An Interview With Erica Bethe Levin, Founder of Globowl: Internationally Inspired Baby Food for Future Foodies by Elisa Schmitz
Can a jar of baby food change the world? If you ask Erica Bethe Levin, the answer is a resounding yes. Especially if that baby food is organic, shelf-stable, preservative-free, all-natural, sustainable, internationally inspired baby and toddler food.
Erica, a serial entrepreneur and the mother of two, is the founder of Globowl, a new line of chef-curated meals that introduce babies (age 6 months and older) and toddlers to big flavors, safe textures and common allergens when they are starting solids. Experts say this may help prevent future picky eating, food aversions and allergies. Erica hopes this leads the next generation to a lifetime of adventurous eating, along with a love and respect for other cultures.
Like many new parents, Erica was hesitant to introduce her firstborn, Charlie, to the spicy, globally inspired food she loves. Instead, she fed him healthy fruits and vegetables, some meats and smoothies – but all single ingredients without much flavor. Unfortunately, Charlie became a picky eater.
When Erica’s daughter, Neve, arrived, Erica was eager for her kids to embrace the flavors of the world. She introduced her little foodie to every spice, flavor and ingredient possible. Neve devoured it all and, two years later, is still an adventurous eater.
The experiences with her own kids led Erica to believe that baby food can, indeed, change the world – by ushering in the next generation of future foodies. “We firmly believe that these foodies will become citizens of the world, fostering acceptance, open-mindedness, curiosity and change,” Erica says. “In a divided world, we believe our innovation can bring people together – all through the power of food.”
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Erica for many years, through our entrepreneurial starts at the tech incubator 1871 Chicago and as part of our membership in Northwestern University’s Council of 100. That’s why I’m so thrilled to share this inspiring interview with an amazing female founder who’s changing the world – one future foodie at a time.
Q: Congratulations on the launch of Globowl! Tell us your inspiration for the company and what it’s all about.
A: Always a fan of starting something that fills a void and helps others, I launched Globowl during a global pandemic when I was under quarantine with my husband, two children, a dog and a fish. My daughter was just 6 months old at the time and I had already learned a hard lesson when introducing my son to solid foods. I was hesitant in giving him flavors, textures and spices despite my pediatrician’s recommendation, and he is an awful eater. I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice! So, I started feeding my daughter whatever it is that we were eating – coconut shrimp curry was her first food! What better way to bring the world to my child during a period of time when she couldn't even leave her own house, let alone the country?! Also, as I did more and more research, I realized that food allergies are very preventable – by introducing babies to allergens like peanuts, egg and soy, they are scientifically less likely to develop food allergies in childhood. I knew we had to take a cue from the rest of the world and simply feed our children what it is that we’re eating – to inspire better, less picky eating and to mitigate food allergies and texture aversions. Unfortunately, the American baby food industry has been totally sterilized – removing spice, texture and allergens from their meals – inadvertently making things worse. We’re here to fix that!
Q: Why did the baby food industry need disrupting? What do you hope Globowl will achieve?
A: Since the invention of baby food (yes, it was "invented!” – prior to the 1920s, parents typically waited until a baby was close to a year old to introduce any solids, and even then, it was cut up table food for the most part), there has been limited innovation. The biggest revolution has been the spouted pouch, which is debilitating for a baby's oral motor development. The result? Huge increases in childhood food allergies, picky eating habits, subsequent texture aversion and over-consumption. Enter Globowl. The first baby food line to include texture, flavor and spice to prevent future picky eating and mitigate common allergies, which the majority of baby food companies don’t do, despite the latest U.S. pediatric feeding guidelines (with a nod to common sense!) recommending “early and often” exposure to potential food allergens as the best way to prevent future allergies. Curated by renowned chefs, Globowl’s organic, preservative-free meals are packed with international flavors in sustainable, reusable glass jars, encouraging spoon- and self-feeding, which are best for babies to learn to chew and develop important oral motor skills.
Q: Amazing! Did you use this concept with your own children? Tell us about them and how you fed them as babies! How are their palates today? Any allergies?
A: My babies were my inspiration! As a first-time mom, I was a bit scared to give my son texture, flavor and spice, even though my pediatrician recommended that I give him everything (minus some obvious exceptions!). And now he is the pickiest eater I know. Heed my warning: always listen to your pediatrician! My husband and I are both in the food business, so my son’s habits are even harder for us to digest (pun intended!). With our second child, we weren’t messing around. In addition to the coconut shrimp curry we gave as her first food, she enjoyed pesto, tuna salad and saffron pasta all within her first week of eating solids. And she is our more adventurous eater today! Both of my children are also allergy-free because we gave them peanut butter, egg, sesame, etc., starting at 6 months old.
Q: Very cool! But this isn’t your first company. Tell us about your entrepreneurial background and why you were inspired to launch another business.
A: Globowl is my third startup, which may make me a little crazy! At age 24, I created CheekyChicago, a digital community for women that ultimately became the No. 1 online resource in Chicago for the young cosmopolitan female. Through this venture, I became the first female founder at 1871, Chicago’s largest tech hub and incubator. It fully launched me into the world of entrepreneurship. Following Cheeky, I led expansion initiatives by launching the Chicago market as one of the first employees for venture-backed startup Reserve, which sold to Resy in 2018. In 2021, during a global pandemic, with a new baby at home and a dream to help unify a world that felt hopelessly divided, I decided to launch my new startup, Globowl. My favorite part is incorporating my kids in all that I do – from helping me ideate on recipes to starring in our social media videos and helping me prep for pitches, it really is a family affair.
Q: We love that! Can you share a favorite baby/toddler food recipe with us? Did it influence Globowl?
A: Actually, yes! With our daughter, my husband, Terry, and I gave her pesto as one of her first foods. The idea that my family made the same pesto recipe in Italy generations ago was definitely part of my inspiration to teach children about culture through the food that they eat. Making pesto could not be any easier. You just blend basil, pine nuts (I actually use walnuts because they’re easier to find and half the price), olive oil, salt and Parmesan in a food processor or blender. Mangia!
Q: Yum, pesto is a fan favorite here on 30Seconds! Can you share a favorite "grownup" recipe that inspired you to make one of your Globowl products?
A: I have never been confined to a box when it comes to cooking. Italian and Jewish food are in my blood, but I love Mediterranean, Asian, Indian, Peruvian, French, Ethiopian cuisine … the list goes on and on. Our “Yaya’s Medi-Bowl” is inspired by the homemade hummus I make at least every other week in our house. I use great northern white beans (I find them to be creamier than chickpeas), lemon juice, salt, tahini, olive oil and some harissa paste to spice it up a bit!
Q: That sounds delicious! Do you or your kids have a favorite Globowl product/flavor?
A: I swear, every month or so my favorite changes. Each one of the four flavors has been a favorite at one point. Right now, the tikka masala is on repeat in my house.
Q: Mmm, and for good reason! You've had some serious accolades already. Please share what you've been doing to get the business going and what are your goals for the company?
A: I am a proud Techstars powered by JP Morgan graduate, which has been one of the most impactful experiences I have ever had as a founder/entrepreneur. I was also the winner of Naturally Chicago’s 2023 pitch slam (and a runner-up in 2022). I mentor female students and young alums through Northwestern University’s Council of 100, a hand-selected group of some of the university’s most successful female graduates. Globowl has also been a Chicago Innovation Award nominee for the past two years. My goal for Globowl is to be a trusted household brand for families everywhere, and to help usher in the next generation of allergy-free future foodies. Most importantly, we want to inspire a sense of adventure, curiosity for the world and open-mindedness toward different cultures, countries and people.
Q: You and Globowl are so inspiring! Please describe the product line and where can people buy it?
A: Globowl currently boasts four globally inspired SKUs from around the world. Parents and parents-to-be can purchase Globowl products via our website, on Amazon, as well as at select retailers in Chicago, New York City and Texas.
Pad Thai for Tots: Sweet and sour with a baby-sized kick, Globowl’s Pad Thai for Tots hits all the right notes. Little ones will relish silken tofu, shiitake mushrooms, oodles of veggies, snippets of cod and brown rice noodles, tossed in a savory sauce. Fun fact: While it may be a quintessential Thai favorite, lots of this dish’s ingredients and even its method of stir-frying the noodles are native to China.
Baby Spice's Bean Bowl: Inspired by the flavors of South and Central America with a sprinkling of Europe thrown in, Globowl's Baby Spice’s Bean Bowl charms the socks off of tots' tastebuds. This “chili for children” blends carrots, tomatoes, sweet potato, corn, beans, yellow peppers, quinoa and bone broth with Globowl's secret spice blend. Perfect for a cool night with the snuggle-bugs or any other day.
Veggie Tikka Masala: Tikka means an Indian dish of small pieces of meat or vegetables marinated in a spice mixture. Globowl's Veggie Tikka Masala eagerly embraces the flavors of India and Asia with red lentils, veggies and basmati rice simmered in coconut, tomatoes, garam masala, turmeric and ginger. Fun fact: this vegan delight was originally popularized by cooks from South Asia living in Great Britain.
Q: Congratulations on these delicious creations! How can we learn more about you and stay connected to all that’s happening at Globowl?
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