Health Mix: Advocating for Wellness and Sustainability in an Efficiency-Focused Industry

While all-natural and less processed products are becoming more accessible in the industry, foods are often misguidedly advertised as “healthy” via confusing label terms without fully revealing their true benefits—or potential harms.

In this episode of Health Mix, host and brand consultant Yareli Quintana sits down with Kate Geagan, an award-winning dietician, author, and nutrition pioneer. Raised in an environment filled with highly processed meals, Geagan first felt the “world of food open up to her” when she traveled to Italy after graduation and attended a cooking school.

“I became interested in the intersection of food, cooking, and health, and also the science of nutrition,” says Geagan. “It led me to this path of wellness: what is the science of nutrition and health and wellness? And how can food be that entry place to spark joy in people and connect them to all that’s so positive when they eat well?”

For Geagan, conscience-based and value-based eating is key. Current food systems are largely designed around efficiency, growth, and affordability rather than sustainability.

“We know from the data that most people are eating far less [beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds] than they should be, even just to meet basic governmental guidelines,” says Geagan, “but especially when it comes to cultivating optimal health for themselves and pursuing a sustainable diet.”

Geagan argues that advocating for policy change is not enough, as policy is inherently a slow process that cannot quickly meet the needs of current science recommendations and an evolving market. Change has to start with grocery stores, restaurants, brands, and consumers themselves.

And some marketers are not helping that process. The front label on a product “has a lot more room for marketing claims, and that’s where consumer confusion can abound,” adds Geagan. “Marketers are very savvy. Some are doing beautiful, honest, transparent work to communicate important brand values—others are trying to cozy up. The devil’s in the details.”

And what should consumers do when they are confused? While consumers can always contact brands directly for information, they can also take comfort in the fact that the foods they buy at the grocery store that do not come with a food label are generally “the healthiest foods in the store.”

Check out the podcast above to learn more about what Geagan would prefer in a food label, defining a sustainable diet, and how companies can work toward a more sustainable future.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer


Health Mix: A Superior Sugar Alternative in Just Date Syrup

The term “healthy” is often applied haphazardly when it comes to food. While so-called healthy ingredients are increasingly becoming the norm in the food and beverage industry, it can be hard for consumers to determine what is truly fresh, quality food that nourishes the body.

In this episode of Health Mix, host and brand consultant Yareli Quintana chats with Sylvie Charles, M.D., the founder and CEO of Just Date Syrup. Just Date Syrup is a nutritional, natural sugar alternative extracted from organic California Medjool dates. Featuring a low glycemic index, these dates are filled with antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, and a number of other vitamins and minerals.

“After doing some exploration, I realized that date syrup has been around for thousands of years,” says Charles. Growing up in a “food-centric” Indian household, dates were absolutely essential as a sweetener for meals. The ingredient, however, “just hadn’t made its way into American pantries.”

Just Date Syrup ultimately aims to help consumers be more conscious of and care about the food they put into their bodies every day. Using alternatives like date syrup and cutting back on sugar in general can help prevent a number of diet-related illnesses, including diabetes.

However, Charles is quick to remind consumers that regardless of its nutritional density, date syrup—like all other sugar alternatives—is still a sugar. “You should in no way be consuming an excessive amount.” For decades, notes Charles, “companies were actually funding scientists to hide research that sugar was behind a lot of our diet-related illness, and not fat.”

Check out the podcast above to learn more about the benefits of date syrup, the importance of nutritional education, and some great recipe possibilities with this unique ingredient.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer


Health Mix: Bringing Jackfruit to the Global Market

The term “plant-based” is associated with healthy, nutritionally-dense food. And as the plant-based movement has expanded and become a billion dollar industry, more and more companies are debuting their own plant-based foods to join the trend. However, many of these plant-based products are as highly processed as their predecessors, and similarly lacking in genuine nutritional value.

In this episode of Health Mix, host and brand consultant Yareli Quintana sits down with Annie Ryu, the founder and CEO of The Jackfruit Company. Native to India, jackfruit is considered the “meatiest” plant on the planet. It is drought-resistant, naturally organic, a high source of fiber, low in calories, contains no saturated fat and cholesterol, and filled with vitamins and minerals.

“We’re partnered with over 1,000 farming families and buying all of the jackfruit that they want to sell,” notes Ryu. Jackfruit is available in excess supply throughout India, and a single jackfruit can weigh up to 100 pounds. “We’re estimated to be contributing 10 to 40 percent of the annual income of all the farming families we’re working with. It’s a transformative additional income for them.”

In the recent past, jackfruit was not readily available in the United States or worldwide markets. Jackfruit is not well-researched and has a short shelf life once harvested, so distributors tended to assume it would be impossible to work with the genetic diversity of the plant and establish a supply chain. The Jackfruit Company is working to change that.

“We’re dying earlier now in the United States than we used to be,” says Ryu. Part of her mission for The Jackfruit Company is to educate people worldwide on changing their day-to-day habits to better their lives as a whole. “What are we doing to our bodies every single day? What are you doing across the entire span of your life to put yourself in the best position to live a long life?”

“We’re supposed to be eating more plants, more fruits and vegetables,” adds Ryu. “And we need to be eating less of highly processed foods.”

The Jackfruit Company’s products are now available in over 8,000 stores across the United States. Check out the podcast above to learn more about jackfruit, organic certification concerns, and the future of the company.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Olivia Aleguas


Health Mix: Reimagining Plant-Based Foods and the Rise of Kombucha

Thanks to ever-increasing consumer demand, foods with healthy, cleaner, and less processed ingredients are becoming more and more accessible throughout the industry. Hosted by brand consultant Yareli Quintana, the Health Mix podcast is committed to exploring all things “healthy” and unpacking what the term truly means in relation to emerging brands, foods, and lifestyles.

In the podcast’s opening two episodes, Quintana chats with Tyler Lorenzen, the CEO and president of plant-based food producer Puris, and Melanie Wade, the founder of kombucha and fermentation company Cultured South.

First founded in the 1980s by Lorenzen’s father, Puris supplies other brands that sell plant-based products in stores with nourishing, high quality pea protein. The company also helps participating brands with crafting product recipes.

Lorenzen describes Puris as part of the “intel” behind the plant-based movement.

“At the heart, we’re a seed company,” says Lorenzen. For him, the concept of the company has always been “that if we’d design better seeds, people will grow more organic and non-GMO crops. And if they could grow them, we’ll buy what they grow back and then make them into great tasting food. And that great tasting food will feed people the nutrition they need.”

The ultimate goal for Puris is to rework the system from feeding plants to animals and feeding animals to humans to simply having people eat healthy and delicious plants that fully meet the nutritional needs of humans.

As a former athlete, Lorenzen is particularly excited by the growing movement in athletics and sports nutrition toward plant-based products. “Athletes are choosing plant-based for performance reasons,” says Lorenzen, adding, “Can you sustain human life and have a highly nutritious life by plant based proteins? The answer is unequivocally yes.”

Listen to the podcast above to learn more about the history of Puris, the company’s current goals, and the future of the plant-based industry.

Cultured South is the offshoot creation of Wade’s original kombucha company—Golda Kombucha, the first and only kombucha company in Atlanta. The concept was inspired by Wade’s Grandma Golda, an avid kombucha maker and drinker. Golda Kombucha products are currently featured in over 100 Kroger and Whole Foods markets.

Cultured South is essentially a marketplace for local healthy southern food. The marketplace is also adjacent to a 1,200 square foot tap room that offers twelve different types of kombucha on tap, a vegan cheese tray, local crackers, pickles, and jam, and local vegan and dairy gelato.

“I wanted to create a space where people in Atlanta could come together over a love of kombucha and fermented things,” says Wade. The goal was “to experience and educate and not necessarily have to have alcohol in play to coordinate and connect with one another.”

Kombucha enthusiasts highlight the drink’s benefits for your gut and gastrointestinal tract. The drink is nutrient-dense and filled with probiotics. For Wade, the drink is the perfect alternative to the sugary and syrupy sodas currently available in today’s market.

Sustainability is a key element of the company’s mission. Cultured South recently switched from glass to cans, as Atlanta does not recycle glass.

“It’s really changed our business for the better,” notes Wade. “We can produce a lot more. It’s the most sustainable way that we’ve ever made kombucha because our product is 100 percent recyclable.”

Check out the podcast above to learn more about the benefits of drinking kombucha, the numerous flavors Golda Kombucha and Cultured South offers, and about water kefir—the probiotic beverage Wade terms the “mellow cousin” to kombucha.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer


Gender Relations & Leadership: Outlook of the Future of the Food & Bev Industry

On this podcast recorded at in Seattle, our host Yareli Quintana speaks with three leaders in the foodservice and beverage industry who also happen to be women. The conversation begins by each identifying some of the changes they’ve seen happen in their respected industries throughout the years.

First, you’ll hear from Zoi Antonitsas, executive chef of Little Fish, Seattle’s first modern-day craft cannery and restaurant which will be found in the heart of Pike Place Market once it opens. Chef Antonitsas has over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry and says she’s been fortunate to have worked with incredible men and women up and down the West Coast.

“I’ve never really felt like I’ve ever been discriminated against as far as being a woman, with the exception of a few, I would say, financial question marks…,” says Antonitsas. “There have definitely been a couple of times where I’ve had to fight to get financial compensation for my work, where I know for a fact that some male counterparts have received more money without having to ask.”

Then, you’ll hear from Brenda Lobbato, the Northwest Region Vice President at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. She got into the beverage industry 30 years ago and has been in her current role since 2016, where she manages 26 percent of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ revenue totaling to $698M. Lobbato shares with the speakers that she’s recently seeing a lot more women getting into the beverage industry, which, for a long time, has been a “good ol’ boys network.” She’s proud to share that she’s helping spearhead a women’s group within Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

“We have this thing we call Women of  Wine... we call ourselves WOW and so we started this WOW organization from the standpoint of having concerns that affect all employees, but that women are bringing forward,” says Lobbato. “So, if that’s a mentoring program or that’s a skills program, like public speaking or financial acumen, whatever that is… it’s making those topics and resources safe to talk about.”

Throughout the podcast, you’ll also hear from Roz Edison, co-founder of Marination Ma Kai, a food truck turned into brick-and-mortar locations serving up Hawaiian-Korean fusion cuisine across Seattle. Ten years ago, Marination Ma Kai’s food truck was “the first on 10 rolling in the streets of Seattle.” That number has grown tremendously since then and now Edison and her business partner are also established entrepreneurs in the fast casual space.

“Sadly, though, I just came from a 3-day conference from my industry. It’s called the Fast Casual Executive Summit, so about 150 to 300 C-level folks from chains that range from 50 to 800 units. Almost every single panel had 100 percent white, male panelists…,” says Edison. “...I had really hoped I would run into a female CEO or a female director of operations. That, I’m not seeing in the fast-casual side of it.”

The four speakers later dive into topics like employee relations, mentorship, and hopes for the future of the industry as it pertains to women. Stay tuned to hear which direction this interesting conversation took and how each panelist feels about each topic discussed!