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

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How Otto's Tacos is Setting Its Business Apart

The Summer Fancy Food Show provides an opportunity for restaurants and industry operators to share new flavors, products, and ideas they hope will revolutionize the food industry. During this year’s signature Specialty Food Association (SFA) New York City event, host Paul Barron interviewed a number of emerging industry leaders on the live stage.

One of those interviews was with Otto Cedeno. Cedeno is the founder of popular fast casual Mexican chain Otto’s Tacos. The chain currently maintains four locations that can be found throughout New York City. Barron and Cedeno discussed entrepreneurship and the increasing popularity of fast casual chains.

Otto Cedeno came to New York City to attend college at New York University, and quickly found that something was missing: affordable Mexican food. In 2012, five years after graduating, he decided to create a southern California-inspired taqueria: Otto’s Tacos.

“Entrepreneurship is hot right now,” says Cedeno. “It’s easy to capitalize on great ideas.”

Maintaining a successful business model, however, can be quite difficult. New York City in particular is highly competitive and expensive. To combat this, Otto’s Tacos endeavors to keep things small. The chain only uses ingredients that are readily available and easy to access.

According to Cedano, a successful business excels in three key areas: service, hospitality, and consistent product. “If you focus on those three things,” says Cedano, “everything else can and should be forgivable.”

Third party delivery does add a wrinkle in achieving those three goals. Consumers are increasingly turning to delivery instead of making or going out to dinner, but ever-rising costs and food quality concerns are becoming significant issues for brands.

“‘Fees’ is definitely the buzzword when it comes to third parties,” Cedano affirms. “It’s such a fast-changing business with a lot of rotation. You have to keep your finger on the pulse—otherwise, you may miss a really important beat.”

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of Otto’s Tacos and its growing catering business!

VinePair on the Latest Wine and Beverage Trends

Hosted annually by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) in New York City, The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food and beverage event in North America. The New York City event showcases hundreds of future-focused restaurants, organizations, and innovators dedicated to crafting unique menus and products that meet the ever-changing needs of consumers today.

Host Paul Barron chatted with a number of trendsetters and up-and-comers in the industry this year. Adam Teeter is the CEO and co-founder of VinePair, a publication committed to providing cutting-edge wine, beer, and cocktail content that is both informative and entertaining. Teeter shares his thoughts on current beverage trends, as well as what he sees coming next for drinks.

The former director of business and audience development at Tablet Magazine, and a frequent speaker at a number of renowned food and beverage conferences throughout the United States, Teeter has always been passionate about making drinks accessible.

“We don’t have as much of a consumer base who only drinks one drink,” says Teeter. Millennials tend to be more experimental with eating and drinking when compared with older generations. “It’s fun for the industry, as it allows for lots of growth. It’s also really hard for the industry, because you now have the Budweisers of the world being like, ‘wait, these used to be really loyal consumers and now they’re not?’ It’s challenging, but there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Teeter notes that low- and non-alcoholic wines, cocktails, and beers represent a growing trend. Consumers are looking for drinks that taste as though they are drinking alcohol, but still fit into a weekday healthy lifestyle. Prosecco, rosé, and craft beer continue to be popular, and millennials and members of Generation Z love to try wines from unfamiliar countries and styles.

Wine is especially growing in popularity, as it is perceived—somewhat erroneously—as healthier than beer and cocktails, and helps consumers feel part of a larger culture.

“The idea of single serve is becoming really popular,” adds Teeter. “We are a demographic that unfortunately has commitment fears. We want to try before we buy.” And, according to Teeter, trying is often more important than buying. “We want to be experts, but to be an expert is just knowing a little more than someone else. You just want to say you’ve had it before—it doesn’t have to be the whole bottle.”

Check out the video above to hear Teeter’s thoughts on the possibilities for canned cocktails and purchasing alcohol online—or even one day ordering a glass of wine through UberEats!

Summer Fancy Food Show Highlights Plant-Based The Little Beet

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) annually hosts the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The largest specialty food and beverage event in North America, the Summer Fancy Food Show features a growing number of restaurants and organizations focused on providing innovative menus and products.

This year, host Paul Barron interviewed a number of leaders in the industry. Becky Mulligan, a former Starbucks executive and the new CEO of The Little Beet, offered her perspective on the growing consumer demand for plant-based products.

After spending sixteen years overseeing thousands of Starbucks units, Becky Mulligan switched gears in 2018 and joined The Little Beet team.

The fast casual veggie restaurant chain just seemed like a perfect fit. “It was perfect for my lifestyle,” says Mulligan. “I was drawn to the concept immediately.”

The Little Beet recently expanded its offerings to a full service gluten-free restaurant: The Little Beet Table. According to Mulligan, the two branches work in tandem: customers continue to go to The Little Beet for a quick, healthy breakfasts and lunches, and they go to The Little Beet Table for dinner, drinks, and special occasions.

“People are becoming more educated about what they consume,” notes Mulligan. “It’s helped us to have a broader platform to talk about why it’s good to have a plant-based diet.” While she emphasizes that plant-based foods should make up the bulk of your diet, balance rather than guilt is ultimately the goal. “We want consumers to have accessible food that is good for you—and that you want to eat.”

All food at both The Little Beet and The Little Beet Table is made fresh everyday. All vegetables and ingredients are prepared from scratch, and the company avoids added sugars and non-blended oils. These prerequisites can be challenging for staff in terms of ensuring everyone is served in a timely fashion, but rewarding for the brand and customers alike.

The Little Beet currently consists of ten units, and there are four The Little Beet Table locations. Mulligan says the company hopes to double those numbers by next year. The chain is also developing a beverage platform.

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of The Little Beet and the company’s plant-based mission.

SFA Live: Making Good Food Available for Everybody

The Summer Fancy Food Show offers a chance for innovators to share new flavors and products they hope will revolutionize the food industry. Host Paul Barron welcomed a number of leaders in the industry to the live stage this year during the signature Specialty Food Association (SFA) New York City event.

Two noteworthy interviews were with Dino Borri, the vice president of Global Partnerships for Italian marketplace and restaurant Eataly, and SFA President Phil Kafarakis. Barron chatted with Borri and Kafarakis about developing key partnerships and the ever-growing consumer demand for specialty products.

Dino Borri, Eataly VP of Global Partnerships

Born in a small town in Piedmont, Italy, Dino Borri has lived and traveled worldwide promoting high quality food and the Italian lifestyle.

Borri first joined the food industry in 2000 to work for Slow Food, an organization that branded itself as an Italian response to the growing popularization of fast food. The grassroots organization swiftly went global, campaigning to protect dying or forgotten local food cultures and traditions. Eight years later, Borri brought that knowledge to Eataly and began launching new branches of the combination store and restaurant in Japan and in multiple locations throughout the continental United States.

“We’re a window for small producers,” says Borri. “I’m happy when I see one of our original products in other chains and retailers. One of our goals is to expose the producer to other retailers — we’re not jailers about that. There’s so much good food in the world, and good food should be for everybody.”

Founder Oscar Farinetti designed Eataly to have the same products used by the restaurant available for purchase in its adjacent marketplace. At present, forty stores have been established worldwide — and according to Borri, another Eataly location in Texas is in the works.

Check out the video above to learn more about Eataly’s mission and Borri’s thoughts on the growing popularity of artisanal and specialty products.

Phil Kafarakis, SFA President

Phil Kafarakis handles the day-to-day operations of the SFA, overseeing the management of more than 3,400 member companies within the $120 billion specialty food industry. The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food show in North America, with over 200,000 specialty foods featured. Hundreds of food companies were in attendance this year from states including New York, California, New Jersey, and Florida, and over fifty countries were represented. Germany was this year’s partner country.

“Our mission is to bring the community together to learn, network, and connect,” says Kafarakis. “When you leave here, we want you to feel like you did some business. There’s an outcome — not just information.”

Looking ahead, Kafarakis shares that the organization has seen “explosive growth” in the beverage industry. “Beverage is going to be a bigger part of what we do.” Specialty foods as a whole represent the fastest growing segment in the food business, growing at a rate nine times faster than traditional foods. In addition to expanding its membership policy, Kafarakis shares that the organization is eyeing international possibilities.

“You can’t do everything all at once,” he notes. “But the infrastructure has been built. We’re going to take some steps to see how the brand fits into the interests of our members.”

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of SFA and current specialty food trends!