46% of American businesses have implemented remote-work policies as of mid-February. As more of the world’s population face Coronavirus lockdown, we’re all looking for tasty treats we can enjoy from the confines of our homes. Here are seven companies making beverages and snacks that are not only delicious, but also good for you and the planet. You should be able to find them at your local grocery stores or online. Enjoy — and stay healthy!
1. Karma Nuts
With a mission to “do good, eat good, feel good,” Karma Nuts is the innovator of the Wrapped™ cashew. By leaving the skin on the nuts, Karma Nuts enables its cashews to serve as a good source of six essential vitamins and minerals, with the additional benefits of twice the fiber and antioxidative activity of other cashews. This snack is nutritionally superior, Whole30 compliant, vegan, paleo, keto-friendly, and sold in a variety of flavors from turmeric to cinnamon.
In addition, Karma Nuts is dedicated to sustainability. Leaving the skin on the cashews upcycles a portion of the nut that usually is discarded, thereby resulting in less waste overall. The company works closely with its Indian suppliers, regularly auditing them for ethical and sustainable practices in every aspect of the business.
Karma Nuts Founder and President Ganesh Nair’s family has been in the cashew business in India for over 85 years. His grandfather was one of the pioneers of cashew production in the late 1920s, when India was under British rule. The cashew industry went on to become a leading employer in southern and western India, helping lift the economic prospects of thousands of people, particularly women.
A few years ago, Nair took a sabbatical from his healthcare career to help lead the family business, Western India Cashew. But as he was preparing to re-enter the healthcare world, he saw an opportunity to educate and make available to American consumers a less processed, more nutritious cashew – the Wrapped cashew – which his family had been developing for over ten years.
The biggest challenge Nair faces with Karma Nuts is around education. Very few Americans know what a Wrapped cashew is and why it’s superior in taste and nutrition. Nair’s job is to communicate the health and flavor benefits of eating a skin-on cashew, and to get more people excited about Karma Nuts by enlisting the support of the brand’s biggest fans.
To aspiring changemakers, Nair says, “Do the research. It’s incredibly important to understand your industry, what drives it, what motivates consumers – then you can really understand what is missing. Consumer preferences are constantly changing, so don’t think about how things have been done but rather how you can bring something innovative to the market that better fits people’s needs. Once you build a strong sustainable business on top of that insight, success will follow.”
Quinn is committed to full ingredient transparency, integrity and sustainability in their packaged food products. The company first innovated microwave popcorn, creating the PUREPOP™ bag — the first and only microwave popcorn bag to be completely stripped of all PFOAs, PFCs and plastic coatings. Not only did Quinn clean up the bag, but they also cleaned up the ingredient deck using organic, non-GMO popcorn kernels, high oleic sunflower oil, and never any added natural flavorings, only real ingredients. Quinn was named 2017 Snack Producer of the Year by Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery, and Founder/CEO Kristy Lewis was honored as one of the Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs by Fortune Magazine. Lewis recently was chosen by Whole Foods as one of their Women Makers: Raising the Bar, highlighting female entrepreneurs who are inspiring and motivating others to create new and better products. Quinn snacks are available on Amazon as well as in numerous retail stores.
With three boys under 10, Lewis is passionate about bringing healthier classic snacks to market. Nine years ago and only three days after the birth of her first son, Quinn, she set out to clean up her favorite childhood snack, microwave popcorn. While pregnant, she learned about all the icky ingredients and plastic coatings on all bags of microwave popcorn sold at the time. Following popcorn, Lewis launched the first and only pretzels on the market made with naturally gluten-free sorghum. The ancient grain is not only healthy, but also a highly drought-tolerant and water-efficient crop, which makes it more environmentally sustainable than many other sources of grain. And last year, Quinn launched the first ever gluten-free peanut butter-filled pretzel. Quinn backs all of their ingredients up with their Farm-to-BagTM initiative.
The biggest challenge Lewis has faced is that she is “a total perfectionist and control freak.” At the start, she believed that she needed to work herself into the ground in order to succeed. But she quickly learned that her approach was, on the contrary, a recipe for total failure. “My challenge has been learning to surrender and trusting that if can let go a little bit, everything will be alright,” Lewis says. “If I trusted and believed in my team, everything around me, including me, would thrive!”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Lewis says, “Even though you may want to be a changemaker, do not sacrifice yourself or your family and friends. If you don’t pace yourself, you will burn out. Caring for yourself is how you can care for others. Go for a walk, listen to a podcast, meditate, breathe, call your friends, and remember that if you don’t have a clear head to achieve the impossible, then you won’t.”
Growing up, Olyxir founder Josephine Musco’s father used the olive leaf to treat various ailments, a remedy that had been passed down through his Phoenician ancestors. It turns out that the olive leaf has many healthful properties. It contains polyphenols and antioxidants that aid in lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and boosting the immune system. Yet surprisingly, these leaves are typically wasted by the olive industry. Musco created Olyxir to change that. Using a gentle air-drying process, the leaves are condensed into a concentrated powder and infused into the brand’s instant tea strips, which have zero calories and can be dissolved in hot or cold water. Olyxir is currently available in nine countries and over 30 major retailers.
Musco has been a yogi since she was four, and a raw vegan for most of her adult life. “I have a deep spiritual connection to Mother Nature and believe in the interconnectivity of all forms of life,” she says. “Sustainability is necessary. Mindless consumerism has taken a toll on the environment, which in turn is affecting the quality of our lives. We’ve driven animal and plant species to extinction, the glaciers are melting, and the forests are burning. The birth of my daughter three years ago made me realize that every little bit of effort matters. We all can help tip the scale positively or negatively. I had to do more.”
Getting started with Olyxir, Musco faced many challenges. She was an immigrant woman in her early 20s trying to start a female-owned and operated business in the male-dominated food and beverage world. “I worked night and day meeting sustainability goals and benchmarks, and stayed consistent in relentlessly pursuing my mission of developing a patentable technology to safeguard my small business,” she says.
Now, she has to face the consumer and their mindset. Musco says that “educating people on the impact of the plastic bottle, tea bag, and post-consumer waste is a tremendous task. Olyxir takes the conventional drink from a plastic bottle or tea bag to a fully dissolvable, antioxidant-rich strip. My team and I work on a daily basis to increase mindfulness of the environment as well as consumer health.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Musco says, “You will fail, you will be turned down, and you will be told that it’s a bad idea. If you believe in what you are doing, keep doing it! For repetition is the mother of perfection and perseverance is the mother of success. Practice gratefulness and always see the full half of the glass. You have one life.”
4. Forager Project
Forager Project is a family-owned company committed to providing organic, plant-based, minimally-processed products such as cashew milks and yogurts, and non-dairy butter and sour cream. Founder and CEO Stephen Williamson joined Odwalla juice company in 1991, where he held a variety of positions from CFO to Chairman of the Board and CEO. After taking a sabbatical from the world of consumer-packaged goods, he created Forager Project in 2013 with his stepson John-Charles Hanley.
“Forager is a reflection of my life,” says Williamson. “I went to UC Berkeley when good food was just opening up with Chez Panisse, Cheese Board, Monterey Market, Berkeley Bowl. It was a great place for good, minimally processed food. That stayed with me for the rest of my life. Good food, good thought, good books, good friends are all the core to life.”
Forager Project believes that with the current state of human population on the earth, an animal agricultural system is unsustainable. Plant-based foods are better for the planet and human health, as is farming organically. But moving forward with the company has taken far more capital than its founders ever envisioned. “It feels like rock climbing without a rope – you have only one choice, to go up,” says Williamson. “Up until Danone invested, our family led every capital raise and that’s tough to do.”
To aspiring changemakers, Williamson has this to say. “The more that people doubt you and think you’re crazy, the more that you have to be comfortable with yourself and your vision. There’s a doubter at every corner.”
By 2050, more than seven billion people will be living in cities worldwide. Food scarcity is a real issue, and modern agriculture places an incredible burden on our environment. Infarm has developed a sustainable approach to farming that reduces energy demand and supports biodiversity by almost eliminating the food supply chain. To date, the company has partnered with over 25 major retailers in seven countries – including Kroger’s QFC in the US – to grow its fresh greens and herbs directly inside their stores. Each in-store Infarm requires 95% less water and 75% less fertilizer than soil-based agriculture, and removes the need for transportation and shipping of the produce as well as pesticides and harmful chemicals.
Michaeli cofounded Infarm in order to help cities become self-sufficient in their food production while significantly improving the safety, quality, and environmental footprint of our food. Modern agricultural production is responsible for 17% of total global CO2 emissions and saps plants of 45% of vital nutrients by the time they arrive in the supermarket. Infarm began by experimenting with hydroponic systems they built themselves. They also connected with many inspiring urban planners, designers, food activists, bio-dynamic farmers, architects, chefs, and hackers. “These varied voices helped us to understand why urban farming had not experienced rapid growth despite it being a possible solution to feeding the world in a more sustainable way,” Michaeli says. “They helped us crystalize what kind of change we could offer.”
“Being an entrepreneur is an ongoing learning process that involves lots of research, trial and error,” Michaeli cautions. “You have to love it because the need to be open to learning just accelerates over the years as you grow. Also, find the right partners who inspire you, whom you trust and you enjoy working with. I have the fortune to work with the Galonska brothers and we elevate one another. We three together are more than anything we could possibly produce apart.”
6. LION Tea
LION Tea has created a line of all-natural, antioxidant-rich dandelion tea products that are as good for human health as they are for the environment. The dandelion — America’s much maligned lawn nuisance, the innocent victim of every weed killer on the market — happens to be beloved by bees, bring nutrients to the soil, and serve as a powerful healing remedy to humans. LION Tea has launched in New York and LA, gained over 500 retail partners, and with Amazon is fulfilling orders across the country.
One day soon after his 21st birthday, LION Tea Founder Ray DeRosa woke up and realized that he was blind. It turned out he had a rare condition known as Leber’s Neuropathy, an inherited eye disease that takes away your vision over the course of a few days. Doctors told him there was no known cure. Luckily for DeRosa, his mother refused to accept that prognosis. Hailing originally from Greece, whose culture is known for its homemade health remedies, she created her own concoction of dandelion tea to heal her son. Within three days, his vision had miraculously returned.
DeRosa soon discovered a wide range of benefits from his mother’s homemade elixir. It worked as a hangover cure, a natural detox, an anti-inflammatory, a liver cleanser, a skin toner, and more. He became dedicated to creating LION Tea and thereby spreading the message about the healing powers of dandelions to the world. In addition, sustainability is one of the company’s core values. “Dandelions aren’t a pesky weed but a homegrown super-plant,” says DeRosa. “Imagine a world where we stopped spraying herbicides that are awful for us and the environment, and started enjoying these plants as food and medicine.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, DeRosa offers this advice. “First, make sure you’re getting into your business for the right reasons. You’re going to be tested over and over. If you are here for the money, it’s going to be hard. Then, assuming you’ve created something that has addressed a market need, all you need to do is survive. I think people underestimate resilience. I’ve seen great products fail and terrible products succeed all based on the founding team’s ability to survive the trials that come with entrepreneurship.”
7. ROAR Organic
ROAR Organic makes all-natural low-calorie, low-sugar beverages with functional benefits coming from electrolytes, antioxidants and B-vitamins. The company recently introduced Kids ROAR, a line of USDA Certified organic electrolyte beverages with Vitamin C for children, and Electrolyte Powder Sticks that consumers can mix with water. ROAR is rapidly expanding nationally and on track to be carried in 20,000 stores in 2020.
With a dedication to overall wellness on the rise, especially among younger people, ROAR Founder and CEO Roly Nesi saw a market need. “Boutique fitness studio concepts were popping up everywhere, but the beverage choices didn’t seem to be keeping up with these trends,” he says. “If you looked at the electrolyte beverage options that were available at the time, all of them were very masculine, aggressive in appearance and marketing, and centered around team sports. I wanted to create a beverage that was designed for the Millennial hustler, whether at the office or the fitness studio.”
An unknown brand when he started it, Nesi found it challenging to locate a distributor for ROAR. He chose to self-distribute – and not in the most typical fashion. He explains, “We towed our first product run in an open landscaping trailer across the George Washington Bridge and it almost fell into the Hudson. We warehoused the drinks in my mom’s shed and had to pay for new gravel every other week because the truck would destroy her driveway. We were working 14 to 16-hour days, taking home no income, and realizing how much less we knew about the business than we thought. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it any differently. You learn a lot that way and those were some of the best times of my life.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Nesi says, “There are no right answers. Find your path. Do your thing. Be happy. This has been my journey and I am hoping to reach others with a similar message.”