White Leaf Provisions, a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based company specializing in biodynamic food products, primarily for babies, has big plans for 2020, including introduction of new products and wider distribution.
The company, founded in 2016 by Keith Rowe and his wife, Megan, is a small, family-run business that focuses on pure foods. The company’s niche is that not only are its products certified as organic and GMO-free, but they also are regeneratively farmed and biodynamic. Regenerative farming involves rebuilding soil health in order to grow mineral-rich food. Biodynamic farming, according to a definition from the Biodynamic Association, is “a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition.”
Rowe told The Shelby Report’s VP-Southeast Tom Bachmann that the generative farming aspect is the key to the uniqueness of White Leaf’s products.
“We put our focus back on the farm,” he said. “Regenerative farming is helping to heal the land and heal the farm. We like to offer a level of purity and transparency that hasn’t been in the market before.”
Rowe grew up in a small farming village in Ireland. His family and its neighbors grew all of their vegetables. A dairy farmer and a butcher lived nearby. That upbringing launched his passion for simple, clean foods, he said. He also has worked as an executive chef and studied food preparation and production all over the world. He said he and Megan decided to form a company after their son arrived.
“After Keegan was born, I started walking down baby food aisles in the U.S. and I didn’t understand that the Demeter logo [a biodynamic agriculture certification] wasn’t present,” Rowe said. “I saw a lot of organic and non-GMO labels, which was great, but I didn’t see any connection with regenerative farming.”
Rowe began to research the issue and visited a lot of farms. He also visited Demeter USA in Oregon, which certifies more than 250 farms of various sizes in the U.S. That led him to select farms in Northern California and Oregon to source produce.
Expanding beyond baby food
Rowe plans to expand beyond White Leaf Provisions beyond its baby food roots this year by launching a line of oats, muesli and cereal. White Leaf will also add four more baby food SKUs. He said the additions will help complete the picture of the company being a family food brand.
White Leaf products are certified as biodynamic by the Demeter Association, which is based in Philomath, Oregon, and is part of Demeter International, an organization which has a vision to heal the planet through agriculture.
This year, Whole Foods will begin carrying White Leaf’s products in 10 of its 11 regions in the U.S. Rowe said he is also in discussion with other natural food retailers.
“We want to get into the stores where our key customers are shopping,” Rowe said. “We want to grow to be a national brand before we approach some of the larger, more conventional chains or cross-over chains. We will be doing a lot of fine-tuning of our marketing and messaging.”
Rowe said retailers gradually are becoming more aware about foods that go beyond being organic and GMO-free. Parents also are doing their research on the topic. Rowe said the organic movement related to baby food peaked at least 10 years ago and he maintains that no new developments have happened in that section. However, he believes the demand is growing as more parents become aware of climate change and how soil health relates to food nutrition.
“We have been lucky to be part of the conversations of two moments—biodynamic and regenerative farming,” Rowe said. “We understand that parents have a lot of information coming at them all day long. So for us, it’s about simplifying that message. When we started the company, being able to use the Demeter was a solid piece.”
More certification is on the way. Rowe said White Leaf expects to participate in the new Regenerative Organic Certification sponsored by The Regenerative Organic Alliance. The certification involves three pillars: soil health, animal welfare and social fairness.