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2021 was a hard year for so many; I feel incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish despite the challenges we all faced.

This year felt like an opportunity for growth and recovery as we collectively reeled from the unforeseen pandemic and unpredictability of last year.

Whilst 2021 certainly came with its own uncertainty (especially towards the beginning of the year), it also offered a chance to reflect, take stock and decide a course of action.

Often, I find that precarious times can lead to the adverse, clarity. When the ground below feels uneven, instead of losing our footing and taking a stumble, it can make us dig our heels in, stand tall and be clear-headed about what we want and which direction to take.

Whilst I did, like many others, have to muster the strength to not be too rattled by the choppy waters we encountered, I tried to remain positive and roll with the ebbs and flows of the tide!

Perhaps unexpectedly, this year saw a lot of growth and productivity in the company. Instead of focusing on the turbulent times I wanted to share with you the positives from 2021, and indeed some pearls of wisdom where I can!

30th Anniversary Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner

It’s almost mind-boggling to say that this year we celebrated the 30th anniversary of my first book the Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner – time really does fly! To mark the occasion, I released a special extended edition of the international bestseller jampacked with the very latest nutritional advice, finger food guidance, and over 200 (including exclusive new) recipes to help raise healthy, happy babies.

Since it was first published three decades ago, the Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner has gone on to be translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, and remains in the Top 40 Non-fiction bestsellers week in week out.

I continue to be driven by a desire to instil a love of food in the next generation and remain committed to supporting parents nourish their little ones – no matter how fussy the eater!

This book holds a soft spot in my heart as not only was it my first foray into the wonderful world of weaning and children’s nutrition, but it was compiled as a tribute to my first child, Natasha, who I tragically lost at just three-months-old.

Inspired by Natasha and my dream of helping other children establish healthy eating habits for a lifetime, the success of the book

Fun, Fast & Easy Children’s Cookbook launch

Fast forward to Fun, Fast & Easy Children’s Cookbook – my 47th cookbook to date which I released this year! I cooked up the book as I wanted to create the ultimate kitchen companion for young children and their parents.

The Bryony Clarkson-illustrated book is as much a feast for the eyes as it is the tummy, featuring enticing photography and illustrations alongside delicious, easy-to-make recipes and lots of fascinating food facts and essential kitchen tips to get the whole family cooking together.

I cannot emphasise enough the endless benefits of kids cooking, it’s what inspired me to create this book and allow budding chefs and bakers to have a blast in the kitchen, whilst learning plenty of new skills along the way!

Rachel Riley Clothing Range Collaboration

2021 also marked my first venture into childrenswear as I collaborated with acclaimed childrenswear designer Rachel Riley.

I teamed up with the iconic British designer to develop a stunning collection featuring illustrations from my best-selling cookbooks brought to life by Rachel Riley on a range of baby and toddler clothing and accessories.

The foodie-illustrated collection was designed to spark a love for cooking, featuring a lemon and orange print to add some zest to your life, a jelly illustration so sweet it will have you jiggling for joy, and a quintessentially British beautiful beefeater design, guaranteed to make your little soldier stand to attention!

I am immensely proud of this stunning range and so thrilled that it has turned out to be just as loved by my foodie followers!

Collaboration with Young’s

YOUNGS

It was certainly a busy year, as 2021 saw even further NPD, including a partnership with seafood expert, Young’s.

As part of my mission to help little one’s up their omega-3 intake, I teamed up with Young’s, to create a delicious new range of fish-based frozen children’s meals.

The Cheesy Fish Pie and Fish & Chip Shapes were designed to ensure little ones consume their all-important omega-3’s and veggies (without them even realising!)

I firmly believe that the sooner kids get a taste for fish the better, and was thrilled to collaborate with Young’s, the experts in the ocean, sorry, field!

Awards

Awards-2021

Despite the challenges of the past business year, I managed to scoop six fantastic awards this year:

  1. Food & Drink Businesswoman of the Year Award at the Great British Businesswomen’s Awards
  2. Platinum award for our Frozen Meals in the Best Toddler Food Range category at the Loved By Parents Awards
  3. Platinum award for our Toddler & Baby App in the Technology category at the Loved By Parents Awards
  4. Silver award for our Chilled Meals Range in the Best Toddler Food Range/ Product category at the Mother & Baby Awards.
  5. Bronze award for Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner in the Best Pregnancy and Maternity Product category at the Mother & Baby Awards
  6. Second runner-up for our Chilled Meals in the Best Mealtime/Feeding Range or Product category at the Absolutely Mama Awards

 

I treasure each award, it really makes the toil, time and passion that my team and myself put into all of our products all the more worthwhile!

I was particularly thrilled to officially become the first ever person to be crowned Food & Drink Businesswoman of the Year Award at the Great British Businesswoman’s Awards!

Awards like this prove to me that perseverance and passion are key. I was turned down by 15 publishers before catching a break with my first book the Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner, and had I not stayed true to my conviction perhaps my life would have ended up very differently!

As women we may be told that we can’t have it all, but I only half agree. I built my business from my kitchen table whilst raising three young children – but having it all certainly doesn’t come without a healthy dose of compromise… and exhaustion!

Ultimately, finding the recipe is just the first step, if it’s worth cooking up you’ll enjoy the process (and the mess!) and the result will taste so good… Plus, receiving these wonderful awards make the cooking time even more worth it!

So, thank you to everyone for your votes and continued support – it is so appreciated!

Partnerships with some of our favourite brands

This year has been a wonderful year for our partnerships. As we continue to grow, it’s such a joy partnering with much-loved brands that I so admire!

For the third year in a row, we partnered with British Lion Eggs on their “Eggs for Two” campaign, which sought to bring awareness about the versatility, nutrition and suitability of British Lion Eggs when cooking for both adults and little ones. We supported this campaign with bespoke recipes, social content, a campaign landing page on our website and emails to our database – and it proved to be a great success with phenomenal engagement!

We also collaborated with Warburtons on their “Little Lunchbox Swaps” campaign, this consisted of us creating enticing and exciting recipes to mix-up-tired lunchboxes. We supported this with a 360-degree digital and print campaign to promote their Half White Half Wholemeal range.

Among our other partnerships, we also teamed up with The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, one of London’s most luxurious 5* hotels. As well as developing their kids’ menus, we joined forces to hold a beautiful festive kiddie cooking session with influencers and their children. We’re looking forward to continuing this partnership next year!

International expansion

Little tasters_1 (4)

It has been wonderful seeing our international presence expand further this year.

Our organic ambient range (purees and pastas) continue to perform exceptionally well in the Irish market, helped by our brilliant influencer outreach program which saw parents with a collective following of over 500,000 followers share and review our products.

Our products also continue to be a huge hit Down Under – in addition to our Frozen range, we launched a brand-new finger food range called Little Tasters in Australia. These bite-sized shapes are perfect for self-feeding and come in a range of my homecooked recipes, such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Chicken and Apple Balls, Fish & Sweet Potato Fingers and more! After the success of the range in Australia, I’m hoping to launch them here in the UK!

Digital Growth

App-Square

It has been so rewarding to watch our online presence grow, especially over the past 12 months. It truly is a joy for me to engage with users and build this wonderful community together.

Our social channels have provided such an incredible platform to engage with the parents who follow us and buy our products – I really do try to read all the comments we get and respond where I can! I think a wonderful outcome of the pandemic and lockdown has been an increased value of community and connecting with others (especially during those times when we couldn’t IRL) – as evidenced by our ever-increasing website users and social media following in the past year alone.

Week in, week out my Baby & Toddler Recipe App has held the number one food and drink spot on the App store in the UK, and we have just launched a version for Android which is very exciting!

I’m immensely proud of the new and updated version and the feedback it’s received so far. The new allergy tracker feature in particular has been a massive hit and I’ve been told it has helped so many families – which is really wonderful to hear!

We also redesigned and relaunched our website with a brand new user-friendly design, and it looks gorgeous (if I may say so myself!)

Personal Highlights

This year was filled with many personal highs and a few lows. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to my beloved canine companion, Hamilton. He was the fluffiest, cuddliest, and most vocal member of our family for 13 years, but after a very good life it was his time to go. Hamilton’s departure left such a hole in the family that we felt it was only right to welcome another Samoyed into the brood – Pushkin! Little Pushkin is now 2-months old and as adorable as his name implies. He’s fitting in wonderfully and collecting a lot of admirers along the way!

In November I managed to escape to New York for a mother-daughter trip which was wonderful. My second eldest, Lara, works at the company with me which is an absolute delight. She accompanied me to the Big Apple for a much-needed business trip mixed with a bit of pleasure! We visited the huge Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue to sign some books, met with our publishers, did some Instagram lives (EST time) and managed to squeeze in a healthy amount of eating and shopping – it is New York after all! The temperature may have been sub-zero, but the whole getaway certainly warmed my heart!

Final thanks

Once again thank you to everyone for your continued support, it really means the world to me and reassures me that there are many others out there who share in my passion to help little ones develop healthy eating habits for a lifetime. I have many exciting new ventures lined up that unfortunately I can’t reveal right now… but watch this space!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that 2022 is a wonderful year for you and yours, filled with every success!

A x

© 2021 Annabel Karmel Group Holdings Limited
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