Commercial baby foods: how do they fare in a blind tasting?

Out of interest I bought a few first stage commercial baby food products and conducted a blind taste test with some friends whose babies are approaching weaning age.I asked them to:

  1. Guess what the product was
  2. score the product out of 10 for taste and texture (1= hate to 10= love)
  3. Say whether they personally would eat it

Here are the results:

1. Ella’s Kitchen strawberries and apples

  • What do you think this is? Apple and raspberry/ summer fruits/ strawberry/ strawberry and apple/ don’t know (1 right, 3 close)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 6.25 (the highest scoring of the 7 products)
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 3

2. Cow & Gate Mini Beef Casserole

  • What do you think this is? Chick pea/ chicken dinner/ chicken or meat/ sweet potato/ don’t know (one close)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 4.25
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 2

3. Hipp Organic sweet squash and chicken

  • What do you think this is? Butternut squash/ don’t know/ chicken/ carrot or sweet potato/ rice (3 close)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 5.75
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 2
  • Other comments: 2 said it was ‘horrible’, 1 said it was very very smooth textured

4. Ella’s Kitchen sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apples and blueberries

  • What do you think this is? Don’t know/ rhubarb/ pear/ strawberry and kiwi/ don’t know (1 close)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 3.5 (the lowest scoring product of the 7)
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 2
  • Other comments: smooth and seedy

5. Hipp Organic apple and pear

  • What do you think this is? Apple/ stewed apple/ apple and pear/ apple/ apple (1 correct, 4 close)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 4.75
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 3

6. Cow & Gate cauliflower cheese

  • What do you think this is? Parsnip/ no idea/ rice pudding/ parsnip/ cauliflower (1 right)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 5.25
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 4
  • Other comments: 2 said it was horrible

7. Ella’s Kitchen carrots, apples and parsnips

  • What do you think this is? Don’t know/ don’t know/ parsnip/ apple/ carrot and apple (3 close)
  • Average score out of 10 for taste and texture = 4.5
  • How many of the 5 people would eat it = 2

Summary

When introducing foods to your baby you are introducing an important additional source of nutrition. Almost more importantly you are also giving them exposure to different tastes, smells and textures. Experts agree that a variety of experiences is ideal to help your child become an adventurous eater.

Manufactured baby foods are not ideal nutritionally for many reasons (see my post here), but are fine for a convenient occasional baby meal.

My biggest bugbear with these products is the homogenous textures and the difficulty to distinguish what they actually are without seeing the label. The savoury foods taste quite sweet – often because they have had sweet vegetables and or fruits added. This isn’t accustoming a baby to the complex and often bitter tastes or meats and vegetables. If the aim of weaning is shifted from ‘getting nutrition in’ to giving varied food exposure then it’s clear that these products are far from an ideal way to do so!

My mini study showed what I thought would happen – very few were able to identify what they were eating and the products were not universally liked.

One of the reasons I’m a fan of baby-led weaning is that in advocating baby self feeding this purée stage is skipped and your baby is offered foods that taste and look like the foods they will be eating with you as a family throughout their lives – which must be a good thing!