First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Daniel Zakowski: We’re very lucky to be doing well, despite all of the difficulties related to COVID-19. We have children ages 6, 3, and 1, so it’s been a struggle for my wife and I to try to figure out how to juggle their education and our careers. Even though it hasn’t been easy, we’re blessed to be in industries that have not been decimated by COVID and to have close family nearby to help create a great learning pod for our children.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Ready, Set, Food!
Daniel Zakowski: I founded Ready, Set, Food! in 2017, after my nephew, Abe Leitner developed some life-threatening food allergies. My background is as a serial entrepreneur. When I learned that recent clinical trials showed we could help prevent hundreds of thousands of babies from developing severe food allergies, I knew I had to start a business to make it happen.
My brother-in-law, Andy Leitner, is a doctor and knew how to understand the science, but since he is not an allergist, we brought a board-certified allergist Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan onto our founding team to make sure we always made products that were both safe and effective at preventing allergies.
How does Ready, Set, Food! innovate?
Daniel Zakowski: We are constantly enhancing and innovating our product portfolio. Building on our currently available formulations, we just recently launched new Peanut Only and Peanut + Egg early allergen introduction systems to provide parents with more options to fit their families’ needs. The Peanut Only system benefits families who have children with existing, diagnosed milk and egg allergies, and the Peanut + Egg system benefits families who have children with an existing, diagnosed milk allergy.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Daniel Zakowski: Fortunately, we have seen our business continue to grow steadily despite the economic downturn associated with COVID-19. Especially when our health matters most, introducing allergens early and often is an important way of supporting your child’s immune system. In addition, our all-natural system is conveniently delivered right to your door, giving parents peace of mind when they need it most.
We’ve also recently launched our giving program in partnership with Mark Cuban: for every subscription sold, one is donated to a family in need. Qualifying families include families who have lost their income due to COVID-19. Ready, Set, Food! was founded to provide the peace of mind all parents need when their babies begin the introduction of solid food, which is why we are committed to launching this donation program in partnership with Mark Cuban in order to make our product accessible to those in need, especially in these uncertain times.
Learn more about our giving program here.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Daniel Zakowski: With our evidence-based approach to early allergen introduction, we have received strong support from the medical community. Due to COVID-19, it’s been somewhat challenging to continue to foster our partnerships with health care providers. However, we’ve been extremely dedicated to supporting health care providers, especially in these difficult times. We are proud to announce our new partnership with the Advocate Aurora health system, which has the potential to help save 1,800 babies every year from developing severe food allergies. Despite the uncertain circumstances, we’ve been able to establish new health care partnerships, with each one getting us closer to our goal of giving every family a head-start towards an allergy-free future.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Daniel Zakowski: A recent study showed that less than 1 in 3 pediatricians follow food allergy prevention guidelines. With only 29% of health care providers following these guidelines, we think our biggest challenge is a lack of knowledge or education about how 80% of food allergies can be prevented through early and sustained allergen introduction. Parents need the tools to protect their babies from a food allergy. That’s why one of our primary goals is to empower parents with the knowledge to introduce allergens safely and effectively.
Our latest breakthrough in raising awareness for food allergy prevention is the newly released 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans Report. It outlines that “Introducing peanut and egg in an age appropriate form, in the first year of life (after age 4 months) may reduce the risk of food allergy to these foods.” Dr. Jonathan Spergel, our Lead Medical Advisor and Chief of Allergy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, wrote a letter with 14 other allergy experts to the Dietary Guidelines Committee to spearhead these new recommendations. We’re excited to say that effort led to these new, significant guidelines for food allergy prevention that have the ability to transform the lives and health of millions of Americans.
Your final thoughts?
Daniel Zakowski: Our mission at Ready, Set, Food! Is to give parents the tools to protect their baby from a food allergy. We’re excited that the new USDA guidelines underscore the importance of food allergy prevention and can help advance our mission in making a significant impact on the future of public health in our country.
We’re also proud to tell parents that Ready, Set, Food! is the only early introduction system that aligns with the new USDA guidelines with our evidence-based, all-natural solution to preventing up to 80% of food allergies that is not only 100% organic but free from artificial additives and added sugar. While we’re excited that Ready, Set, Food! aligns with the AAP, NIAID, and now USDA guidelines on food allergy prevention, it’s our commitment to our families and our mission that drives our high standards and transparency. We created Ready, Set, Food! for our children, and that’s why we always have and always will take the formulation and quality of our product so seriously.