Marielle Smit, AMSIB alum, class of 2015

How this mother on a mission is conquering the market with fresh baby food

20 Dec 2022 11:17 | Communication

Mariëlle Smit, IBL alum class of 2015, is a mother on a mission. Not long after starting her baby food company, Mama Deli, Mariëlle has recently been awarded the Bold Future Award 2022 Business Woman of the Year.

Mariëlle Smit, founder of Mama Deli, was presented with the Bold Future Award this week at the Business Woman of the Year awards. She is officially the most promising entrepreneur of the year. The jury praised the 32-year-old’s 'emerging talent' particularly for her 'courage, positivity and strength'.

Mariëlle tells MT/Sprout that she has had so many messages that she has not even had time to carefully review the jury report. 'But I do know that it is about, among other things, the courage I had to sell my first company ( MME Hospitality). However, that was such a natural step for me. I felt such a drive to roll out this new idea. Actually it wasn't even a choice, I had to do this.'

Search for an alternative

The idea for Mama Deli started with mixing purees late at night for her first daughter. Every mother just wants the very best for her child. Most of them then start cooking, steaming and pureeing themselves, but that is quite a lot of work.'

‘If you find things annoying, then you either have to do something about it yourself, or don't complain about it’

At that time, Smit was still running her own company in the events sector six days a week. 'In the evening I would be in the kitchen, and that didn't make my partner very happy. He thought I should stop doing that and find an alternative.'

'I understood that, because we agree on one thing: if you find things annoying, then you should either do something about it yourself or stop complaining.' She just can't find an alternative, and that's why she secretly keeps on nagging, she says, laughing.

'In the meantime, all kinds of food have become so easy and healthy. Within just a few steps you can grab a fresh meal somewhere, but that doesn't exist for little ones, and certainly not for babies. I thought that was pretty crazy.'

On the right Mariëlle Smit of Mama Deli, on the left businesswoman of the year Kristel Groenenboom. Photo: Prix Veuve Clicquo

On the right Mariëlle Smit of Mama Deli, on the left businesswoman of the year Kristel Groenenboom. Photo: Prix Veuve Clicquo

Switching from events to baby food

Smit hears in her environment that she is not the only one with this problem. So she decides to do something about it herself. From the start she also realizes that switching from events to baby food is a big step.

‘Motherhood is always compromised, but I do it with pleasure’

'What did I know about baby food? But I am a mother on a mission. A fresh meal is so good for your child's development and health. I quickly came to the conclusion that I could not do this alone. So I built a great team around me that knows a lot about baby food. A small team , but very strong.'

Mama Deli will be launched in January 2021. Smit discovers almost at the same time that she is pregnant again and gives birth to her second daughter. “That year was quite a challenge. Motherhood is always a compromise, but I enjoy doing it.'

Retail has no interest in Mama Deli

Not that the supermarkets were eager for her new fresh-frozen baby food. 'We had built an amazing starter range, which was completely correct from A to Z. We've been working on it for a year and a half and then you think you really have something in your hands.'

'I stood with a box of samples, completely homemade and puréed so that it looked neat, on the doorstep of the retail category managers and that door was simply slammed shut. Yes, then you will doubt yourself for a while’, she laughs.

It sucks, of course, but Smit is a mother with a mission. She 'switches gears' and decides to start online with her own web shop. One that storms from the start. Ouders van Nu picks up on her story and a major campaign is conducted online.

The retail suddenly turned out to be interested. 'They knocked on the door themselves after a few months. That was nice, because then you sit at the table very differently.'

Mariëlle Smit wants to cross the border with Mama Deli

Mama Deli is now available in all major supermarkets, Albert Heijn, Dirk, Vomar… It was announced on Tuesday that the brand will also be available in all Jumbo stores. Mariëlle Smit products can also be ordered at Crisp and Picnic. A number of new retailers have already signed up for next year.

‘We always try to be a few steps ahead of the rest. Now we really need to step up our game.’

Investors have knocked on the door in the meantime, but Smit prefers the company to continue to finance the growth itself as long as possible. 'We will take our first steps abroad in the second quarter of 2023. We are already in Belgium, but then we will press ahead.'

Naturally, the food industry 'looks along' at its products. Smit has not yet seen any copies. 'We are aware that we are in a competitive market, so we always try to be a few steps ahead of the rest. Now it's running very fast anyway.'

Innovations are therefore important for her company and a lot of work is being done in that regard. In the past year, development has mainly focused on new flavours. A number of product categories will soon be added, with which Mama Deli aims to tap into a broader target group. "But I really need to keep my mouth shut about that." So to be continued.

This article was originally written in Dutch by Karin Swiers and published in MT/sprout. It has been reproduced in English with permission from the author.