Bobbie Is The Infant Formula These Founders Wish They Had When Breastfeeding Failed Them
New parents face many challenges when caring for a newborn, from sleep deprivation to mental health. However, the one that incites the most conversations — good and bad — surrounds the choice to breastfeed or use formula.
In a Wakefield Research survey, 83% of moms use formula in the first year of their baby’s life, and of those, 70% regularly complement breast milk with formula.
With limited purchase options for formula, Bobbie has come onto the scene to shake up the infant formula industry. Their new direct-to-consumer formula is the first Organic, European Style Recipe formula in the US with DHA levels that meet the stringent EU standards.
To learn more about Bobbie, I chatted with co-founder and mom to three, Laura Modi.
Kate Talbot: Tell me about Bobbie and what makes your product unique.
Laura Modi: Bobbie was founded in 2018 and a promise that my Co-Founder, Sarah and I had made early on, was that we would only develop products that we would feed our own babies. This is partly why it has taken three years because we have been heads-down developing a product that we can proudly proclaim meets all our desires for what we’d want in an infant formula.
I’m proud to say that we are the first new infant formula company to launch in the US in more than five years, which gives you a sense of just how difficult it is to enter this space. We have been on a rollercoaster as a small company entering a space run by huge conglomerates, but remain steadfast in our mission because this product is personal for us.
Our formula is the first Organic, European Style Recipe formula in the US with DHA levels that meet the stringent EU standards (the US has no DHA standard). Bobbie also proudly left out any corn syrup, palm oil, or maltodextrin. When it comes to what makes our product unique it really boils down to the countless days, months and years we put into choosing our ingredients and suppliers. It’s not just about what we put in, but it’s equally important what we left out of Bobbie.
Talbot: How is Bobbie impacting the infant formula market?
Modi: Two ways I believe Bobbie will impact this industry. The first is industry requirements — it’s enough to just put out a winning product but I hope Bobbie is the voice, example, and changemaker that will drive improvements for the Infant Formula regulations set for all options on the market. Good nutrition should be affordable and accessible to everyone and it starts with raising the standards for the industry across the board.
Secondly, we will be known as the company that forever changed the conversation on formula and how we feed our babies to that of confidence, not comparison. The “Breast is Best” initiative, while good intentioned, has actually made moms feel like bad moms or second best when their breasts can’t perform up to society’s standards.
We have to start talking about the realities of how we feed- that there is no one size fits all, no straight and narrow feeding journey; each one is unique and each parent should feel supported and confident in their decisions.
Talbot: How has market research and customer interviews shaped your product launch?
Modi: The best part about developing and creating Bobbie is that it’s for our own babies, too. I just had my third, a pandemic baby named Owen, in May and I was right back in the saddle of a feeding journey that combined breastmilk and formula.
We have experienced first hand purchasing European formula from a black market and talked for hours to moms, gay dads, adoptive parents about why they feel like they need to import formula, what they loathe about the experience, and what they wish a company would do to support them. EU formula is not FDA approved and just this week the USDA made the first formal nod to the black market by advising to not purchase foreign formulas that are not under FDA requirements. But people are going to Europe because they believe the quality is higher, the nutrient content is different. This is what fueled us to bring a safe alternative with this launch; a European Style Recipe that meets all FDA requirements. Parents in the US are clearly looking for something that doesn’t exist for them in the US- that is until now.
When it comes to the stigma on formula, we realized we were not alone but a silent majority. Third-party research commissioned by Bobbie through Wakefield research showed that two out of three US moms who had a baby in the last two years felt guilty for choosing formula. If you zoom into that- you have two out of three moms feeling guilty for feeding their babies. That’s insane to us and it needs to change.
Talbot: Feeding your baby is a personal journey, how has storytelling shaped the Bobbie brand?
Modi: I would go as far as to say that storytelling is the Bobbie brand. Because the more we tell about what’s really going on for parents when it comes to how they feed their babies, the more we talk about the different types of modern-day parents like gay dads, surrogates, adoptive parents, mastectomy moms, the more we move the needle on our mission of evolving the conversation on how we feed.
Our brand has been alive for four months before our product because we had stories we wanted to share and building a brand that stands for all types of parents is just as important as the quality of the product we put out. There are very few products you could name that are as personal as Infant Formula / how you choose to feed your baby— I can’t recall any conversation where someone did not have a personal story or opinion to add to the topic, the only job Bobbie has is to create the platform to share them.
Talbot: You and your co-founder Sarah have strong backgrounds in Silicon Valley working for Airbnb and Google. How has that impacted your business model?
Modi: Bringing out a better formula is not enough, we are changing the entire experience. We can subscribe to diapers, to wine, to razors- even to succulents these days. So why can’t we have that same end to end branded experience for one of the most predictable purchases for new parents who need baby formula?
We will be the first to launch solely direct to consumer controlling everything from sourcing and ingredients to quality in manufacturing to packaging and unboxing and bringing it back for an easy to dial up or dial down subscription based model. We joke about how god awful it is to have to go to the drugstore, ring the shame bell and wait for someone to unlock a dingy plastic cabinet, while you pick a formula for your baby in-between cat food and diapers. I hope parents see this as not buying Bobbie, but instead you will join Bobbie. The education, support, community that are all just as important as the product.
As far as our own backgrounds coming from Airbnb and Google. Airbnb has taught us always do right by the customer, start with the community, and that evolving a legacy industry is possible- even when the competitors think it’s not. The most validating moment is when you prove them all wrong. What our experience brings is the ability to bridge the gap between what iconic brands have lost in innovation and what the modern DTC model is missing in connection.
Talbot: Can you share a success story where using Bobbie helped shift the stigma of supplementing or only using formula for a new mom struggling to feed her baby.
Modi: Building a company that helps mom shake the stigma and oftentimes, shame, that we can feel for turning to formula starts by unconditionally supporting them- even if that means they are not using Bobbie. We’re happy to suggest a different formula, connect with them with a feeding consultant for support to try and keep their breast milk supply going or take the fear out of introducing that first bottle with a fully dedicated editorial site we launched called Milk-Drunk.com. This is the support we felt like we didn’t have when we introduced formula.
One story that comes to mind specifically is about a mom in Pittsburgh named Megan Koziel. She’s a double mastectomy breast cancer survivor who had her second baby after having her breasts removed. She shared some of the judgmental comments that she gets from other moms on Instagram, people that told her she ‘should have figured out a way to find breast milk if she was a good mom’ or that her baby ‘will not be healthy because of formula feeding.’ We are so proud to recently support her little baby on Bobbie and share her unique feeding journey as a reminder that you can never assume you know what is “best” for a mom and a parent’s holistic situation.
In this case it’s as simple as not assuming she had $25,000 to find donor milk, and not assuming the future health of her child was in any kind of danger because she chose to turn to formula, and not assuming she even has nipples. The response from parents showing their support has far outweighed any haters, and it’s encouraged more people to share their own journey to formula which is the only way we will shake the stigma. By talking about it.