Mia Funt started ByHeart five years ago, one year after her first daughter, Neve, was born. She, like so many parents, approached both breastfeeding and formula feeding Neve with insecurity (how to do it, when to do it, when to NOT do it, etc). When it came to formula, the options were confusing and the nutrition was unclear. She ended up feeling like she was compromising any time she couldn’t breastfeed. “I had ALL of these questions when I stood in front of a shelf of formulas, and I couldn’t find one that I would feel confident feeding my baby,” she starts her story.
Ron Belldegrun (Funt’s cofounder and brother) had been immersed in the health and nutrition category for over a decade – he knew many of the key opinion leaders and understood how to translate their groundbreaking research into better nutrition for babies. He spoke about how the infant formula category had been dominated by three big companies for decades, and while those companies were doing a lot to try to keep up with specific ingredients or benefits, infant formula needed a total upgrade: the recipe was outdated – nutrition science and breast milk research was moving much more quickly than the industry.
Statista estimated the value of the baby food market worldwide in 2019 at approximately $67.3 billion, expected to grow by 2027 to $96.3 billion. So Funt and her brother started ByHeart with a very ambitious goal: to do better for babies and their parents by transforming baby nutrition with products that can give parents confidence when feeding.
“We knew that to do this, we had to truly innovate: we had to build from the ground up – because it was the only way to make a meaningful impact and drive change. We vowed to challenge the past and to keep asking “why?” in an effort to do better.”
She and her team were inspired by the parents who needed more and were fueled and energized by their own team, scientific advisory board, and board of directors – all of whom were committed to taking the hard path to evolve infant nutrition products. “We are the first new infant formula brand in the U.S. to show our closeness to breast milk in our own nationwide clinical study, so parents can see for themselves why this formula is going to give their babies the foundation for a strong, healthy life ahead,” adds Funt.
The First New Manufacturer Registered With The FDA In Over 15 Years
How to feed your baby is the first and most important decision we make as parents. All parents deserve to feel confident in their feeding decisions, no matter what they are, and that confidence comes from knowing that you’re not compromising on benefits to a baby or on clean, wholesome ingredients.
So many parents approach the decision of how they’re feeding their babies and are filled with feelings of guilt and compromise – over half of the parents ByHeart surveyed in 2021 felt that the existing formula on the shelf forces them to choose one benefit over another. 60% of parents surveyed said they didn’t have a good understanding of the ingredients in the formula.
“The overwhelming majority – 84%! – of parents said they wanted a formula that’s closest to breast milk; that has all-one benefits and clean ingredients, just like nature’s gold standard. This feedback was our starting point when we became the first new infant formula brand to rewrite the recipe in decades,” explains Funt.
ByHeart’s formula is made without any of the stuff in most “easy digestion” formulas on the shelf – namely no corn syrup, no maltodextrin, no palm oil, and no soy. Funt and her team spent five years working with leading experts in breast milk research to develop their infant formula to include a patented protein blend that is closest to breast milk, making it the only infant formula in the U.S. to include organic, grass-fed whole milk (as opposed to skim, used by most other formulas).
By building their recipe from scratch, ByHeart was able to include lactoferrin and breast milk levels of alpha-lactalbumin (the two most abundant proteins in breast milk), as well as broken down proteins and an 80:20 whey to casein ratio that most closely mirrors colostrum or early breast milk. This patented protein blend was then tested in ByHeart’s clinical trial, the largest conducted by a new infant formula entrant in over 25 years, and has shown significant results including easier digestion, less spit-up, more efficient weight gain, and brain growth. Their trial was designed to meet and exceed the rigorous requirements set by the FDA and included a breastfed reference arm, a significant and elective addition to the study that demonstrates ByHeart’s benefits to the baby.
“We also acquired our own manufacturing facility, sourced every ingredient, and applied rigorous quality standards, from farm to formula. We saw that the more you control the process, the more you can control the quality of the product. I’m proud that we kept our promise – no shortcuts and no compromises.”
ByHeart’s dedication to a standard of quality in sourcing and manufacturing that far exceeds industry norms is what enabled the brand to become the first infant formula in the U.S. to receive Clean Label certification, and moreover at the highest level – their Purity Award.
“CLP screened our formula for 400 contaminants, including pesticides and heavy metals, but our internal quality program actually screens for over 700 – we feel it’s more important than ever to evolve industry standards to produce products that retain quality through every step of our process, from farm to formula,” describes Funt.
The Innovation Baby Nutrition Market Needed
ByHeart raised a whopping $190 million to date, which Funt believes is a testament to how fundamentally important it is to do better for babies in the nutrition space.
The company closed its Series A in 2020, and then $90 million in Series B funding in July 2021 and was led by D1 Capital Partners (a $30 billion global investment firm whose private investments include category disruptors Sweetgreen, Stripe, and Instacart, among others) with continued participation from OCV, Polaris Partners, Bellco Capital, Two River, and Red Sea Ventures – all of whom also invested in ByHeart’s Series A.
Funt admits she is proud that their investor group not only represents those disrupting the food industry and experts in life science product development and digital growth and services but is also composed of groups that together offer a diversity of perspectives. “The Gaingels have been an incredible part of the ByHeart family since investing in our Series B, and AF Ventures too is constantly working to evolve the food sector towards stronger, cleaner, and more impactful nutrition solutions. We’re so lucky to have them both in our corner.”
A Mission-Driven Company
Last June, ByHeart launched Cluster – a first-of-its-kind, peer-powered platform for nutrition and feeding support, because they wanted to provide parents access to events, tips, and advice from professionals and parents alike, and free office hours with a range of experts, in order to, according to Funt “ensure we’re with them in the moments they need us most, and that they have the support that they need to make the right decisions for their families”. By working with a team of leading nutrition science experts, pediatricians, and practitioners ByHeart is making these resources available to all parents in as many places and ways as they can.
Parents are an essential part of ByHeart’s product innovation – simply because they know their baby’s needs and pain points. In the coming months the company will be working to support parents in a number of ways – from rolling out impact programs that offer more parents access to nutrition and feeding education, to providing more visibility into ByHeart’s nutrition and data so parents can make the best decisions for their families, no matter how they choose to feed.
“The pandemic made us all realize more than ever the importance of proactive health – nowhere is that more vital than in a baby’s first year of life. We will only really fulfill our mission if we can offer more families of all circumstances access to nutrition, education, and care. So we couldn’t be more excited to benefit from our direct conversations with our parents to learn how to best support them, serve them and innovate for them,” concludes Funt.