What is the true cost of baby food pouches?

What is the true cost of baby food pouches? ~ Maman Loup's Den

Two things before I launch into this carefully-researched post:

1- This post is in no way sponsored by any re-usable pouch makers! I consulted with some companies while doing my research but this post is not affiliated in any way with any company.

2- This post is not about shaming you for using disposable food pouches! I would like to offer up some food for thought (pun intended) since I think we can all make small changes to our consumer habits that will have a big impact on our planet and our wallets.

So, what’s my beef?

Baby food in disposable, slurpable pouches are all the rage. They are readily available, extremely convenient and kids seem to be gulping down their fruits and veggies on-the-go everywhere I go.

Good things about baby food pouches:

  • They have raised awareness about organic and non-GMO products and perhaps encouraged more families to choose organic foods and to consider the ingredients in prepared baby foods.
  • Many of the smaller companies were founded by “Mom and Pop” type teams. (Though Nestle owns Gerber, which has 30% of the market [source]).
  • If I’m choosing between kids eating Happy Meals or organic fruits and vegetables in a squeeze pouch, I am obviously going to vote for the squeeze pouches.
  • Because pouches are lighter than glass jars, the transportation costs and carbon footprint of said transport is less.

My primary concerns are:

  • Babies were eating just fine 5 years ago, pre-pouch: this “innovation” is not filling a need, it has created one.
  • The marketing of these products is geared towards the category of parent who would be most likely to make her own baby food but is swayed by the “super food” ingredients (quinoa, kamut) and the all-natural, organic fruits and vegetables. (I count myself among those who was originally impressed by this!)
  • Families are often on tight budgets, and these pouches are extremely expensive when you consider buying the ingredients yourself.
  • Squeeze pouches are destined for the landfill: aside from the limited reach of a TerraCycle Brigade for Ella’s Kitchen pouches, the caps and pouches are not recyclable and are thus yet another convenience product that serves its purpose for about 10 minutes then hits the trash.

Some numbers:

  • The squeeze pouch industry raked in 1.5 billion dollars in 2012. (source)
  • 40% of new baby food products come in pouches. (source)
  • Nest Collective, retailer of Plum Organics (one of the first pouch-brands to hit shelves) saw 3000% growth from 2007-2010. (source)
  • Demand for all types of food products in pouches is predicted to reach 9.4 billion dollars in the US alone by 2018. (source)
Squeeze Pouch stats
1.5 billion dollars in sales divided by an average price of $1.50 per pouch.

I kinda thought they were an awesome idea…. until I didn’t anymore.

When I first saw these pouches on store shelves, I admit they seemed pretty ingenious: kids can feed themselves without having to manipulate a spoon. No need to cart around heavy jars of baby food or toss sticky spoons back in the diaper bag. And as a bonus, these pouches seem to have sprung up alongside a tendency to offer healthy, organic options in the baby and children’s food market.

Now, I am one of those crunchy Mamas who doesn’t buy much prepared food for her baby. I’m not saying NONE, I’m saying I do make a concerted effort to make as much as I can from scratch and buy in bulk. As for purées, I never needed them since we did baby-led-weaning. Cub has always just eaten (or thrown on the floor) whatever I’ve got in the fridge. I bought a reusable food pouch for him, was excited to fill it with a delicious yogurt smoothie… which he delighted in squirting everywhere except his mouth. I tried a couple of the disposable food pouches for travel, and the result was the same: he wore the food. Quite frankly, if these pouches had proved a reliable way to get some healthy food into him, I’d probably have ended up buying many, many more before my little wake up call.

After working with David Suzuki’s Queen of Green this spring and truly thinking about every single item we throw in the trash, I had a light bulb when I received a food pouch as a free sample in an order from Well.ca. Firstly, Cub still refused to slurp and preferred to spill, secondly… what was I supposed to do with the pouch once it was empty?

food pouches not recyclable

Unless they are part of a TerraCycle brigade in your area, baby food pouches are not recyclable

Even their caps, though made of a recyclable plastic, should technically go in the garbage based on all of my research (this is the same for all small caps). Having visited the St. Michel Recycling Centre with my students on multiple occasions, I can attest to the floor being literally littered with small plastic items that simply don’t make it through the conveyor belt (and, in fact, risk jamming the machines).

cap too small to recycle


Creating a need to revive a declining sector, they got us good!

For a whole plethora of valid reasons, parents like to buy prepared baby food. The main format for baby food has, for decades, been the glass jar. While pouch-producers will argue that the glass jar is heavier to transport and therefore has a bigger footprint than light-weight pouches (see Sprout FAQ), I would counter that baby food jars can be reused and eventually recycled. 

According to this article at Organic.org, the average American baby consumes 600 jars of baby food per year. However, the industry was, until the advent of pouches, seeing a steady decline as more and more parents decided to make their own food.

I would argue that the ingenuity of pairing convenient pouches with organic purees has converted parents who might have originally planned to make their own food to opting for pouches, since the marketing is very carefully targeted to this demographic. As Maria at Mommyish says, “Who needs to [make your own food] when you can get organic red lentils and quinoa in baby food pouches?”

Purées serve the purpose of feeding babies who are too little chew their food. With baby-led weaning gaining in popularity, purées are less and less popular with parents. So baby food manufacturers have started pushing their purées as healthy snacks even for kids with plenty of teeth. Parents now see “baby food” as a portable smoothie. You’d never see a 4 year-old eating strawberries from a jar of baby food at the park, but sucking it back from a pouch: even adults are doing it! (source)

Earth’s Best CMO admits: “It’s allowing us to age up. Where moms may have stopped baby food at 9 to 12 months, the pouches have really helped extend the shelf life of baby food,” she says. “We see growth for a long time to come.” (source)

I’m not saying the food-pouch-posse are evil: if anything, they’ve really cornered the market, and, in the case of many of the smaller companies, they have the very respectable prerogative of getting more children eating fresh(er) fruits and vegetables that are organic.

But let’s face it: it’s 2014, people. We cannot afford to be adding to the overwhelming amount of single-use, single-serving, 100% not-reusable nor recyclable items available at our supermarkets!

 How can we do better?

  • Obviously, the best way is to stop buying them and certainly to not adopt them for ourselves as adults, too! We are grown ups and we can use straws and glass bottles: we do not need our smoothies to come in a pouch, no matter how busy we are. Also, we have teeth.
  • If you are devoted to using squeeze pouches, demand that manufacturers develop ways to recycle them or develop packaging that is more readily recyclable. Ella’s Kitchen has a TerraCycle Brigade; Plum Organics claims to be working on an “upcycle” option; Love Child offers this idea for reusing the pouch lids and insists that the environmental impact of pouches is significantly less than plastic bottles, Tetra packs and glass. (source)
  • If your kids are addicted to the pouches, buy reusable pouches that you fill yourself. (There are tons of different brands on the market!)
  • If making your own purées/smoothies is out of the question, choose larger quantities in glass jars that you can then portion out into smaller, reusable containers. (ex: large glass jars of apple sauce)
  • Opt for single-serving, wrapped snacks that use less packaging if you’re not buying in bulk and using your own containers.
  • It’s not really hard to pack a  (reusable) spoon in your diaper bag…


So, what do you think? Is our addiction to convenience and our attraction to all things organic blinding us to the true cost of single-use baby food pouches?

24 responses to “What is the true cost of baby food pouches?”

  1. Steph MacDonald

    We used them with #2 and didn’t give it a second thought! We really liked the superfood aspect. I am the type who has intended to make my own baby food both times but just never did. Mind you thy are so expensive we only kept them on hand for road trips. Now that you’ve brought the waste aspect up, I’ll have to do some re-thinking. Where’s a good place to buy those reusable pouches?

    1. Chantal

      I bought mine online, they are called sqooshi. I love them, the only inconvenient is taht you have to wash them fast or the food will dry in the opening.

      1. Chantal

        Sorry squooshi, not sqooshi…

  2. Mylène Bélanger

    I’d score a pack of 2 Squeez’Ems by BooginHead for $5 at Walmart

    1. Jessica

      I bought those. I was not happy. You lose half of it in the hard lid and then mine stared growing mold between the pouch and plastic. I emailed their customer service with no response what so ever.

      1. There are a bunch of other brands out there, though they’re pricier. Since Cub doesn’t really eat well from them I haven’t tried any really!

  3. We buy applesauce pouches rarely — and only as a treat for my daughter. I am not fond of all the plastic waste. But sometimes we buy them on sale.

  4. I loved the fruit & veggie pouches when they first came out. It was so nice to see organic ingredients and superfoods in convenient pouches. When the prices started going up and up, I was turned off by them. When I could get them for under $1 a piece, they were alright, but now I just can’t justify it. Knowing they aren’t recyclable makes me want to buy them even less. My son still loves to eat a smoothie from a pouch, so we’re planning to give some reusable pouches a try.

  5. They just seemed like a mess to me. My kids never did well with that sort of this until they were a bit older… I learned the hard way with those Go-Gurts. I do have a couple of the reusable ones that I was gifted, but at 10 months my son is still not interested in them. It is definitely concerning how much these things are adding to our landfills 🙁

  6. Jami Smith

    I buy the apple sauce pouches, they’ve have saved me grief on our long car trips to the cardiologist with LO #5 an LO #6, but since our appointments have gone from once a week to every three months I’ve lost the “need for their convince”.

  7. I literally thought about this yesterday as I threw my daughters daily Love Child organics pouch in the trash (not the recycling ). She’s been eating , no swallowing, them for about two weeks now. When she started solids I was boiling & pureeing her food, she loved it til she got a tummy bug and would only eat rice cereal. I thought I would try an organic purée pouch & she likes some of them. They are more adventurous with the variety & flavor than I had been. I am doing my best to be an eco-mom, thank you for this article. It has reinforced something I had just fleetingly considered. My current plan had been to continue to give her these until in a couple of months she can eat what we eat. I am going to re-new my efforts to get her go eat my food, worst case I will definitely stop buying anymore as soon as she can eat what we’re eating. I did just buy some reusable pouches to use to try make for on the go smoothies , so you’re right there are soo many options out there.

  8. I think initially we (being mamas) see organic and we think…”oh, that’s a better choice” so we get it for our babies. Our initial concerns are usually first centred on our little ones so everything else comes secondary. Sometimes, it takes a gentle nudge, like this article, to help see beyond.

    1. You exactly voiced the initial psychology behind my thoughts on them!!

  9. Renee

    What a great article Lindsay!

    Yummi Pouches will be available in a few days at lilmonkeycheeks.ca!

  10. natasha beekman

    We used these alot with#1 and now with#2 ihave used them very sparsely. . we took on s holiday when I wasn’t sure he’d eat the food there… then I realized how well blw works for us and these pouches havent been bought in A LONG time and wont be again!! I love reading your blog Lindsay! keep up the great articles!

  11. […] recalls that make your stomach churn. I spent a great deal of time researching my post about the True Cost of Baby Food Pouches, and as part of my research contacted many manufacturers of the reusable alternative in the hopes […]

  12. Anna Mum

    Interesting Article.
    I was thinking about the environmental aspect as well but what I found out during my reserach was, that the glasses are much worse for the Environment than the pouches.
    We often Forget, that ist not just about the product we buy in the store but also about how they are produced, shipped etc and there I found that the glasses are so much worse. Just one Thing I found was for example, that only one truck has to drive for the pouches but for the same amount of glasses 14(!!!) trucks Need to drive as they need so much more space. Also I found out that the caps of glasses (metal) is about 7grams while in the puches, there is only 2 gram of metal. Also is it unfortunately the truth, that only about 25% of the glasses are actually recycled- the rest is in the garbage as well:(

    Obviously cooking yourself for children is the best, no question.

    1. Lindsay

      I guess I’m approaching it from the fact that at least glass jars can be reused, but definitely there’s value to the argument that the pouches are lighter to ship. Realistically, we don’t need either glass nor squish pouch baby food: especially not the simply ones like a mashed banana or other mashed fruit… so easy to make ourselves!

  13. Audrey Cunnie

    Really great article, thank you for doing all the leg work on this! We are big fans of the reusable SPILL-PROOF(!) silicone squeeze pouches by The Sili Company – called the Sili Squeeze. All the food goes in baby’s mouth, impossible to squeeze food out without gumming the nipple spout. Great invention and the company seems to be led by moms and dads that are giving their all to assist in reusable, earth-concious, toxin-free living. Again, thanks for this informative article!

  14. Beth R

    We actually bought reusable pouches so I can use my own baby food etc. My older kids love them too and I love being able to send homemade yogurt etc and have it easy for them to eat

  15. […] a need, make our lives better, make us healthier, even make tasks easier. But just like K-Cups and disposable squishy snack packs, we did fine before microbeads, and we can continue to do just fine without […]

  16. […] If any of the cons I researched gave me pause, it was this one.  I really didn’t think about it. The pouches are made up of plastic and foil, and are non-recyclable. Maman Loup’s Den states that an estimated 1 billion pouches end up in landfills every year. This contributes a lot of pollution and is killing our planet. (https://mamanloupsden.com/2014/06/05/what-is-the-true-cost-of-baby-food-pouches/) […]

  17. Lorraine

    I prefer the blender by Karmin 😉

  18. […] for you! Read on to learn more about a clever, easy-to-use replacement for the very useful—but environmentally unfriendly—disposable food […]

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Welcome to my Wolf Pack!

My name is Lindsay and I am a 40-year-old mama of four trying to live an eco-friendly, budget-friendly life! I am a substitute teacher and Child Passenger Safety technician in Calgary, Alberta. Join me on my adventures!

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