Your Name and Age: Aldo Zilli, 55
Tell us about your family: I am from a large family – I was one of 9 kids and was born in the fishing village of Abruzzo in Italy. My wife is actress and model Nikki Zilli, and I have three beautiful children, Rocco aged five and Twiggy, 2 and a half, as well as a wonderful older daughter, Laura (aged 25).
How have you juggled your existing enterprises with this new business? My main passion in life is cooking and I am lucky I get to do this for a living! My two Soho restaurants, the iconic Zilli Fish and the vegetarian restaurant Zilli Green both now stock Baby Zilli, as well as Zilli Café at Centre Parcs, make it easier for families to bring their little ones into the restaurants.
What research did you do into baby foods before launching? When my son, Rocco was born 5 years ago, then Twiggy 2 and a half years ago I had to start creating balanced blended food for them as it is quite difficult, especially after milk to find food that babies will eat. So my babies were my first tasters and to be honest it was harder creating food for them than it was looking after my customers in the restaurant, as when children say “No” you feel bad because they don’t want your food. Then you worry about them being hungry and not sleeping. So I had to constantly change my recipes and once I had them right I decided to share them with everybody and try and help other people. So, it is safe to say my inspiration was Rocco and Twiggy.
Choosing ingredients at that age is very difficult so I really struggled at the beginning but when you have your own children and you are a chef that gets to taste so many different ingredients from all over the world it became difficult to keep it just Italian. My children dictated the ingredient choice as they rejected quite a few dishes so lets hope your children like it too
How do you promote your business? What has worked best? The first people that tried our products were friends and families. We have been very fortunate as some of our celebrity friends, such as new mum Denise Van Outen and her beautiful daughter Betsy are now great fans. And Denise has tweeted about the products on Twitter, which all helps to spread the word.
We are now stocked in Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado so are easy to get throughout the UK.
What has worked well about your business? It’s the simplicity of the product – healthy, organic ingredients in easy to serve, convenient pouches that don’t need to be refrigerated before opening and that look appealing and taste great. Isn’t that what every parent wants?!
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it? We believe that by introducing a wide variety of healthy fruit and veg at an early age is crucial. My philosophy and my partner Dean Dunham’s philosophy was that if you can start your children on a good tasty diet you have a great chance of them becoming less fussy eaters as they get older and not overeating later on in life. I grew up on a farm with 7 brothers and 1 sister and apart from my mothers milk, she fed us lots of different foods right from the beginning and of course it was organic, which Baby Zilli is.
How do you fit in work with the family? It is of course a hectic lifestyle but I’m lucky that my wife and children share my passion for good food. I always make sure that I make time for my family despite work commitments.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to get a new food product to market? You have to have a passion for food and a vision for your product. We had a whole team sharing my recipes from nutritionists, dieticians and food technicians to make sure the end result was the best for your baby. See www.zillibaby.co.uk for more information.