CHICAGO — TINY, whole minnows, pasta, seaweed, and bean sprouts - all come in baby-food jars these days. American parents may not give them a second glance, but in Japan, Italy, and Australia such foods are everyday baby favorites.
Having fed American babies for nearly a century, the Gerber Products Company has tapped into the foreign market.
In Italy, infants eat Gerber pastas; in Egypt, the latest is a wheat and cornbread mixture moistened with milk and sugar. (Gerber subsidiaries abroad - unlike the parent company in Freemont, Mich. - don't hesitate to add a bit of salt or sugar to foods that may need more flavor.)
Meanwhile, in the United States, children from all ethnic backgrounds are being offered Gerber's new Tropical line of baby foods, developed originally for Hispanic consumers. The 16-product line, featuring juices, cereals, dinners, and desserts is now available in all US markets.
"The expansion to national distribution is based on the strong sales we've seen among Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike," says Kim Hayes, product manager for Gerber. "Since its introduction last fall in markets with large populations of Hispanic families, Tropical has proven to be a winner with everybody."
Popular Hispanic ingredients are combined in jars of beans, rice, corn, guava, papaya, and mango. Sixteen different items include Rice Cereal with Mango, Corn Cereal with Peaches, and other combinations.
Guava, mango, and papaya juices come in eight-ounce containers. There are nine tropical fruit desserts in such flavors as Pineapple Banana, Papaya Pineapple, and Banana Vanilla.
The 23-item line called Gerber Graduates has also been extended to include food for all toddler eating occasions - breakfast, lunch, dinner, even snacks.