CPG Playbook   //   June 5, 2024

Little Spoon is betting on collaborations with Oatly, Graza & more to grow brand awareness

Little Spoon is turning to more brand partnerships to help grow its organic kids’ meal delivery service.

Founded in 2016, Little Spoon has been partnering with other companies on co-branded recipes since last year. On Valentine’s Day 2023, Little Spoon partnered with Compartes Chocolates on a kids smoothie and chocolate bar as a gift for parents. That spring, the company also partnered with Banza on a chickpea-based mac and cheese. Now, this summer, Little Spoon is ramping up these partnerships. On June 25, the company is unveiling two exclusive overnight oat smoothies in collaboration with Oatly, as part of its expansion into breakfast items. And next month, Little Spoon is releasing limited-edition dishes with olive oil startup Graza.

According to the company, it delivers over a million products to families’ doorsteps per month and delivered over 50 million meals nationwide since its 2017 launch. Little Spoon is a delivery service that allows parents to choose from a variety of baby foods, finger foods, smoothie pouches and more, to be delivered to their house at their convenience. Last year, the brand released a modern, healthier version of Lunchables as part of its quest to cater to parents with older kids. When the brand launched, it was solely focused on baby food. The majority of Little Spoon’s business comes from bi-weekly subscription plans. With more co-branded products coming this year, Little Spoon is looking to these co-branded products to help the company acquire new customers and get existing subscribers to tack on more products to their orders.

Little Spoon’s brand collaborations are part of its positioning to target busy millennial moms. “This generation of parents are more food knowledgeable than previous generations, and they’re also time-strapped,” Caryn Wasser, chief brand officer at Little Spoon, told Modern Retail. “We’re talking to that 27 to 45-year-old ambitious woman who’s consuming all these brands.” 

When choosing brands to collaborate with, Wasser said Little Spoon gravitates toward brands that are already popular among its customer base. The company wanted to work with Oatly based on its popularity among millennials, along with Little Spoon customer surveys showing 80% of subscribers want more convenient breakfast options. Meanwhile, when Little Spoon approached Graza about a collaboration, it discovered that one of the founders of the olive oil startup was already a subscriber and had been incorporating the olive oil into his own baby’s meals.

“That’s a massive differentiator for us in the category,” Wasser said. Aside from food collabs, this spring Little Spoon released a pasta print baby puffer with designer Rachel Antonoff.

These limited-edition items are available as part of Little Spoon’s menus that active subscribers order from. Some items, like the Compartes chocolate bars, are offered as a bonus add-on for the parents.

Little Spoon co-founder Angela Vranich said the success of those early experiments prompted the company to do more of these releases. Specifically, after selling through the Banza run, Little Spoon started to get customer requests for more of these branded collaborations. “There was definitely a desire to keep going and partner with more like-minded brands,” Vranich said.

Promoting the Little Spoon brand to new audiences is also a big focus for these collaborations. Wasser said Little Spoon will be working closely with Oatly to cross-promote the new overnight oats. The breakfast “Sunny Side” campaign rollout includes promotions by the two brands’ influencer networks, as well as exclusive gift boxes sent to about 1,000 of Little Spoon’s most loyal customers. The campaign also features the release of a breakfast-themed song by TikTok dad influencer Fulton Lee and his daughter. 

In July, Little Spoon is launching two products in collaboration with Graza, including a Mediterranean-inspired baby meal. “We really wanted to incorporate healthy fats into our Biteables line as a palette expander,” Vranich said. 

These collaborations take up to a year of work to pull together, Wasser said. In measuring the success rate of each of these partnerships, Wasser said the expectations are to boost the new customer acquisition side, grow the customer attachment rates and see an increase in unit-per-transaction. “We also want to see the campaign work we’re doing increase site traffic, so it’s also an awareness play,” Wasser said. 

The hope is also that customers will add these co-branded items to their delivery order and not swap them out for other meals. 

It can also be a more cost-effective way to acquire new customers. “We are never going to — nor do we want to — compete with the national media budgets that exist in our space,” Wasser said. That’s where buzzy limited-edition products and influencer partnerships can help differentiate Little Spoon from other brands. “We’re being very coordinated in the timing of these rollouts to make sure we’re creating strong, high-reach moments that draw a ton of brand attention and website volume,” Wasser said.

Limited-edition collaborations have become a go-to marketing tactic for CPG startups. Beverage brand Aura Bora, which partnered with Graza last year, has leaned on recipe partnerships with other food and beverage startups.

CPG consultant Nate Rosen said targeting parents with hip food collaborations makes sense, as more Gen Z and millennials have kids. 

“Obviously the babies aren’t buying these products, so speaking to the parents is the right move,” Rosen said. For instance, Rosen added that “a kid probably doesn’t care about squeezable olive oil,” but the parent subscribing to organic meal delivery is likely familiar with these types of brands.

“Collaborations are still one of the most effective ways for startups to cross-promote to other audiences,” Rosen said. 

As Little Spoon seeks to strike up more branded partnerships, the company is positioning its own customer base — now at two million across social and email — as a selling point to brands trying to reach millennials. “When we’re talking to brands about collab-ing, people are always interested in our demographic in particular because we have a highly-engaged digital audience,” Vranich said.