Sweet Cheeks Feeds Baby Locavores
“I’m driven by the statistic that this generation is the first predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” says Lori Karis, creator of Sweet Cheeks Baby Food. So she was glad when she passed the clean-bib test. Early customers at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market said that regular baby food ended up all over their baby’s face and bib, but “he didn’t waste a drop” of Sweet Cheeks.
Karis, a professional nanny for 25 years, still sells at the farmer’s market and on line at sweetcheeksbabyfood.com. But two-year-old Sweet Cheeks is also in local co-ops and grocery stores, and on the menu at the Birchwood CafÃ© in Minneapolis and the Highland Grill in St. Paul.
The foods are organic, vegetarian, locally grown, and frozen to preserve more nutrients than putting them in jars would. Karis buys ingredients from Whole Grain Milling in Welcome, Featherstone Farm in Rushford, and Hoch Orchard in LaCrescent (and St. Paul’s Mississippi Market in the winter). In a shared commercial kitchen in St. Paul, she roasts, purees, packs, labels, freezes, then delivers all the food herself, 800 to 1,000 servings a week.
Parents are willing to pay a premium for Sweet Cheeks (it sells for $1.50 to $4.00 per serving) because they want to do what’s best for their children, Karis says. She hopes the influence is lasting: “Maybe it’s lofty, but I would love to influence that tiny palate to crave healthy, flavorful foods rather than heavily processed, heavily salted, fast foods.”