Unlocking the Flavor Window: A Journey to Adventurous Eating

Unlocking the Flavor Window: A Journey to Adventurous Eating

Erica Bethe Levin is the founder of Globowl, which has a mission to spark curiosity about the world through internationally-inspired baby and toddler food, and to open babies and children to adventurous eating and different cultures through food.

Leslie: How did you get into this space? Tell us about your journey.

Erica: Sure! As you know, this is my third startup, but it is my first in food, or I should say, my first in CpG. So I have experience in starting businesses and running them, but this is a very new journey for me, and it's been super exciting since food is such a huge passion of mine. And so, to be able to kind of do what I love inspired by my own children, as it has been great. But the first company I started was when I was 24 years old, and it was an online magazine for women in Chicago, but this was before publications were digital, so it was really one of the first to do that. And it was a cool ride. And at the same time I started writing about food for a ton of publications– both national and local. So food has always really been tied into what I've done. And then I moved on to be one of the first employees for a  startup called Reserve, which has sold to Resi. So, again, in that kind of food hospitality space, but more on the tech side. Then, I was consulting for a bunch of startups; it was a hospitality consulting company. 

During that time, COVID hit, and we lost all of our clients in a day, basically, because of hospitality and COVID. So I had a little bit more time on my hands. It was about that same time that my daughter– who is a total quarantine baby, she was six or seven months old when we went into quarantine– started eating solid foods. And so, with my son, we were very hesitant to give him texture, flavors, spice, and all the foods that my husband and I love. My husband is also in the food business. So we just said, “She's eating whatever we're eating and we think she'll be fine”. And we gave her coconut shrimp curry as her very first food and she loved it. And so that same week, we ended up giving her a pesto pasta. I made a saffron pasta that she loved, and she's still a really really good eater. So anecdotally, it had really worked for our family. So, I was thinking how many other families deal with picky eating, and how many other families deal with food allergies, and I just started doing research. I realized that everywhere else in the world, kids are simply eating the food that their parents give them– the same food that the parents are eating– and these kids all over the world, they're not picky eaters and they're 10 times less likely to have food allergies. So I decided, “We’re gonna start this company”. It was gonna be all international flavors, like bringing the world to our kids during a time when we can't even leave our house; we're not stripping allergens out of the food because that's part of the problem. The American baby industry is totally sanitized and sterilized baby food and intentionally making things worse, and so we're just keeping the good stuff in texture, flavor, spice, and allergens. And that's kind of how it happened.

Leslie: Okay, so the flavor window. I've actually heard, too, that breastfeeding can impact that if you eat certain foods, your breast milk will take on different flavors, and so you can kind of impact that. So, you're basically saying that, the more a young palette is exposed to different types of flavors like spices, whatever that is, then they'll be more accepting of those things, as kids and as adults, and go all the way the rest of their life.

Erica: It does; of course, there are going to be exceptions to the rule, it just always is the case, but you have to be patient, too. Kids may enjoy something one day, and then not like it again the next day, So they may love the pesto pasta, and then a year later, they don't give it some time. People's palettes do change. But ultimately yes, the early introduction and the early exposure to these flavors does set kids up for more adventurous eating for the rest of their lives. It just introduces them early. 

Leslie: And then the texture window; I think one thing you said, that really resonated with some of the other speaker topics we've had, is fullness cues. If you're drinking your food, you're not feeling that and that is another theme that's come out around. Holistic nutrition is about getting back in touch with your intuition. So instead of having so many rigid rules or trying to sort of override or restrict or micromanage or control what your body's telling you, listen to it.

Erica: Totally. It's about setting them up for good eating habits in general, just like you said: fullness cues like stopping eating if you're full, right? And so we can set them up for better eating, whether it's just eating more types of food or just understanding their own bodies. That's obviously like a lifelong sort of situation that we want to get them into.

Leslie: Yeah, I love that. One of the inspirations behind Vitaminis is that a lot of our produce doesn't have the nutrition that it used to. It's hard to get it all in a day, and so kind of like making that another option for adults and kids. If you just need a little bit more of whatever, because as parents. you can never check every single box every day let alone every week. So do you have tips for parents about how to make sure their kids get all the right exposure? How do we make sure their kids are getting all the right nutrition? What's your advice? It could be from a Globowl perspective, or maybe just from a mom perspective.

Erica: When we were formulating our food, it was very important that we were following the nutritional recommendations for what a child of a particular age should be having. That includes vegetables, grains, proteins, and things like that. And again, I’m not a nutritionist and not a doctor, but we can all look up things like that. We all innately also understand that things like proteins and vegetables are good. Some strawberry ice cream doesn't go, but I talk to my kids about eating the rainbow and having really beautiful colorful food. 

I think that also, children mimic what we do. So, my husband and I have very busy lives; we weren't always eating with the kids. We've totally changed that. And now, every single night at dinner time, as long as we're both home, we sit down and have dinner with our children because we want them to see this heaping pile of broccoli that we're eating. And if they don't have a whole heaping pile, they need to have one. And that's the other thing we try to implement too in our family is just, “Taste it. You do not have to eat the whole thing, but you absolutely need to put your tongue on it and take a little bite. You need to taste it with your tongue, and you need to chew it, and that's it”. And so, most of the time it works, so you don't like to fight too hard with the kids because we also don't want to make food a battle. 

You never want food to have that negative connotation, and as a mom of a little girl, we all know what food issues look like. It’s important for us to think about all this stuff, and I don't want my daughter to suffer in that way. I don't want her always thinking about the amount of calories or things like that. So we try to make sure there's a lot of positive energy around eating, positive conversations when we're all sitting down and having a dinner together or meal. 

I've also seen cute things where people cut the food in different shapes and stuff like that, just to make it more exciting for kids. So I bought little cookie cutters and things that I can use for PB&J sandwiches and things like that, just to make it fun. I get my kids in the kitchen with me all the time; I have been cooking with my kids since my kid could stand up. My first kid, I think, just takes pride in being able to say “I made this”; they don't always want to eat it because they sometimes want something different, but they do feel pride and being able to say, “I made this from nothing”, or “I grew it in my garden and now I'm eating it”. That is all really exciting stuff for kids, and so we try to keep them involved with growing, cooking, and ultimately eating food.

Leslie: We've covered a lot of areas, but I just want to wrap up with, where can people find Globowl? If they're looking and they're thinking, “Wow, I want my kids to get introduced to these things. I want to have early exposure”, where can they find you?

Erica: Yes, thank you for that. We are sold on our website, You could find us on Amazon. We're at Central Market in Texas, and we'll be rolling out to a lot of stores that you've heard of over the next few months, and a lot of independence in the Chicago area, which is where we're headquartered.

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