NEW YORK — Beech-Nut, the nation's second-largest baby food maker, said Thursday that it will introduce a line of organic infant foods to meet consumer demand for more chemical-free products.
The Special Harvest line will consist of pureed fruits and vegetables, juices, whole-grain cereals, plus meat and poultry dinners.
The 22-product line will appear in selected markets--including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Phoenix and Chicago--beginning Monday.
Analysts were pleasantly surprised. Major food companies have shied away from organically grown lines because foods produced without chemical fertilizers and pesticides are expensive and not readily available in mass quantities.
With baby food sales stagnant for years, Beech-Nut has struggled to hang onto its share.
Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., a division of St. Louis-based Ralston Purina Co., has 17% of the $1-billion baby food market, a distant second to Gerber Products' 72%.
In November, 1987, Beech-Nut pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from its sale of phony apple juice. Two years later, Beech-Nut, then owned by Nestle Enterprises Inc., was sold to Ralston.