‘I was making snacks every night’

Mariëlle Smit is the founder of Mama Deli, a company that produces and sells fresh baby food in Dutch and Belgian supermarkets. She recently spoke at the business event for ambitious women: The Self-Made Summit. There she told on-stage how she started Mama Deli; the company with which she offers parents a healthy and convenient alternative to homemade baby food. “I was in the kitchen every night making snacks,” Mariëlle tells Famme. “That had to change.” We spoke to her about her business, the combination with motherhood and the rules at the table in the Smit house.

Founder Mariëlle Smit, herself the mother of daughters Stevie (1) and Sammie (4), tells how she spent evening in the kitchen after working hours. “It was a lot of work and my husband found it very uncomfortable. But I just wanted the best for my kids.”

Mama Deli

“I only wanted to give them fresh snacks, without additives or salt. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an alternative for my own fresh meals and I found that very special. Why didn’t this exist? If you complain about something, do something about it or else stop complaining, is my motto. So I went to investigate.”

That’s how Mama Deli started. After a year and a half of product development and putting together a top team, the company has now been in existence for two years. “We have our own certified production location with professional chefs. From there we prepare fresh meals without additives in the freezer. It is the best alternative to cooking at home, maybe even better.”

Work and motherhood

According to Smit, running a busy company is actually not easy to combine with motherhood. “It can be done and in the end it will work, but not alone. My daughters are always number one so I provide a good foundation at home. We have a sweet nanny and grandpa and grandma who help. I always try to be home on Fridays and then I make up those hours on weekends and evenings. On Fridays I’m really with my daughters and I try not to be disturbed for work. It sounds more romantic than it is, because it doesn’t always work out.”

Eating together as a family

Smit says that they don’t always have dinner together as a family. “As a child, we only ate together as a family from a later age, because my parents were still working and we ate with the babysitter. That sometimes happens with us. But we always sit at the table together, even if the girls have eaten early. They eat around five, half past six. They eat with us or we eat with them. It is only when they get older that it becomes really important to eat together and discuss the day.”

Cooking with children

Smit’s children are always involved in the cooking. “I always involve my daughters in the cooking, even in the development of Mama Deli’s meals. My youngest 1-year-old daughter eats everything, while my 4-year-old daughter sometimes finds it a challenge. I have found that if they are allowed to decide and choose for themselves, they eat better.

That’s great fun at Mama Deli, because my eldest daughter is the chef’s judge and the head of the test panel. This is great because she is a picky eater. For example, she tells me that something is too sour. Children have different tastes so it is good to hear their opinion.”

Battle at the table

At Smit’s table, there is never any conflict. “I am not going to fight. I tell my daughters to always try the food and if they don’t like it that’s ok. I don’t care if they eat little or a lot. Mama Deli’s nutritionist, doctor Femke, always says: ‘You decide what your child eats and your child decides how much she or he eats.’

If my daughters don’t want to eat, they won’t eat, but then they won’t get anything. My eldest daughter eats a lot of healthy snacks during the day and that way she gets her daily requirement of fruit and vegetables.”

My child only wants to eat sweets, what can I do? Nutritionist Merel answers

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Marielle Smit from Mama Deli: ‘I was making snacks every night’

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