Begin Health Creates a New Product Category for Toddler HealthBy Wendy Wang
Begin Health Creates a New Product Category for Toddler Health
Begin Health is a premium infant and toddler health company creating a platform of healthy and convenient nutritional products. I interviewed CEO and Founder, Madeline Lauf, as she prepares for the company’s first product launch happening next month.
Driven by her passion to make an impact in a broken healthcare industry in the United States, Madeline Lauf founded Begin Health to empower individuals to take action in forming good nutrition habits and to take responsibility in the pursuit of lifelong health. Madeline is especially passionate about helping children, who can’t help or advocate for themselves. This focus led Madeline to begin working with a team of nutrition scientists, registered dieticians, and pediatricians to develop convenient nutrition products for children centered on health and the microbiome.
“I want to provide a platform for children’s gut health at the earliest stages that helps prevent the onset of health issues later in life.” – Madeline Lauf, Founder
A child’s nutrition intake during the first 1,000 days represents the most critical period for dietary interventions. During this time, childrens’ brains undergo rapid growth and development, reaching 80% of their adult size by age three. By the same age, childrens’ microbial diversity in the gut converges towards adult-like microbiota.
Where It Began
Growing up in rural America, Madeline has personally seen the difficulty families face in providing nutritious foods for their children, and in turn, providing a healthful foundation for lifelong health. Comparing that to living in the urban centers of New York and San Francisco, not only did she notice the limited selection of healthful food options in rural and suburban America, but worse, the overabundance of unhealthy foods. In comparison to the coastal cities, she found a general lack of cultural importance placed on nutrition and its direct role to health. Furthermore, her experience living in Asia taught her that this nutrition imbalance is a global issue.
Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity are the leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half of American adults – 117 million people – rely on prescription drugs, many for preventable chronic illnesses related to poor eating patterns and physical inactivity. At the same time, more than two thirds of American adults and one third of children and youth are overweight or obese. These compounded health implications of excess weight, obesity and chronic disease have led to increased health risks and the rising costs of healthcare.
“We are creating a society that is dependent on prescription drugs and other healthcare needs, when we should be advocating for the pursuit of ‘independent health,’ a life unchained from prescription drugs and other healthcare dependencies.” – Madeline Lauf, Founder and CEO
Madeline experienced this first hand after suffering from a digestive illness brought on from on a trip abroad followed by a severe food poisoning incident. She became interested in gut health and its crucial role in general health and realized she had struggled with digestive issues most of her life. Digestive issues are common, but many, like her, don’t know they have a problem. Doctors were quick to prescribe prescription drugs indefinitely for her digestive issues when, in fact, nutrition and lifestyle changes were sufficient to heal and rebalance her gut.
Building Strong Foundations
The Begin team is starting on microbiome health in kids, the root cause of many health issues. The microbiome consists of the trillions of good bacteria in a person’s gut that benefits one’s digestion and immune system. Prebiotics, compounds that feed the good bacteria, are essential to maintaining a healthy microbiome. Childrens’ loss of the good microbes in the microbiota results in less diverse and dysbiotic gut microbiota, whether it’s from being delivered via C-Section, having had a round of antibiotics, or simply struggling to eat a variety of nutrient rich foods at the earliest ages.
Research and numbers have shown the same. American children are suffering soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes, asthma, and obesity. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the US. Currently, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world: one out of six, or 17% of children in the US are obese, a dramatic increase from 5% in 1970. Additionally, the CDC cited asthma as the most prevalent chronic condition among children, affecting 6.1 million kids, making it the third leading cause of hospitalizations for children under the age of 15. Nutritional deficiencies, obesity and dysbiosis in the gut lead the theories on the underlying causes of increasing incidences of asthma.
“We need a better way to keep healthy kids healthy and help unhealthy kids become healthy. I founded Begin health to do that.” – Madeline Lauf, Founder and CEO
Seeing this huge deficiency in the market, Madeline and her team created Begin to help kids develop and maintain stronger gut health. Begin will launch its first product line next month of prebiotic powder packets that can be mixed into any milk or beverage. The prebiotic powder uses a blend of prebiotics found in nature and engineered from oligosaccharides similar to those found in breast milk. Its formulation was driven by strong demand for options that can be easily integrated into a child’s current feeding habits.
Not-So Baby Steps Forward
Begin’s product innovation does not just stop there. The company already has a second product in its pipeline: a ready-to-drink toddler beverage line. Begin’s ‘Growingup Milk’ is the first toddler beverage blended with key nutrients to address the nutritional gaps of growing toddlers. Even though milk has been shown to be a great source of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals for children, the industry has failed to innovate in this category. Begin plans to address this need while providing a convenient solution that combats the current high sugar, fruit juice options marketed to kids.
And We Begin Again
“We want to be a mission-driven company. Finding ways to work with and create maximum impact for better health for all is top of mind for us.” – Madeline Lauf, Founder and CEO
Creating a new industry category is no easy task and creating a new category for a children’s product will face significant challenges. Madeline understands these hurdles the company will face ahead, but she also believes in the power of educating mothers through a great product and supportive community. Begin has already amassed a strong and growing community of mothers both on Instagram and in several cities across the U.S. As the company continues to grow, Madeline hopes to one day directly give back to the rural American communities she grew up in, giving back to where she began.