27.2.2024 / General

The First Steps of a Good Stomach Bacteria

Vegemi’s story began long before it emerged in its own app. Prior to the launch of the Vegemi app, it journeyed and thrived in its own realm: within our stomachs and in tales where it grew stronger from the vegetables consumed – just as it does today! My daughter adored this narrative, finding it both captivating and inspiring, leading her to embrace her veggies through Vegemi’s stories even before it became digitally available to all families. We knew it would captivate children and address a challenge many families face: fussy attitudes towards fresh fruits and vegetables.

As Vegemi ventured around our dinner table, we pondered ways to deliver impactful and wide-reaching nutrition education, engaging with children. We knew we wanted to utilise cutting-edge technology, and that children adore cute characters, inner-body adventures, and superpowers. Having grown up watching “Once Upon a Time,” finding a vegetable superhero was a natural choice – who better than a friendly stomach bacteria?

Originally known as Paqu, named after the beneficial gut bacteria in Finnish, the name evolved to better reflect the concept through collaboration with our partner, Adventure Club. The prefix “Vege” needs no introduction, but the suffix was ingeniously crafted by merging the word with “microbiome” – thus, Vegemi was born! I must admit, however, that those already accustomed to Paqu’s presence, didn’t readily accept the change, so Vegemi continued under its old name in our household for a while, with the new name met with playful criticism!

And so, the idea of Vegemi and its initial concept came to be. The need was evident: most families grapple with this challenge, yet solutions are scarce. Traditional nutrition guidance tends to be top-down information: parents are encouraged to provide children with nutritionally sound food and advised to steer clear of unhealthy options. Sounds straightforward, but hardly inspiring.

Practical tools for encouragement are lacking, leaving parents to tackle their challenges alone, while children are sidelined as passive recipients. In our view and from our own experiences, this shouldn’t be the case; children should be active participants who understand and can make choices, given the right inspiration and opportunities. Similarly, while our microbiome is the cornerstone of our health, traditional nutrition or food education often overlooks it. Vegemi changes this narrative entirely – perhaps why it resonates so strongly with children!

Children's app demonstration with carrot and superpower

The food industry doesn’t make things easier either. Fresh fruits and vegetables seldom receive large-scale campaigns, whereas the more processed the food, the greater the marketing budget. Products aimed at children often contain surprisingly high sugar levels, contributing to a significant portion of children’s diets being comprised of ultra-processed foods. According to a study in England, 60% of a five-year-old’s diet is ultra-processed! This type of food has been linked to microbiome depletion, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and various health challenges, as well as an increased cancer risk. It’s imperative that we reintroduce children to real foods, benefiting not just individuals but society as a whole.

And sugar! Did you know that some children’s flavoured yoghurts can contain more sugar than a single candy floss! This conditions children to crave industrial, sugary foods, making it crucial for parents to consistently offer fresh vegetables and new flavours. This disparity puts children in a nutritionally unequal position and exposes them to health challenges. That’s why Vegemi’s work and the opportunities it provides are paramount.

But let’s return to Vegemi for a moment! After its tentative first steps, Vegemi’s journey has been joyous, advancing in leaps and bounds!

Today, the Vegemi Pro method is implemented in preschools across two of the largest municipalities in Finland, Espoo and Tampere, with plans for expansion to one of the largest cities soon too – and hopefully to many more places! The app has already been downloaded nearly 10,000 times, with users highly engaged. In fact, the app has already facilitated over 4.5 million interactions, such as feeding Vegemi virtual or real fruits and vegetables. Most importantly, children adore Vegemi at home, in early childhood education, at the store, or wherever they encounter it, encouraging them to both taste and eat vegetables and fostering an understanding of the relationship between diet and health.

In addition to our domestic market, we’re engaged in promising discussions in various countries – it’ll be exciting to see which country’s children and families will be the first to enjoy Vegemi’s company on a broader scale!

And there are more exciting developments on the horizon for Vegemi, as it expands into oral health. Soon, toothbrushing will be a lot more exciting – and easier for parents. Follow our account; you can find our English-language channel here, or our Finnish language channel here.

Stay tuned – Vegemi has your back!

Tuulia Järvinen, Vegemi Co-founder

Vegemi was founded in Finland, and also partakes in collaboration with the SSO supermarket chain.

The project is financed as part of the measures implemented by the European Union due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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