Soup-to-Nuts Podcast

Soup-To-Nuts podcast: How doing good can also be good for business

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

In today’s highly competitive landscape, many food and beverage manufacturers try to set their brands apart by tapping into consumers’ desire for products that not only are better for them but also better for the planet or for society. 

This is demonstrated in the wide offering of better-for-you snacks that replace classic ingredients that are high-in fat, sugar or sodium with ones that are nutrient dense and lower in unwanted elements. Likewise, many companies offer a percentage of their profits to charities as evidence that they aren’t just about making money. Or they source only sustainably farmed ingredients or pay fair or direct trade prices to help otherwise disenfranchised suppliers earn a living wage.

And while many companies can check one or two of these boxes, natural food manufacturer Health Warrior has consistently checked all three by making nutrient dense, low-calorie, superfood-infused snack bars based on sustainably raised chia seeds and by quietly donating to various charities.

But with the launch of a new Kickstarter campaign​ earlier this week, the brand effectively dunks on its previous efforts and those of many competitors by offering to donate 100% of the proceeds of a new Mexican Chocolate Chia Bar to fund sustainable agriculture projects for the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico’s Copper Canyons, which have suffered devastating droughts recently. 

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, Shane Emmett, CEO of Health Warrior, talks about this campaign, and the macro trend of offering products that are better-for-you, better-for-a-society and better-for-the-planet that seems to be gripping so many startups in the food and beverage industry.

He explained that Health Warrior was founded with a grand vision that reflects the evolving values of consumers and these emerging desires to buy products that are healthy and helpful.

“Our vision was that better health will build a stronger society … [and] our job is to help the pendulum swing back to move away from over-consumption of nutrient weak foods and just make eating nutrient dense whole foods easier and the norm,”​ Emmett said. And, he optimistically added industry is headed in the right direction, in part by offering options that are healthier for consumers, the planet and different societies impacted by production and supply chain management.

For its part, Health Warrior is helping consumers lead healthier lives by offering snacks that Emmett says aren’t just better-for-you, but are actually good for you.

“Positive nutrition has been a big part of our innovation from the beginning and it is a big part of the brand,”​ Emmett explained. “Chia seeds are the No. 1 ingredient in our chia bars, of course, and one of our rules is that although we use superfoods we use them as the first ingredient … and I think that is really one indicator for moving from better for you to good for you.”

He went on to explain: “When I think of better-for-you I think of a lot of products that say hey we have less sugar, hey we are low fat, we all know how that trend has gone. Or even hey we are using fake sugars so there is no sugar in here but that is not positive nutrition. Our idea is saying we are putting chia seeds as the number one ingredient in these bars, and it has the highest plant based form or omega-3s protein and fiber, incredibly satiating and they make you feel better after you eat them.”

Choose sustainable crops

Chia is also good for the environment in that the seed is a sustainable crop, which Emmett suggest responsible manufacturers must consider, especially as they scale up production.

Chia “grows like a weed. So it is this really great crop that doesn’t require as much fertilizer, it doesn’t require insecticides and it actually has citronella in the leaves so it is really sturdy crop and I think that is an interesting angle to keep an eye on if you’re going to sell something and be selling millions of some product, maybe even more, than you want to make sure the supply chain is doing good for you for the soil as well. You don’t want something that takes all the nutrition out of the soil and can’t be farmed in a sustainable manner.”

Giving back in ways that help, not just that are easy

And finally, Health Warrior has a long history of quietly giving back to its community in ways that are needed, not just that are easy for the company.

For example, Health Warrior’s Kickstarter campaign that launched this week is designed to raise funds for the company’s Operation Farm and Run, which aims to refurbish Terahumara farms in the Copper Canyons of Mexico with basic supplies and the labor required to grow chia using traditional Tarahumar farming practices.

When the company learned of the droughts and difficulties facing Tarahumara farmers, Emmett said it wanted to apply some “entrepreneurial thinking to the challenges,”​ so it asked what the farmers needed and created the campaign to fill those requests, including restoring soil, paying for labor and creating seed banks.

The Kickstarter campaign’s goal is to raise $25,000, which could help restore several farms. To entice investors, Health Warrior is offering several prizes in exchange for different levels of support. A pledge of $5 will snag a donor two Health Warrior Mexican Chocolate Chia Bars and a note from Emmett, $20 or more will get a donor 15 bars and for $60 a donor would receive 30 bars, a bag of chia seeds and a running shirt. The prizes get bigger as the pledges do with a grand prize of a trip to the Copper Canyons for $7,500 or more.

Cautionary advice and encouragement

Reflecting on his experiences so far with weaving a culture of doing good into his business, Emmett offered other firms looking to do the same thing two pieces of advice and one caution.

First, he advised companies not to overcommit but rather to under promise and over deliver, just like in business. Second, he said the cause should be personal and related to the company’s mission in order to keep staff motivated and earn buy in from other supporters.

And finally, he cautioned companies to “have a little bit of devil’s advocacy”​ and do due diligence to ensure the causes that they support are worthy and will effectively use the donations. 

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