Shelby County native creates business organically
Story By Samantha Hurst
A mom gasps when she hears a clash of glass hitting a freshly swept floor.
Her 1-year-old son’s tiny toes could tiptoe into the kitchen any second, ready for his afternoon snack.
What will she feed him now with the last jar of baby food smeared across the tile? Was that jar of processed food really healthy for him anyway?
Happy Family Brands aims to solve these daily worries for parents through practically designed pouches of organically made baby food.
Indian Springs School alumna Shazi Visram founded Happy Family Brands. The idea grabbed her attention during business school when her friend, the mother of twins, lamented the struggle to find healthy and convenient food. Everywhere Visram looked she could find high-end strollers and diaper bags, but no premium food options.
“I was shocked that there was nothing really nutritional and healthy,” Visram says. “There was a great opportunity to create a truly healthy brand to impact kids’ health for the rest of their lives.”
Visram says she was obsessed with the idea; couldn’t stop thinking about it, in fact.
She scanned grocery store aisles and researched the industry to find very few innovations since the 1960s. Glass jars had long been the packaging of choice. Labeling remained cutesy, vague and anything but informative.
Parents deserved to know the makeup of the food they trusted to spoon into their precious kids’ mouths.
“You see a young, perfect little baby and you think, ‘Wow, what are we doing as a society to protect this fragile little immune system,’” Visram says.
Visram began surrounding herself with trusted advisors — those who had done something similar before her.
“I knew I could do it: It was just a matter of figuring out how,” Visram says.
She was fortunate to connect with advisors already running unique brands — some focused on organic food, some on other innovative products.
Seth Goldman, cofounder of Honest Tea, became an advisor right away.
“People like that when they see you have an honest sense of purpose, they are willing to help you,” Visram says.
By 2006, Happy Babies launched with a line of frozen organic baby food. In 2008, the first organic baby food cereal with probiotics and DHA launched. The very next year, after realizing mothers weren’t looking for baby food in the freezer aisle, the company introduced pouches to replace traditional glass jars of food stacked on grocery store shelves.
Happy Family Brands’ products launched in a handful of health food stores in New York City. Eventually, Visram’s team found their way into Whole Foods.
Now the brand is everywhere — Publix, Walgreens and, most recently, Winn-Dixie.
“It just shows you that we are really on to something and that parents, regardless of where you live, really just want the best for your kids,” Visram says of the company’s expansion into a wide variety of stores.
For families of all demographics to take better care of their kids, they need access to better information, she adds.
“I don’t think of Happy Family as a company that puts food in a package and sells it to people. We are so much more than that,” Visram says.
That is why the Happy Family Brands website and blog provide information on things such as the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables like strawberries and celery, which are more prone to absorbing pesticides. Fruits and vegetables like bananas and eggplant, the Clean 15, are less likely to take on pesticides.
“We know how hard it can be from a financial standpoint to buy everything organic,” Visram says. “But we also understand the problems with pesticides and toxic residues that can be found with traditional food. We just want people to feel empowered to make healthy choices.”
Visram says she learned to think this way through her surroundings as a student at Indian Springs School.
“I remember Mr. Gibson’s biology class where we grew our own fruits and vegetables as a science project,” Visram recalls. “The school is doing a really nice job instilling these lifetime values in the students.”
Visram says she went to college in New York City and “became a New Yorker pretty fast,” yet she held on to her experience growing up in Alabama. She says that youthful experience taught her the value of healthy living.
She also held on to lessons learned from history teacher Dr. Bob Cooper. Visram says he taught her by example how to tell a story. In the life of Happy Family Brands, expressing the impact of healthy food is all about the art of storytelling, she adds.
Indian Springs School named Visram its 2014 Outstanding Alumna with good reason.
By 2014, Happy Family Brands could be found in most major grocery stores. On Mother’s Day this year, the company marked its 10th anniversary and has reached more than $105 million in sales.
In Visram’s view, there remains so much more to do.
“We’ve innovated a lot in the last 10 years, but we have a lot more to do over the next 10 years,” Visram says.
The company’s newest line of food, Clearly Crafted, again changes the landscape of food for kids through innovative thinking. Distributed in clear packaging, parents can see the mixture of apples, kale and avocados.
Not only can parents clearly see the food inside, but they can also read information right in their hand about the farmers from which the food is sourced.
“It is so beautiful, and so fresh, and so abundantly clear that this is healthy and clean,” Visram says.
Visram says that kind of transparency is the next topic in food. More and more consumers demand to know not only that the ingredients are organic, but that the farmers produce the components ethically, as well.
“I’m not going to say it has been easy,” Visram says of holding her company to such high standards. “It is really challenging, but our babies are worth it.”
For more information, visit Happyfamilybrands.com, or follow them on social media.