We talk to Mark Salter, the founder of For Aisha, which produces delicious and healthy Halal baby food full of exciting flavours and grown up tastes.
Mark Salter, the founder of For Aisha.
What inspired you to launch For Aisha?
I've worked in the UK food and drinks market for 24 years. About seven years ago, I was interviewed for a baby food job role and noticed that at the time that the choices were quite bleak for parents. There were many products but most recipes were extremely bland and cheaply made with cheese, pasta and boiled apple purees. I had the idea of making exotic food that would delight little ones and that would be super healthy. So, I set about creating the first baby curries, tagines, dhal and jerk style recipes using mild spices, lots of healthy herbs, vegetables and pulses. They were incredibly well received by parents.
At that same time, I was living and working in London. I had friends who were from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. I learned about Islam and Muslim culture in particular. It was apparent modern Muslim parents had the same type of needs as other British parents - high quality Halal food products and convenient meal options for busy urban lifestyles. It took a lot of work to convince and educate the big manufacturers to make Halal baby food. It also took a lot of personal sacrifice - several years without a salary and I had to sell my house and car to pay towards the product development. Seven years on and millions of tiny tummies filled, it was worth all of the hard work.
How important is it to build up healthy eating habits at a young age?
For Aisha dietitian Priya Tew recognises that building healthy eating habits at a young age is important for growth and development.
She states that “All babies are born with a natural liking for sweet foods. However, too much of these foods are not good for dental health and increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Your little one needs to have a good range of foods, flavours and textures in their diet for healthy development. Weaning is when taste buds and food preferences begin to develop, and therefore when a wide variety of food intake is so important.”
For Aisha has won more than 20 national and international food awards.
Tell us more about your baby food.
For Aisha is the only true international brand of Halal certified baby food. We've been selling in the major UK supermarkets for seven years and in just the past few months, we have launched into major multiple retailers in France and across the Middle East and Far East.
Our meals aren't just Halal though. They're also uniquely dairy-free, gluten free, soya free and egg free. They contain no artificial additives, no preservatives, no added salt or sugar. Our meals are suitable for so many families with dietary, religious and cultural needs - hence our phrase, 'For Aisha, For Everyone’.
We also love to give back. In the past two years we’ve donated over 50,000 meals to those less fortunate, supporting FareShare and other similar organisations that feed the hungry and make positive changes in their communities.
What ages do you cater for?
Our savoury baby food pouches are suitable for little ones of seven months+. With re-closable lids, they are convenient and mess free when on-the-go.
Our chunky range of toddler meals are perfect for the ages of one to three years and contain a wide variety of grown-up tastes. We include wholesome ingredients such as sweet potato and green beans; fantastic baby weaning foods that will aid with chewing and speech development.
For Aisha creates healthy dishes full of exciting flavours for your little one.
How do you develop your recipes?
I cooked the first range of recipes that we developed at home and took them to local nursery schools to taste-test with parents and their little ones. After many iterations, I worked with Europe's largest baby food manufacturer to create fantastic, exciting, and healthy recipes that would broaden the taste palate of little ones. We've since developed three other ranges of recipes, in close consultation with Nargisse Benkabbou (award winning chef and author) and our meals are dietitian approved by Priya Tew, a leading dietitian.
We've won more than 20 national and international food awards and we've sold many millions of meals so parents can be safe in the knowledge that little ones love the taste of our food.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Our meals are made in the UK. We have full supply chain traceability for our key ingredients - our Halal certified HMC (Halal Monitoring Committee) meat and poultry comes only from the same leading British suppliers. All of our ingredients, such as pulses and vegetables are healthy and are sourced from within the EU.
How do your meals encourage children to explore new flavours?
Our dishes are packed with a variety of nutritious and flavourful herbs and spices, ensuring every mouthful tastes as good as the last. Combining favourites such as Shepherd’s Pie and Jamaican Jerk Chicken with ingredients such as coriander and mango allow your little one to experience new flavours and expand their taste palate.
Where can people find For Aisha products?
You can find For Aisha products online at www.foraisha.com, or in select ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Ocado supermarkets. We’re also excited to begin selling to UK Independent stores from May!