Piers Buck never planned to leave the world of investment banking – especially to become a baby food maker.
Yet Buck - who quit his 16-year-long career in finance just roughly
two years back to start Little Freddie, an organic baby food company named after his son – is completely in his element, eyes lighting up as he talks about the apples from the Dolomites region of Italy and salmon from Ireland’s Donegal county that he uses in his products.
“I spent the first six to seven months in Europe meeting farmers, suppliers, finding and sourcing ingredients,” Buck said. “Every single recipe is exclusively ours. I’m not willing to source with anyone I haven’t met.”
Buck started Little Freddie with his wife in December 2013, when their son was about six months old and their daughter was about two. Making meals that their children would eat was challenging, yet they did not like the baby food options in the market. Then came the idea for Little Freddie: baby food that tastes good, is sealed in easily kept pouches and made from European organic produce.
Since its June launch, the company now has 14 different products available and sells in 28 stores through 11 retailers in Hong Kong, including City’super and Eugene Baby. They also have online sales in mainland China and Germany.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to try something new,” Buck said. “We half-jokingly call my son the chief tasting officer. Little Freddie is really a combination of the love for my children and the love for food that I have.”
Buck has always loved cooking, having grown up in France ensconced in a culture of eating fresh produce. But it wasn’t until he had children that Buck realised he wanted to combine his finance knowledge with his interest in food to create a start-up.
“I was very blinkered for a long time because the problem with banking is you’re paid so much, it’s so hard to leave,” said Buck, whose banking career took him to London, Melbourne and Sydney before Hong Kong. “I could never see what the opportunity was. That vision came when I’m a bit older and have a little more confidence and have more business skills.”
One thing that set Little Freddie apart was product transparency, Buck said. Each batch is tested in a British laboratory, and consumers can look up the results by scanning a code on the back of each pouch.
Catherine Wang, a mother of two who lives in Hong Kong, only buys organic food and has been a regular customer for about three months. “It definitely makes me feel that it’s much safer, that I can trace (the results),” Wang said. “It meets all the things I’m looking for and my baby likes the taste.”
Buck’s wife Taslim Ho, who is from Hong Kong and also previously worked in banking, said their business backgrounds and connections were key to helping them structure, develop and operate the start-up successfully.
Buck, too, is happy with the success so far. But he also hopes that this is just the beginning.
“What we’re doing ... is resonating with mothers and consumers,” Buck said. “I think we’re going to see fantastic growth in the next couple of years.”