeding her first child, who’s now 4.5 years old, five days after birth when mastitis (an inflammation of breast tissue sometimes linked to infection) caused her nipples to blister and bleed. “I was disappointed. As an Irish Catholic, I expected breastfeeding to be special and beautiful,” she says. "When you, as a mom, have to turn to something you’re told is second best, you feel guilty.” And choosing infant formula is often framed by health experts as acceptable only in "rare exceptions."

Breastfeeding came more naturally with her second child, who’s 2 years old; she nursed exclusively for several months. And she’s formula-fed her third child, who’s 7 months old. “Now I look at my three kids, and I can’t tell the difference,” she says.

Modi believes breastfeeding and formula feeding have become polarized in the U.S. due to extreme positions from pro-formula lobbyists and pro-breastfeeding “lactivists.” On the one side, a few big formula companies have a shady history of marketing formula. “They’re seen as wanting to drive profits over anything else,” Modi says. On the other side, breastfeeding proponents are armed with credible science on the benefits of breastfeeding, but well-intentioned efforts to center breastfeeding often make the act of feeding itself a moral decision. “The marketing is saying you should be breastfeeding, and if you’re not you’re not doing the right thing,” says Modi. The concept may even be dangerous if a mom refuses formula even when a baby isn’t getting enough to eat.

The first American “European-style” formula

But the stigma against formula goes beyond just how it stacks up to breastfeeding. Many parents feel added stress or shame about using formula to feed their babies because of perceptions about the products' ingredients and quality (such as the use of high-fructose corn syrup or potentially inflammatory additives like carrageenan). For parents with means, these concerns drive them to a thriving black market, where parents can buy infant formulas only available in Europe. These parents (including Modi and many of her friends) believe that these products are higher-quality than what's available in American formulas. “[European] standards are higher,” Modi says. (While some E.U. food safety standards are indeed stricter than those imposed by the FDA, pediatricians say science hasn’t shown that imported European formulas are better for babies, the New York Times notes.)

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Problem is, the black-market formulas are sold illegally through online third-party vendors you can’t necessarily trust. And European formulas haven’t been vetted for nutrition and safety by the FDA. Therein lies the (other) origin of Bobbie.

It wasn't smooth sailing at first. Bobbie began selling its “European-style” toddler (not infant) formula in the U.S. in early 2019. This allowed the company to manufacture the product in Germany, which was easier than doing so in the U.S., and to skip the specific FDA standards required of infant formulas. “We decided, let’s just get the product out to see if we should invest to get it FDA-approved,” says Modi. After less than two weeks on store shelves, the FDA issued a consumer warning for parents to stop using Bobbie.

Modi says the FDA told Bobbie to clearly relabel the product as toddler formula—or to change the label, start manufacturing in the U.S., and apply for FDA approval. Bobbie put its sales on pause, shifted manufacturing to the U.S., and built a relationship with the FDA. It got FDA approval for its infant formula in September 2020, with a consumer launch scheduled for January 2021.

“I’m proud of what we’re putting in, also very proud of what left out…Simple and clean is much better,” Modi says of the product launching on January 5. She explains that Bobbie has the highest DHA (the most beneficial type of omega-3 fatty acid) on the market and uses organic pasture-raised dairy. The company adjusted the protein levels to mirror breast milk. And Modi says that unlike many other U.S. formula companies, Bobbie doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup. “I wouldn’t feed that to myself, and I wouldn’t feed it to my child,” Modi says. “I’m hoping we can do better.”

For now, the company is focused on formula. Modi hopes that within the next five to 10 years they’ll expand to products to feed babies through the first year of life. Hopefully, Bobbie will also be able to bring the cost of its formula down to be accessible to more people; currently, a 400-gram can costs $24. (In a press release, the company says that this is on-par with other organic infant formulas and less expensive than importing from Europe.)

Modi also hopes her company can begin to change the conversation around what it means to feed your child. “We have to share facts and studies in a way that moms can understand and give them confidence in whatever works for them,” says Modi. The company is starting that conversation via its inclusive baby feeding blog, Milk Drunk. But it's the first step of many. “I believe it will be a long journey,” she says.

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Other companies transforming infant formula

Bobbie isn’t the only brand looking to shake up the U.S. infant formula market, which is expected to reach $95 billion by 2026. BIOMILQ and TurtleTree Labs are two startups aiming to create breastmilk in the lab. The companies will collect milk-making stem cells (known as mammary epithelial cells) created during pregnancy and culture them to grow in a special nutrient-rich solution. The cells will then be stimulated to lactate, resulting in lab-formulated milk with the same nutritional components as breast milk. (Although the science seems far-fetched, it’s not all that different from technologies used in the vegan food industry at companies like Perfect Day or Just Foods.) Last June, Bill Gates’s investment firm supplied BIOMILQ with $3.5 million in Series A funding, while TurtleTree Labs received $3.2 million in investor funding.

Sugarlogix is yet another infant formula startup that’s working to develop “yeast-based technologies” to produce functional sugars, or human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). HMOs are a type of prebiotic that’s thought to modulate the immune system and play a key role in helping to feed and nurture a baby’s developing gut microbiome, and they’re found only in human breast milk. The goal is to try and replicate some of those gut health benefits in a formula—an ambitious project for sure.

For now, however, Bobbie is the only startup formula on the market. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can sign up to get a free full-sized can (shipping not included) on Bobbie’s website starting on January 5th.

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Tags: Healthy Body, Parenting Advice

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What is the Brother and Sister baby formula Company? ›

Two Penn grads, brother and sister co-founders, launched ByHeart as an upstart in the heavily-regulated U.S. formula market. In a converted manufacturing plant in Reading, two University of Pennsylvania graduates and siblings opened America's newest baby formula factory.

Why was Bobbie formula recall? ›

Why was Bobbie recalled in 2019? Shortly after the launch of their high quality product, it became apparent that certain FDA requirements were not being met— namely that the Bobbie label did not meet the labeling requirements for infant formula.

Who started a new baby formula? ›

As early as 1846, scientists and nutritionists noted an increase in medical problems and infant mortality was associated with dry nursing. In an attempt to improve the quality of manufactured baby foods, in 1867, Justus von Liebig developed the world's first commercial infant formula, Liebig's Soluble Food for Babies.

What brand of baby formula comes from China? ›

China Feihe is now the leading formula brand in China, and its annual revenue increased from 3.6 billion yuan ($498.73 million) in 2014 to 22.86 billion yuan ($3.16 billion) in 2021.

What brand is Aldi baby formula? ›

Mamia First Infant Milk 900g | ALDI.

What 3 formulas have been recalled? ›

If you use powdered infant formula, be aware certain Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products have been recalled and should not be used.

What are 3 baby formulas that are recalled? ›

Some of the recalled powder formulas were used for babies who spit up, have upset stomachs, severe allergies or kidney problems. The specialized powder formulas recalled were Similac Alimentum, Similac Elecare and Similac PM 60/40.

Is Enfamil being recalled? ›

The recalled formula was manufactured between August and September 2022 and sold in stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Guam. The products have batch codes of either ZL2HZF or ZL2HZZ, along with a UPC Code of 300871214415a and a use-by date of “1 Mar 2024” on the bottom of the can.

What did mothers feed babies before formula? ›

Although artificial or formula-feeding of infants is presently much safer than it has been in decades, breastmilk is still considered the best source of infant nutrition (Leung & Sauve, 2005). Throughout the ages and until the end of the 19th century, animal's milk was the most common source of artificial feeding.

Who caused the baby formula shortage? ›

Three main factors contributed to the current formula shortage becoming a national problem after many years of buildup: Pandemic impact: At the beginning of the pandemic, many families stockpiled formula, driving up demand. Demand fell shortly after, due to families using what they had instead of buying more.

Can I give my baby evaporated milk instead of formula? ›

Some people have been coming up with their own recipes or solutions to make baby formula, which can actually harm a baby's health. Health experts advise against the following: Do not feed babies homemade formula. Do not incorporate items like powdered cow milk, evaporated milk, or raw milk and sugar.

Is it worth buying organic baby formula? ›

However, all formula is produced to strict regulations, which control everything from the nutritional value to the amount of pesticides used. So it's unlikely that organic formula is significantly better for your little one.

Which formula is closest to breast milk? ›

Similac 360 Total Care Non-GMO Infant Formula Powder

Key features: Similac claims that this formula is their closest in composition to human breast milk. It includes a blend of DHA, lutein, and vitamin E — all nutrients found in breast milk.

Is it worth buying organic formula? ›

While all types of regulated baby formula provide the nutrition your baby needs, there are clear benefits to choosing organic over non-organic formulas, with the biggest advantage being less potential exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, says Dr. Shea.

Who makes Walmart baby formula? ›

Perrigo is the private label manufacturer behind all U.S. store brand infant formulas. Since 1997, store brand formulas have been trusted by pediatricians, parents, and leading retailers, including Walmart, Sam's Club, Costco, and Target.

Who makes the most baby formula in the US? ›

The FDA regulates which infant formulas are allowed to be sold to American consumers.
According to data compiled by Allied Market Research, these four companies control about 90% of the U.S. infant formula industry:
  • Abbott Nutrition.
  • Mead Johnson Nutrition.
  • Nestle USA.
  • Perrio Company.
May 17, 2022

Where does Costco baby formula come from? ›

From the ingredients to the packaging, it's certain that Costco's store brand formula is made by Abbot, the company that makes Similac.

What is the closest to Similac? ›

For Similac advance powder alternative brands include Enfamil infant, Gerber good start gentle, H-E-B baby HMO advantage, Wal-Mart parent's choice infant non-GMO or Wal-Mart parent's choice advantage non-GMO.

What Gerber formula is closest to breastmilk? ›

Our Best-Selling Allergy-Friendly Formula
  • Our Closest to Breastmilk. Gerber® Good Start® Gentle Powder Infant Formula 27oz. ...
  • Everyday Nutrition with Probiotics and HMOs. Gerber® Good Start® Gentle Powder Infant Formula. ...
  • Our Closest to Breastmilk. Gerber® Good Start® GentlePro Powder Infant Formula. ...
  • Our Closest to Breastmilk.

What are the 4 companies that make baby formula? ›

Four companies -- Abbott, Perrigo, Nestle SA and Mead Johnson -- control 90% of the US supply of formula.

What are the three companies that make baby formula? ›

Four major companies manufacture baby formula for sale in the US: Mead Johnson (Enfamil); Abbott Nutrition (Similac); Nestlé (Gerber); and Perrigo (which makes generic formulas sold in many grocery and pharmacy chains and by other brands, including Earth's Best and Bobbie).

Who is the biggest supplier of baby formula? ›

The FDA regulates which infant formulas are allowed to be sold to American consumers.
According to data compiled by Allied Market Research, these four companies control about 90% of the U.S. infant formula industry:
  • Abbott Nutrition.
  • Mead Johnson Nutrition.
  • Nestle USA.
  • Perrio Company.
May 17, 2022

What was the Nestle formula scandal? ›

In 1974, a report entitled The Baby Killer accused Nestlé for causing illness and infant deaths in poor communities in third world countries by promoting their infant formula products at the expense of breastfeeding. The report sparked an outrage that led to an international boycott in 1977, which continues today.

Why is there no baby formula in the US? ›

In the U.S., trade policies restrict imports of formula from Europe and Canada. And just four companies — Mead Johnson, Abbott, Perrigo, and Nestle — make up 90% of formula sales in the country. This means there is a huge impact if even one of these companies has a problem.

What caused the baby formula shortage? ›

The formula shortage stemmed from a product recall by an Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan, where unsanitary conditions and contaminated products led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to temporarily shut down the facility.

What brand of formula is closest to breastmilk? ›

Enfamil Enspire

Enfamil's Enspire is the brand's closest formula to breast milk, thanks to the inclusion of proteins found in colostrum, like lactoferrin. (In fact, Enspire is the first and only infant formula in the U.S. to include lactoferrin as an ingredient, according to the brand.)

What baby formula has a lawsuit? ›

NEC baby formula lawsuits against the manufacturers of Similac and Enfamil are being filed by parents of premature babies who developed necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, after consuming toxic cow's milk-based formulas produced by these companies.

Who is the largest baby formula manufacturer in the US? ›

Reckitt has become the dominant manufacturer in the U.S. with a 54% market share since the closing of the Abbott factory, according to Robert Cleveland, the head of Reckitt's infant formula operations in North America and Europe.

How many companies in USA make baby formula? ›

There are 15 Infant Formula Manufacturing businesses in the US as of 2023, a decline of -1.3% from 2022. Has the number of Infant Formula Manufacturing businesses in the US grown or declined over the past 5 years?

Who makes formula for Costco? ›

When we found the Kirkland baby formula on the shelf one bay over from the Similac formula, we could hardly believe how similar they were. From the ingredients to the packaging, it's certain that Costco's store brand formula is made by Abbot, the company that makes Similac.

What percentage of baby formula is from China? ›

According to Euromonitor, the leading ten baby formula brands in China accounted for nearly 77 percent of the market.
Market share of leading infant milk formula companies in China as of 2021.
CharacteristicMarket share
9 more rows
Aug 1, 2022

Did Enfamil get sued? ›

Mead ignored that obligation to maintain the marketability of its product. This negligence failure to warn about the risk of NEC for premature infants is the basis of Enfamil NEC lawsuits being filed against Mead Johnson.

What crime has Nestlé commit? ›

Nestle: Corporate Crimes
  • 1 Unethical Marketing of Artificial Baby Milk.
  • 2 Exploiting Farmers.
  • 3 Union Busting.
  • 4 Promotion of GM Food.
  • 5 The Ethiopia scandal.
  • 6 Illegal extraction of groundwater.
  • 7 Pollution.
  • 8 Pyres of Burning Animals.
May 5, 2007

Why do people boycott Nestlé? ›

In the 1970s, declining rates of breastfeeding led a number of organisations to raise concerns about the marketing practices of breast milk substitute manufacturers - including Nestlé - in developing countries.


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