WEST ORANGE, NJ. — Kekoa, the son of Danny Auld and David Fullner, is the inspiration behind Kekoa Foods.
Kekoa, which means brave warrior in Hawaiian, was born eight weeks early in Honolulu after the surrogate developed complications and he spent several weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
After arriving home, the pair knew they wanted their son to have the best nutrition possible.
Mr. Auld and Mr. Fullner began experimenting with different types of foods with their son once he was old enough to eat solids.
“By the time he started eating solid foods we tested some stuff on the market and weren’t terribly happy with it,” Mr. Fullner said. “So, I said, let’s make his own food; I know it’s going to be nutritious and healthy and I love to cook.”
Mr. Fullner researched which flavors would be best to mix and match based on their own preferences at home.
“They’re based off of our natural everyday cooking,” Mr. Fullner said. “You look around the world and see what other parents are feeding their kids, which is what they’re eating like vegetables and different spices.”
After receiving successful feedback from consumers and raising $25,000 in a 2018 Kickstarter funding effort, the pair were officially on the direct-to-consumer market in January 2022.
Kekoa Foods was created with families in mind and offers ingredients perceived as natural in grab-and-go pouches.
“We were thinking about offering convenience to parents that have 30 things to do to a million things during the day,” Mr. Fullner said. “Before we created these, I would make our son a ton of food to put in the freezer and pull it out the night before and put it in a bag. So, I wanted to put it in a pouch for convenience and to throw in whatever you’re carrying for the day that it’s going to be shelf stable in.”
The products feature seven flavors: apple and ginger, beets fennel and kale, curry vegetable mango, mango paprika, peas and mint, shawarma artichoke and cauliflower, and squash and kale with turmeric.
Consumers also may purchase starter packs in apple and squash flavors, and beets and mango. Variety packs include fruit forward and veggie forward flavors.
While the product mainly is focused on children ages six months plus, adults have come to love the pouches as well.
“When Kekoa was a baby, we’d always taste it to make sure it was ok before giving it to him, so parents have bought our products to give to their kids and have really enjoyed the flavor profile and so they have ended up buying additional pouches and want them for themselves,” Mr. Auld said.
The pouches have even been a hit for those with busy lifestyles.
“We’ve found from direct-to-consumer people who are on the go whether they’re working a 12-hour shift at a hospital, or they don’t want to eat at a vending machine, or they’re running into the city they know this is a shelf stable product with clean ingredients,” Mr. Auld said. “They can throw it in their bag, crack it open and it’s a quick energy boost with between 45 and 80 calories.”
Growing with the family is something the pair is aiming to achieve with their product.
“You go to the grocery store, and you see a lot of pouches and so as we grow we’re looking to do different forms and formats and a couple of people have suggested doing maybe more of a family-size pouch,” Mr. Auld said.
“We want to grow with our customers so we want to have products that a four-year-old would want all the way up to adults,” Mr. Fullner said. “We want really great ingredients that are available to the whole family.”