Kids, Nutrition

Meet Teresa Purzner, Mom and Stanford PhD Turned Founder of Healthy Kids’ Food Brand Cerebelly

Teresa Purzner is the founder of Cerebelly, a healthy kids’ food brand that parents and kids both love – kids for the taste, parents for the nutrition. We spoke with Purzner to learn how, as a mother of three with extensive neuroscience expertise, she was deeply inspired – and uniquely qualified – to launch a veggie-first, Clean Label Certified kids’ food line.

What’s your background?

I’m a neurosurgeon, and I also have a PhD from Stanford University in developmental neurobiology. But firstly, I’m a mother of three.  

What inspired you to start Cerebelly? 

As with over 60% of households today, my family is made up of two working parents. When I get home, I want to prioritize interacting with my children, and so often, there is little time at the end of the day to clean, cut, steam, and puree baby food. And so, like so many others, I turned to the baby food aisle at my local supermarket for help.

Having spent so many years studying early brain development, I understood the importance of nutrition on early brain health. I had key nutrients in mind that I wanted to find in the rows of pouches I faced in the baby food aisle. Unfortunately, I discovered ingredient lists that started with sugar-dense fruit. The nutritional panels had zero percent of the daily requirement of most nutrients needed for proper brain development.  

It became clear that there existed a major gap between what we know we should be feeding our children in their earliest years and what was available on the shelves. Even worse, third-party research has shown that many of these products contain harmful heavy metals like lead, which is detrimental to developing minds and bodies. 

I knew that I had a unique opportunity to make a meaningful difference in this space, and while I worried that I didn’t have the time to do this, I also knew that if I didn’t do it, there really wouldn’t be anyone else that could bring neuroscience to baby food in the same way.

How did your background in neuroscience help you develop Cerebelly’s foods? 

As a neurosurgery resident, I noticed that there had been a period of explosive growth in our understanding of pediatric brain cancers. In hopes of bringing this science to my patients, my husband and I made the decision to take a break from clinical practice and head to Stanford in hopes of finding a better treatment for pediatric brain cancer.  

While at Stanford, I earned my PhD in Developmental Neurobiology, studying healthy human brain development and all the ways it can go wrong. Ultimately, we discovered a new drug target for pediatric brain cancer, and through the amazing work of collaborating scientists and clinicians, we were able to bring a new therapy to clinical trial.  

While on this journey, I became fascinated not only with how tumors can form when early brain development goes wrong, but also in understanding the myriad of factors that go into optimal brain development when things go right. I had three children and was quickly faced with the question of what to feed them. I understood the importance of nutrition on early brain development, and I was certainly not alone in that understanding.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics found that early life deviation from expected trajectory due to a nutrient deficiency can affect your child’s brain function into adulthood. Failure to provide adequate macronutrients or key micronutrients during these critical periods in brain development can cause lifelong effects. Those early years are so critical – a baby’s brain can grow up to one percent per day and make over 700 new connections per second. So of course I wanted to provide my children with the right nutrients at the right time to support each region of the brain as it developed.  

It was clear to me that I was not the only parent facing this dilemma. So, I decided to challenge industry standards and launch a baby food company that combines up-to-date early childhood nutrition with developmental neuroscience.

Tell us a little bit about your best-selling products.

Cerebelly is a vegetable-first, science-based baby food that provides specific nutrition during specific times to support the brain and body. We’re organic, non-GMO, and veggie-first, we have zero grams of added sugar, and we test our products for heavy metals. And because it was critically important to me that the product was accessible to not only those with the greatest means, we did it at a price point comparable to what’s already on the shelves.

Some of our best-selling flavors are our Sweet Potato Mango and White Bean Pumpkin pouches. But what has really been flying off the shelves and actually accrued a few insane waitlists are our Smart Bars. We had an almost 1000-person waitlist when we went out of stock! 

Has Cerebelly won any awards or recognition?

We are proud to be the first shelf-stable food to be Clean Label Project Certified. The Clean Label Project independently tests products for over 400 contaminants including heavy metals, chemicals, plastics, pesticides, and other toxins. 

We also just won the Good Housekeeping Parenting Award for the best baby food, which is an incredible honor we are proud of!  

Are there any customer reviews or notable press reviews you would like to share?

One of my favorite things to hear from customers is when they tell me that Cerebelly is the only way they can get their kids to eat veggies. We had a PopSugar article run right after we launched that really highlighted how much the writer’s 20-month-old daughter was loving our pouches, and it reinforced every reason why I knew we needed to start this brand.

Do you hear from a lot of parents that their kids love your food?

Oh, absolutely! Honestly, we get that all the time. I completely understand that parents might worry that their kids will be grossed out by baby foods with carrots, broccoli, and pears, but almost all the parents who buy from us swear their kids always ask for more. We see a lot of first-time buyers coming back for more, and we’re really proud that Cerebelly hits the spot for both kids and parents.

What product from Cerebelly are you most proud of?

I can’t pick just one – it would be like picking a favorite child. I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished because I truly believe we’re elevating the standards by which we feed our babies and children.  

We were very specific and held ourselves to the highest standards on everything we did, and our products ultimately reflect that. We have 16 brain-supporting nutrients in every pouch, and we put our foods through multiple levels of testing to ensure they’re safe for your babies. If parents are trusting us to feed their little ones, I want to make sure they’re confident that we’re giving them the very best. 

Can you tell us more about some of these ingredients?

I’ll name four that I find especially important. We make sure all our foods have plentiful iron and protein since they both help with cognitive development. We pair our cognitive nutrients with DHA and Vitamin E to help little ones develop their motor skills too. That’s just the start with our nutrients, but I think it shows that, when it comes to early childhood growth and development, we keep the whole picture in mind!

Our Readers LOVE Deals – Are You Running Any Current Promotions?

Yes! Parents buying our pouches and snack bars for the first time can take 25% off their first order with code FIRSTORDER25! To make the switch to super healthy baby food that will benefit your kids into adulthood, just click here to claim your limited-time offer!

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