Find out About the Frozen Toddler Food Delivered to Your Door
Benji’s Bites is a Harrogate-based frozen toddler food delivery service, offering quick, tasty and wholesome meals which make mealtimes fun for kids and fast for parents
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Hanna Dilley, I grew up in Yorkshire and have lived here most of my life, with Sydney, London and Newcastle in between. After graduating from Newcastle University, and then travelling around the world for a while, I came back to Yorkshire to start my accountancy training. I’m an accountant by trade, and my last job before starting Benji’s Bites was working in Finance in Asda Head Office, supporting the food trading team. I now live in Harrogate with my husband and two boys, aged five and seven. When I’m not busy working on Benji’s Bites my main passions are food, friends, family and travel. I love showing my boys the world, both near and far.
When did you start Benji’s Bites and why?
When I had my second child, Reuben, I was thrown back into those sleep-deprived newborn days but this time, I also had a toddler, Benji, to look after and feed. So, I started batch cooking and freezing food when I had the energy – but in a Benji’s Bites way! I thought if it was helping me feed my toddler and reduce the stress of mealtimes, then it could help other parents too. From my time at Asda, it gave me a good understanding of the food industry, but it was definitely a steep learning curve! I was working on the concept and branding for over a year before I launched. Due to the regulation behind ‘infant food’ I had to get the food developed, tested and signed off by various authorities – I couldn’t just turn up to a farmer’s market and start selling. When I was finally ready to launch, the UK went into its first lockdown, but I launched anyway and worked my way through the chaos.
How does it work?
Benji’s Bites are different to other products on the market – my unique ‘Mix n Match’ frozen cubes deliver choice, nutrition and flexibility for parents. The meals are frozen separately in small cubes so parents can choose both the meal combination and portion size, meaning they can tailor each meal specifically to their child’s tastes and appetites that day. Just pop them in the microwave and you have a healthy, tasty meal ready in minutes. They are packed with veggies, developed with dieticians and most of the range is plant-based. As you only need to reheat the number of cubes you want for a particular meal, it really helps to reduce food waste.
There are ‘Mains’, ‘Carbs’ and ‘Veggie Sides’, so there is plenty of choice for parents to create a unique meal. The meals are recommended for little ones (post weaning) up to five or six years old and are great for feeding siblings with different tastes and appetites! My boys still love them and often ask for a Benji’s Bites meal! The cubes can be cooked together to provide a complete, balanced meal, or can be used as a time-saving hack alongside other meals, e.g. use the ‘Tomato & Veg Sauce’ as a base sauce for pizzas, burritos etc.
Do you cook the food yourself? How do you choose the dishes?
Yes, I cook all the food myself in my council approved, five-star hygiene rated kitchen at home. I do all the hard work so other parents don’t have to! The dishes have been chosen based on what I think most young children like, so there are some classics such as beef bolognese and fish pie. I’ve also tried to introduce bolder flavours, such as mild spices, and textures, such as grains, to enable little ones to explore different foods. The ‘Carbs’ are a mix of white and wholegrain to ensure they pack in as many nutrients as possible.
Once the food is cooked and portioned, it is flash frozen in blast freezers to lock in the nutrition and quality, so no additives or preservatives are needed. At home, busy parents can simply pick out the combination of frozen cubes they want for that meal, pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and serve their little ones a tasty, healthy meal. They can also be reheated on the hob.
You cater for a variety of diets – tell us about that.
When developing my range, I wanted it to be environmentally friendly but to also offer as much choice as possible to parents. Personally, myself and my husband eat a mainly plant-based diet for environmental reasons, however my boys also eat meat and fish on a regular basis. I don’t want to assume diet choices for other parents and want to be able to cater for all kinds of diets, so I’ve included some meat and fish options. For all other products, I’ve made them plant-based, for example using non-dairy milk and butter in the mashed potato and sweet potato, to cater for more families.
What is your most popular product?
The mild chicken and veg curry is definitely a popular one amongst my customers, as is the veggie chilli. The most popular ‘Carb’ is either the cauliflower and mixed rice or mixed grains. I’m developing some new products and so far, the taste testers are loving them, so I’m excited to offer some exciting new meals to my customers soon.
What is your favourite thing about Yorkshire?
I’ve lived in Yorkshire most of my life and I love that you can be close to big cities or towns but there is so much beautiful countryside just a stone’s throw away. We love packing up a picnic on a weekend and going out for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales or North Yorks Moors. Even around Harrogate there are plenty of lovely places to enjoy the countryside. Plus, Yorkshire folk are a friendly bunch, and they make the best tea!
Hopes for the future?
I would love to keep growing Benji’s Bites and be able to help even more busy parents to make mealtimes stress-free, by moving production into a commercial kitchen with a team of passionate chefs. I’d love to help hospitality (pubs/cafés/children’s venues) to offer more choice and nutrition on their kids’ menus by supplying the Benji’s Bites ‘Mix and Match’ options. I also want to keep making my business as eco-friendly as possible and would love to have my Benji’s Bites frozen cubes in zero-waste shops, where customers can pick and mix their own cube combinations straight from the freezer.