- Shazi Visram, founder of organic baby food company Happy Family, is stepping down from her role as CEO at the end of the year, according to a company release. Visram will maintain her roles as chief visionary and "Chairmom" of the board. Anne Laraway, current senior vice president of business development, will succeed Visram on January 1.
- "I feel fortunate to work with one of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies and teams in the world," Laraway said in the release. "I look forward to building on Shazi's efforts to continue our mission and support parents in every way possible. It's a great responsibility to lead this organization and I am excited by the challenge and the opportunity to expand and create more impact with our products and brand."
Happy Family expects sales in 2017 will be close to $200 million, and projects 2018 sales of more than $250 million.
Happy Family has grown significantly since Visram first launched the company on Mother's Day in 2006. The brand, which was acquired by Danone in 2013, began with just five SKUS, but now boasts a portfolio of more than 100 organic, free-from products. The company's success, and Visram's devotion to creating nutritious meal solutions for growing families, even caught the attention of former President Obama who called Visram "a rockstar of the new economy and a leader we can all emulate."
Perhaps the company's biggest accomplishments is bringing pouched baby food into the mainstream. When Happy Family first made the transition from glass jars to flexible pouches in 2007, the packaging concept was still very niche. But the move anticipated the rise of consumer demand for "squeezie" pouches. Once marketed as an easy way for young children to eat pureed fruits and vegetables, companies like Happy Family have started experimenting with bigger portion sizes and more complex ingredient combinations to cater to on-the-go adults.
Happy Family launched a product line called SHINE Organics in 2015 to lure this demographic. Each variety is formulated with seven grams of plant proteins, and the line experiments with flavors that are "distinctly more grown-up," like green tea, turmeric, kale and ginger. More recently, the company also has developed lactation bars, prenatal vitamin gummies and probiotic supplements for expectant mothers.
Time will tell if Laraway continues to experiment with products aimed at adults, in addition to building on Happy Family's core focus of improving children's health through nutrition.
The company's partnership with Danone also seems to have helped it gain secure footing within the global marketplace, but there is certainly still room to grow. Children's food manufacturer GoGo SqueeZ projected in 2015 that the squeeze pouch market could be worth $1 billion in the next few years.
Happy Family's investments in social issues surrounding childhood nutrition and education could help the company stand out from competitors and lure consumers who are hungry for mission-based brands. Earlier this year, the company announced that it is officially a public benefit corporation, and received a 2017 Best for the World: Changemakers award from B Lab, a nonprofit organization that "serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good."
In an interview with Food Navigator, Visram said that there are "breakthrough developments on the horizon" for 2018. Whether these unnamed initiatives will be as impactful as the company's pouched packaging remains to be seen.
It will be interesting to see how Happy Family will do under a new leader. One positive is that Visram, the company's founder, will still be intimately involved and in a position to provide the same insight and vision that has lead to the company's success since it was founded. Another is that her successor is coming from within the company, giving it access to someone who already is familiar with the business. Happy Family is in a competitive market, and any disruption in the c-suite could have long-term consequences for the future.