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The best tradeshow ever, EXPO West (a natural and organic products show held annually in Anaheim, CA) began yesterday morning with a press breakfast to introduce us to some of the new products and companies at the show this year. Hosting the breakfast was Lyfe Kitchen, which not only served us a delicious meal, but also gave us food for thought about the American food system. Lyfe has the modest goal of becoming a worldwide food brand that changes the way consumers perceive and consume food. In the words of Lyfe’s Founder and Co-CEO, Steve Sidwell, his company is the United Nations of food, offering gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
The breakfast panel was moderated by Carlotta Mast from New Hope Media who reminded us that as press, we have the influence to move the needle on health & wellness. Carlotta’s research indicates that consumers are experiencing claim-burnout: the more claims a product makes, the more overwhelming it is for consumers. That said, transparency is a constant force moving us toward healthy eating.
Alan Green is a pediatric physician whose website millions of people rely on for pediatric health information. Dr. Greene believes that the average American’s lifestyle is killing us – what and how we eat and how (little) we move. When he began his medical practice, Dr. Greene didn’t see kids with high blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugars. Today 2/3 of American kids ages 8-12 have middle-aged health conditions. It is increasingly important to get kids eating healthy food early on, especially as kids are designed not to trust fruits and veggies unless something triggers their enjoyment of such foods. Dr. Greene believes that brands can be really important in the development of healthy lifestyle habits, as kids learn to trust brands (music to my ears, of course!). Dr. Greene believes that we need to remove doubt about benefits of healthy eating & encourages brands to have focused simple messages and using social media, which has proven powerful in shifting behaviors. By way of example, Dr. Greene shared the story of a 15 year old who learned that one of the ingredients in Gatorade was a flame retardant, and in response started an online petition that garnered over 200,000 signatures, resulting in Pepsi’s removal of the ingredient from the Gatorade product. Dr. Greene has found that the easiest way to gets kids to like fruits and veggies is to involve them in growing and cooking food.
Janet Evans is a brand ambassador for Lyfe Kitchen and an Olympic gold medalist who is now a mom. As a parent you listen to Dr. Green and know the concerns, so the issue becomes how do you do it? How do parents juggle everything and keep their kids healthy, especially when the kids don’t like the taste or look of healthy food? Janet also expressed the importance of relying on brands to identify the healthy foods without having to spend lots of time researching the products health claims. (Can you see why I loved this panel?!)
Lyfe Kitchen has 2 restaurants in California, one in Palo Alto and the other in Culver City and his business is rapidly expanding across the country. In Steve’s world, it’s all about the taste. His company’s goal is to make good tasting, healthy food easily accessible and affordable. If we make it easy to do the right thing, people will do so as long as healthy food tastes great and is affordable. Lyfe Kitchen’s partnership with its suppliers — farmers and others — enables affordability, as does getting to scale. The big challenge for Lyfe Kitchen is to deliver healthy food at an affordable price while still remaining profitable.
The number one myth preventing most folks from eating well is that healthy food tastes like crap, although in my experience, that’s not just a myth . . . even at Expo, lots of healthy food tastes pretty awful. However, since food fuels our lives, it is the number one thing that can drive goodness. Lyfe’s restaurants have lines out the door every day and they are hoping that their new packaged food brand will be just as successful. In Steve’s words, “it just takes one meal for people to realize healthy food can taste so good.” Lyfe kitchen has long Ingredient lists, but long lists are not inherently bad if the ingredients are healthful.
In next 5 years Lyfe kitchen hopes to be a catalyst for significant change and become a global brand hope that’s found in hospitals and grocery stores, making it easy to do the right thing. Lyfe is in the process of becoming non-GMO certified, which causes them to have to source some ingredients globally in order to avoid GMOs, though I was stoked to hear that Lyfe sources its rice from my friends at Lotus Foods. Lyfe Kitchen also is working to teach kids how to cook, which like Dr. Greene, they’ve found to be a great way to foster healthy eating habits.
Eating healthy is not only good for our bodies, but it’s also better for our planet as well. With brands like Lyfe Kitchen making healthy food yummy and affordable, there may just be hope for us yet. So, thanks New Hope for bringing Lyfe into my life.