Co-founder and CEO of Carrot Kitchen, Olli Freese, reveals just how this wonderful kids cooking app keeps children motivated in the kitchen and prepares them for a fun, healthy, and nutritious path to adulthood.
It all started at home. My mother was a Home Economics teacher and I was raised in a family where we cooked and ate together around the table every single day. As a young adult, I completed an MSc in Food Marketing at University and went into a career in advertising and branding.
When my two children left the nest I realized that they were pretty well equipped to look after themselves in the kitchen and were leading healthy lifestyles due to the upbringing we’d given them. I also realized that there are millions of families out there who can’t set this example for their children for various reasons. Obesity is a huge issue worldwide, and solving the problem starts with kids.
I decided to leave my career in advertising and shift over to enabling and promoting kids to follow healthy lifestyles and eating habits. I wanted to create something which would inspire kids to cook in a modern and healthy way.
My co-founder, Piritta Koivisto, and I first created cooking courses for kids after school, with different themes such as Cook Around The World (Italian, Japanese, Mexican etc), Baking Master, and Cook With Your Ear (how to use senses in cooking). While doing this, we learnt how to present recipes in such a way as to keep the kids engaged and motivated.
We did these cooking courses for a year and a half, and then the pandemic hit. We shifted our cooking courses into digital format, got our first funding a couple of years ago and were able to hire a team to develop the Carrot Kitchen app. A year ago we launched in the Finnish market and we’re now launching in the UK market.
Carrot Kitchen is a team of eight, all from different fields of expertise, and we have great investors behind us. The next step is to receive funding in order to upscale to the US market and further afield.
The app offers step by step video recipes guided by kids. There are currently over 100 recipes. We also provide skill videos; knife skills, washing dishes, and cleaning for example. We believe it’s important for kids to understand that cooking also includes cleaning up after.
The app is available in Finnish and English and is aimed at 6-13 year olds. However, even smaller kids can get involved with their parents as the videos offer step by step voice instructions – being able to read isn’t a prerequisite.
We also have challenges that are very game-like; by solving challenges you can get more recipes to cook and earn points and climb the ranks for example. We have plans to create communities out of these challenges in the future to keep them inspiring and entertaining at the same time.
We have food experts – journalists or educators – who create the content and the recipes. We release six new recipes on a monthly basis as well as skill videos.
Our recipes are pretty international and there are a lot of snacks and smoothies. We do give sweet recipes, as it’s important for the kids that the food tastes good and is fun. Baking is often how kids start cooking in the first place. 85% of our recipes are “healthy” and there’s always a vegetarian choice.
I’ve seen in my own life that cooking gives a huge amount of pleasure and fun for the kids, and is fantastic for family dynamics. I think these days, kids have many activities and parents are so busy so it’s really important to have these moments with your loved ones around the table. It’s a time of sharing and where everyone can express themselves, especially for the smaller kids.
Cooking builds self-confidence in a huge way for children, and parents are proud of their results. It’s a fantastic way to promote awareness as well.
Several studies have shown that kids who learn to cook early on in life often have healthier eating habits, and are more susceptible to eating vegetables for example. They also have more of a connection with the earth and are more aware of sustainability and the health of the planet.
Cooking is a creative process and actually encourages less food waste because of this creativity. I believe that food waste is one of the most important things to acknowledge and avoid, from an environmental point of view.
We have a vision of being the most impactful and most fun kids cooking and well-being brand in the world. It’s a big vision but we think that the app has an important role and this is what we’ve chosen to focus on for now. We may launch into the branding of kids cooking knives or aprons for example at a later stage.
I hope that someday Carrot Kitchen becomes a community that brings kids together around the world, and that it’s the food that brings them together, from all cultures and backgrounds. Kids are the future!