When Garden of Life looked at extending its protein and meal replacement lines with coffee and yerba mate flavors, the company was looking for partners that were the right fit both in terms of ingredient quality and service but also in terms of outlook, too.
Jeffrey Brams, a general counsel and vice president for Garden of Life, said the company found the right partners in Rohan Marley, son of the late singer Bob Marley and principal of his own fair trade coffee company, and yerba mate pioneering company Guayaki, which began bringing yerba mate to the North American market in 1996 and which achieved its fair trade certification in 2009.
Fair trade positioning
“We thought, coffee’s popular, morning protein’s popular and if you marry the two you’ve probably got a winner,” Brams told NutraIngredients-USA. “We could have just done a fair trade coffee and be done with it.
“But from the moment I sat down with Rohan I knew this was going to be a connection that was going to be great between our companies. As a person he’s just very dynamic,” he said.
Marley Coffee sources its beans from around the world, including Ethiopia, Central America and Jamaica. The company says it strives to support communities and the environment through organic, sustainable and ethical practices.
"I have been following Garden of Life for some time and have been so impressed by their approach that I have tried to model many parts of Marley Coffee's business after theirs,” Marley said.
In the case of Guayaki, the company says it grows its material in the shade, in the plant’s natural forest understory setting, rather than in a monoculture setting in a cleared plot. Doing so is more expensive, but yields a better product and maintains forest biodiversity, the company says.
The Raw Protein and Raw Meal lines are based primarily on sprouted rice protein. But it also includes a ‘cracked’ chlorella protein and other sprouted grains and seeds. The result is a high quality protein offering with some unique features, Brams said.
“These are innovative protein products. They have become the best selling protein products in the healthy food channel. They are vegan, but with a very rich, full amino acid profile that is very competitive with whey,” he said. “They are all organic; they are not heat-treated. It is a very clean and not denatured protein source.”
Playing on the sidelines of sports nutrition
The new flavors cement the brand’s morning positioning. And the yerba mate flavor in particular is formulated to provide healthy energy, with the addition of more vitamin B12 from a whole food source, and adds some caffeine (65 mg per serving) to boot (the coffee flavor has only 10 mg per serving). But does that add up to a sports nutrition positioning, too? Not so fast, said Brams.
“We didn’t create these products specifically to fit into the sports set,” Brams said. “Do athletes use these products? Yes. We get testimonials all the time. We also sponsor a number of athletes.
“But these products weren’t formulated with just that in mind. These products are made for a broad audience such as moms who are on the go. Or that triathlete who needs something after his ride," he said.
“But we do recognize and understand that many people are using these because they want muscle recovery. They want healthy maintenance and they want help in building muscle mass,” Brams said.
For the moment the new flavors are exclusive to Whole Foods, as was the case with a previous launch in the line, the Vanilla Chai flavor. It’s part of the special relationship Garden of Life, the best selling brand in the natural channel, has with Whole Foods, the largest natural channel outlet in the US. Whole Foods recognized this relationship in 2011 by naming Garden of Life its Vendor of the Year Award as the Best Non-Perishables Supplier.