Little Tummy – Hungry for success

There is arguably no stronger bond than that between a parent and child. The overwhelming desire to do what’s right and to give baby the best of everything is often described as the ‘maternal’ or ‘paternal’ instinct – yet for Nadine Hellmann, Co-Founder of Little Tummy, it was when trying to buy some healthy baby food for her Godson that she discovered a gap in the market and the idea for Little Tummy was born.

Shocked to discover that at that time (2017), heat sterilized baby food could sit on a supermarket shelf for over two years, Nadine believed there had to be a better option for parents. With a father who started his own business at 23 and other family members and friends who had also struck out in business in the health tech and art sectors, it wasn’t unremarkable that Nadine decided to follow suit. Taking inspiration from those around her, it seemed natural that she too would follow her passion.

Certainly Nadine is bold by nature and happy to experience life outside of her comfort zone and having studied Politics in Germany, went on to study management but it was in Shanghai where she travelled through parts of Asia and experienced Chinese culture. This cosmopolitan mindset brought her back to the UK to study for a Masters degree in London and is where she decided to set up in business, although true to form, she is looking to expand into Europe as part of the next steps for Little Tummy.

Whilst Nadine was intent on the premise behind Little Tummy and is passionate about changing baby food buying for the better, she recognised that she needed an expert in baby food on board if her dream was to become a reality:

“It was essential to get a co-founder and expert in baby food on board. I met so many nutritionists and paediatricians who reinforced the idea that the current baby food options are not healthy. The first time I met Sophie and I pitched Little Tummy to her; she was instantly enthusiastic. As a Paediatrician she faced parents on a daily basis who were disappointed with the baby foods on offer. With Little Tummy she saw an opportunity to rectify that gap in the market and we made the decision to join forces.”

Dr Sopie Niedermaier-Patramani became the co-founder and inhouse paediatrician for the business and is responsible for creating the recipes with her vast knowledge of children’s nutritional needs while Nadine concentrates on investment and marketing side of the operation. It seems like the perfect match.

Now with a co-founder with the same values and vision as herself, the two of them set about launching their product. The USP for Little Tummy is the use of the cold pressure method (HPP) that allows them to retain the fresh taste and texture of each ingredient while making sure any potentially harmful bacteria is destroyed. Sophie makes sure each recipe is as nutritious as possible. In Nadine’s opinion, they have brought to market a product that in fact is even better than homemade food in terms of baby’s nutritional needs which can only be a good thing.

It also complements the other important focus for Nadine and Sophie – sustainability. Not only are all ingredients certified as EU organic and adhere to the highest food standards but the plastic pots are free from BPA and any harmful toxins and all packaging is 100% recyclable.

Clearly Nadine’s vision for the business is very focused and despite the food retailing business being notoriously difficult for start-ups, Little Tummy has got off to the best of starts winning a gold award and the Absolutely Mama awards in 2019. For Nadine & Sophie, it made perfect sense to enter the competition:

“Knowing that we had identified a true gap in the market made this move quite an obvious one for us. Direct to consumer, truly healthy baby food was a completely new innovation for the UK, and so we were keen to capitalise on that. Winning the award was of course phenomenal and reinforced what we believed about the brand and product range.”

The ambitious duo have also been joined by Lowri Tan, who is CEO of Little Tummy. Lowri’s background in the food industry having worked for Cadbury’s, Kraft and Graze, combined with her experience as an entrepreneur, make her a good fit. According to Nadine, Lowri’s expertise has proven invaluable. She has taken responsibility for setting up manufacturing, improving and streamlining processes across the board, and begun building a team to ensure Little Tummy is now in a far stronger position than before. Nadine admits that it was a challenge to source a suitable supply and delivery network after they received their first seed investment but have since found reliable partners who have been immensely supportive.

Raising capital for any new business venture is not easy but having a high profile celebrity supporter is another feather in the cap for Little Tummy. Mum of five, Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova has been involved from the very early days:

“I guess you could say that working with her was a dream of mine as she has been so successful. I approached her via Instagram, complete ‘cold call’ as it were, but she was wonderful and instantly excited about Little Tummy. Like many of the achievements in the so far, short life of Little Tummy, securing interest and investment from Natalia was another indication that we were doing something right – that people believe in us.

When we launched, we had great press; Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Vogue all picked up on Natalia‘s involvement in Little Tummy, so this was a push for the business’s success.”

Like many fledgling businesses, the outbreak of Coronavirus has been a worry but fortunately Little Tummy has not suffered as much of a negative impact as a lot of many companies for which they are thankful and have managed to continue with their website relaunch as planned and have noticed an upturn in the numbers of people opting in to their delivery service. The support offered to small business by the Government has also been welcomed by Little Tummy since there will be few start-ups that have large cash reserves.

Two other female entrepreneurs who provide inspiration for Nadine are Ella Mills, Founder of Deliciously Ella and Olivia Wollberg, Founder of Livia’s Kitchen. Both are in the food space and built their brands purely from social media and both of which now head international companies. Although timelines for expansion plans may need to be revisited due to Covid19, the ambition remains that Little Tummy will expand into Europe and Nadine’s native Germany in the not too distant future.

Nadine’s advice to anyone looking to set up in business would be:

“I always live by the ethos that every new day is a new opportunity! You experience many ups and downs as a founder, so it’s important to focus on future opportunities rather than risking being stuck in the past.”

From the success Little Tummy has had in its short life so far, it seems like good advice.


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