We recently caught up with Danny Auld, cofounder and president of Kekoa Foods, a West Orange-based producer of organic baby food, shortly after his company’s participation in the Specialty Food Association’s sold-out Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, in New York.
After first talking about his business, Auld discussed the technology that is enabling the fledgling New Jersey company to thrive, as well as how the State of New Jersey has helped Kekoa Foods through some rough spots.
In addition to hosting their booth at the trade show floor, Auld and cofounder (and real-life partner) David Fullner were finalists at the event’s “A Fancy New York Pitch Slam 2023,” presented by Naturally New York, which is a community organization focused on fostering sustainable and responsible business practices within the local natural foods industry.
According to Auld, “Kekoa Foods manufactures nutritional, veggie-rich, palate-expanding organic food purees for adventurous eaters starting at six months of age. These products introduce children to healthy delicious food, without sweeteners or salt. We specifically design portable, shelf-stable pouch purees with deliciously enticing flavors like curry, basil, shawarma, and ginger to foster children’s openness and appreciation for tasty, nutritious food for life!”
The original idea for launching their business dates back to when Danny and David’s son, Kekoa, was born eight weeks prematurely in Honolulu. As a result of his ahead-of-schedule birth, he had to spend the early days of his life in the hospital’s natal intensive care unit. His parents quickly saw and admired their son’s unique fighting spirit, but they also knew that it would be especially important to care for him with a healthy, nutrient-rich diet throughout his early life. As a result, their aim was to feed Kekoa 100% natural and organic food as soon as he was ready.
At Kekoa Foods there is a similar mindset. Its mission is to educate families about a variety of real foods, veggie-rich recipes accented with herbs and spices, and to make these foods readily available to anyone who wishes to broaden their experience and expand their palates. Kekoa Foods wants to introduce this nutritive adventure to everyone, infants and adults, so they may learn to seize every opportunity life has to offer — beginning with food.
As for headquartering their business in New Jersey, Auld mentioned that the state offers numerous programs to support small business owners. They have successfully worked with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to receive critical grant funding, given hardships Kekoa Foods experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly delayed its product launch.
“Last year, our inaugural year, we were connected with the New Jersey Business Action Center,” said Auld. “Through their grant funding we’ve been able to enhance our website SEO to target broader audiences. And under their Office of Export Promotion we were able to get funding to exhibit in the New Jersey State Pavilion at last month’s Fancy Food Show, to make strategic and informed decisions about entering the global marketplace. The funding and support we’ve received from the NJBAC have been invaluable to our journey to grow and scale our business in New Jersey.
“New Jersey is one of a limited number of states to support a state-backed certification of LGBT-owned businesses like Kekoa Foods,” stated Auld. “Through this certification and the recognition it brings, LGBT-owned businesses receive support with additional economic opportunity, while being valued and respected for their unique contribution to the State of New Jersey.”
Kekoa Food’s team has been proactively utilizing technology to further enhance its outreach and optimize its operations. In partnership with their advertising and media agency, they have implemented a suite of technologies tailored to effectively monitor and refine campaigns across multiple platforms. This includes company social media channels, the Kekoa Foods website and a presence at industry conferences (like Fancy Foods) to drive brand awareness across multiple audiences.
Digital marketing and analytical tools have proven invaluable in helping Kekoa Foods precisely target its desired audience. These innovative technologies afford the ability to dissect demographic and psychographic data, enabling management to craft and deliver compelling, tailor-made content to consumers.
Crucially, data analytics software provides real-time performance metrics, allowing the team to swiftly identify areas of growth and to adjust marketing strategies accordingly. This iterative, data-driven approach ensures the most efficient use of corporate resources, while maximizing outreach.
Auld concluded, “We leverage artificial intelligence platforms like Numerous.ai and OpenAI’s code interpreter to distill large data sets into actionable insights. The ability to generate on-demand analyses enriches our understanding of consumer behaviors, preferences and needs. These insights, in turn, guide our marketing strategies, enabling us to better serve our customer base and anticipate future trends.”