Eric Gay, Associated Press
A rare golden grain revered by the Incas as more important than corn or potatoes could be one answer to the nationwide baby formula shortage.
Super Seed International, founded in 2005 in Provo by Cesar “Valentino” Valdizan, was created to change the world of nutrition for babies, kids and adults with quinoa from Peru.
Quinoa, an Incan word meaning “mother of all crops,” has been a mainstay for the babies and children of Peru for centuries. According to Valdizan, when Spanish explorers conquered the Incas, they outlawed quinoa because it was revered so much.
“In the late 1800s, famers started planting the seeds again. By the 1980s, it started thriving again,” Valdizan said.
Valdizan has worked with Brigham Young University researchers who have been growing quinoa in various areas of the world to do research on how it could help children in famine-stricken countries.
While his company has done well, and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Valdizan said getting his product in mainstream big-box stores is impossible.
“We’ve reached out to the government and FDA, but the baby formula sector is very tight,” Valdizan said.
There are basically three companies that have a monopoly on baby food products, with Abbott Laboratories, makers of various Similac formulas, having a 40% share of the formulas on the market.
On top of pandemic supply chain issues, Abbott’s plant in Sturgis, Michigan, was completely closed down earlier this year with a nationwide recall after two babies died from the formula.
Super Seed’s QuinoAmino supplement, marketed as an all-natural alternative for baby formula, is sold through the company and on Amazon.com. It is more expensive because of the nature of the ingredients and the small lots they make, as compared to larger suppliers.
“It’s almost impossible to obtain shelf space,” Valdizan said. “We are seeing an uptick in sales at this time, but we are still trying to make people aware of the product.”
Several baby food companies — including a number of Gerber lines, Happy Baby, Bio-Baby and others — use it in their products and have first-time cereals made from quinoa.
According to Parenting Magazine online, “Quinoa is a superfood which can be given to babies in many different ways. It is a nutritionally packed food that is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Quinoa also has antioxidants and a good amount of fiber content, which is a natural laxative to avoid constipation in babies, too. This superfood for babies gives them everything required for their perfect growth.”
In July of 2021, The National Library of Medicine ran a research paper from the European Union titled “Perspecitve: A Legal and Nutritional Perspective on the Introduction of Quinoa-based Infant and Follow-on Formula in the EU.”
The paper notes that infants depend on dietary proteins for growth and development during their first months of life. In the EU, there is a need to explore alternative protein sources.
“One alternative could be quinoa, which is a pseudocereal that is naturally free from gluten and has a high protein content and quality,” reads the paper. “This review shows it has several promising features that warrant further investigation.”
According to healthline.com, “Quinoa is considered a complete protein source, which means that it provides all nine essential amino acids.”
It’s exceptionally high in lysine, an amino acid usually lacking in plants. It’s also rich in methionine and histidine, making it a viable plant-based protein source.
About 95% of quinoa comes from the mountains of Peru. “My mother taught me about how she used it when I was a baby and child,” Valdizan said. “It was pretty unknown before 2005.”
Valdizan said QuinoAmino is not only used for baby formula and for children suffering from famine, but also adults who have stomach issues.
“The quinoa in QuinoAmino is the best-known source of vegetable protein because of its perfect composition of amino acids,” Craig Coleman, a protein expert at BYU, stated in a news release.
Valdizan, who is also a model, said many in that industry looking to have good nutrients and healthy bodies are also using quinoa on a daily basis.
“I wanted a product that tasted good … without compromising its purity,” Valdizan said. “I became fixed (on) creating a simple and effective quinoa product, a formula that I could give to everyone, from a nursing mother, to her baby, to a malnourished child or a supermodel, and say, ‘Take this daily and you will get the most important nutrients you need to be healthy or beautiful.'”
Valdizan added that, since its inception, QuinoAmino received recognition from individuals, and awards and honors from Peru’s Department of Agriculture and Tourism, Caritas International, BYU Ph.D.s and more for innovating the food sector by bringing value from an ancient food source to the modern world.
Now, he is hoping not only that others will catch on to the QuinoAmino formula, but also that parents will take a look and try what Super Seed International has to offer to fight the need for baby formula.