Brad's Raw Foods Founder Shares How His Kale Chips Landed on 7,000 Store Shelves
Brad Gruno lost a lot of money and confidence before he grew Brad's Raw Foods into a business with products available in 7,000 stores.
Before he began eating or selling kale chips and other vegetable-based snacks, Gruno was a victim of the telecoms crash of 2001. He escaped the ensuing depression and weight gain by taking on a diet of only fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.
His homemade kale chips were the talk of farmers markets in Bucks County, PA by 2009. Four years later, his gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) products are available at Whole Foods and other retailers. Last month, he closed a deal with Kroger to land his products in 1,100 locations.
While preparing for the Dec. 31 release of his book, Brad’s Raw Made Easy, Gruno chatted with EcoWatch about his transition from telecommunications to organic foods and his 120-employee company's process from the farm to the chip bag.
What were you doing before you became known for having products in thousands of stores? How did you make that transition?
The whole telecom industry kind of collapsed, mainly because of a glut of fiber and all the investors pulled out. I had a construction company doing about $30 million a year, and I ended up losing everything I had. A lot of people stopped paying me, and it was kind of like a trickle-down effect. I kind of said, 'What am I going to do now?' Here I am in my mid- to late-40s ... Here I was, 40 pounds heavier. I was depressed because I just lost my company. What am I going to do to get out of this rut? My aunt introduced me to raw foods. I watched this video called Eating. It was two doctors and they were talking about Americans and where they were going with processed foods and obesity rate ... Something clicked right then and there. I said, 'You know what? I can sit here being depressed or at least one thing I can do is start putting good food in my body and start exercising.' It made me feel better. I lost 40 pounds by going on a raw foods diet. Mentally, I started to feel better and I wasn't depressed even though I lost everything.
Once I started to feel better, I would make these chips out of vegetables. I would just make them for myself, never thought about making a business out of it ... Somebody said to me, 'Hey, you've got a great product here.' And that somebody showed me an article where the CEO of Whole Foods [John Mackey] said that he wished he didn't have the chip aisle because it's the most unhealthy aisle he has in the store ... I started to go to farmers markets because everybody said, 'Brad, that's a great idea.' So, I set up at my little Ottsville Farmers Market, and everybody just fell in love with them. They were really encouraging me and it kept me going, so I started doing two farmers markets. Then, I started doing four farmers markets a week. I went to an organic farm and turned a one-car garage into my little chip factory. I went to a couple little local health food stores. There's one called Kimberton Whole Foods. They had a chain of about eight stores. [The ownership] put me in there, and they just started selling. It was $8 a bag and I was just selling so much of them. Then it was, 'You ought to go to Whole Foods.' I'm like, 'Well, I don't even know how to get in there or how that works. This is not my world.'
I just went and knocked on the door of Whole Foods in Philadelphia. I met a guy there and said, 'These are my chips' and explained it to him. He's like , 'Wow, this is unbelievable.' It took me six months to do all the paperwork to get approved. I got into one store there in Philly. Then, I got into Princeton [New Jersey] Whole Foods. I started to demo in the stores and that's when I gave up the farmers markets. I ended up selling 14,000 a month per store in Princeton. It didn't take rocket science to figure out [the potential]. Whole Foods, at that point, because I didn't have any money, lent me money to build a bigger place and buy some equipment. They help out a lot of small entrepreneurs. Seriously. Nobody else does that. They have a loan program to help out smaller entrepreneurs come out with new, innovated, good, healthy food. Next thing you know, we got it ... I said, 'Will you let me grow, store by store,' and they said absolutely. I started going to store to store [in the Mid-Atlantic region]. That just kind of blew up. Then, 'Can you go into another region?' New York, Boston, Florida, Chicago. Next thing you know, I'm nationwide.
Where do you get your kale?
It's grown all over the U.S., in cool climates, on the eastern side of the U.S., from Florida, all the way up to Maine. We have great farming right here, near New Jersey, in Bucks County, PA where I am. It's great, but we can only grow kale here six or seven months a year. It either gets too hot in the middle of the summer or too cold in the dead of winter. So, we go to Florida. There are farmers who have organic farms. I have gone down, like in North Carolina, I personally met every one of these farmers. I guaranteed them because they were a little scared. I said, 'If you grow 50 acres, I guarantee I'll buy every leaf.'
Right now, we buy 65,000 pounds of kale a week that we process ... We get tractor-trailer loads of kale every other day. The majority of it comes from probably 15 good, decent-sized, organic farmers.
Can you describe the process from the time when you get the kale to when we see it on store shelves?
We get the kale and it comes in the big leaves, kind of looks like a sponge, in a way, almost. The first thing we do to it is wash it. Then we de-stem it. We actually compost the stems back into the soil. Once we have the clean kale, I make it no differently than I made it when I was making it for myself. I would take a blender and I would take cashews, sunflower seeds, red bell peppers, scallions, sea salt ... imagine putting that into a blender and it would make a batter, almost like a pancake batter. I would rub that into the kale by hand. I have 25 people and that's all they do all day. It's not a machine that does it. Then we set it on a tray and we dehydrate it. People say, 'why is it so much money?' When you look at that little container, it might be eight times the amount of that when you start. When you dehydrate something, it's 80 percent water. It dries for 15 hours below 115 degrees. You're not cooking it, you're not baking it, you're not frying it. All you're doing is drying it and you're taking the moisture out of the air. Now, it's so light. All this kale is condensed in this container. That's what maintains the enzymes when you dry something below 115 degrees. You're not killing all the good nutrients and enzymes within those vegetables.
When I first started, I started to compost all these stems. I'd throw them into the soil because I worked on this organic farm. We would grind them up, put it back in the soil and compost and use it again. That was 30 percent of my weight, but they're just as healthy as these kale leaves. As I started to grow, now I've got truck loads of stems that are being hauled up the road to farmers, to pig farmers. I had so many, I couldn't give them away. I said, 'We've got to make a product out of this.' What we did was we came up with a pet food that is 50 percent kale-based. I took my dehydration process, grind up the stems and I mix other vegetables in it. It's human-grade dog food. People today are looking for something healthy to eat for their dogs? I'm going to give you something that's kale that humans can eat. I did a show in Las Vegas and PetSmart came to me and said, 'Whoa, Brad. We want to do an exclusive with you. Can you just sell to us for six months? In return, we'll put you in 1,200 stores across the U.S. and Canada.' We just shipped our first couple tractor trailers of pet food to PetSmart. We're the only dehydrated pet snack in PetSmart. We're really kind of changing some stuff ... That's talking about being sustainable, by taking everything in your plant and utilizing it.
What is the most important tip you can give to somebody who wants to take their product from the farmers-market level to the national scale as you've done?
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Go to Whole Foods. Don't be afraid to go in there. Talk to the guy that has had success ... Don't give up. I was discouraged many times. One day, you didn't sell anything and it's like, 'Oh my gosh!' Don't get discouraged. You've got to keep plugging away. As long as you believe it's good and it's good for the environment and it's healthy and good for people, if you really know that, keep plugging away.
As the days tick down to next month's presidential election, debate rages over the U.S. government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic with critics of President Donald Trump calling for his ouster due to his failure to protect the American public.
- Trump's Latest EPA Rollback Lets Polluters Spew More Lead ... ›
- Trump EPA Won't Regulate Toxic Drinking Water Chemical That ... ›
- States Sue Trump EPA for Suspending Environmental Regulations ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Air Pollution Shortens Life Span by Three Years, Researchers Say ... ›
- Air Pollution Linked to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Damage in ... ›
- Plastic Packaging Use Increases During the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›
- Biodegradable, Carbon-Negative Straws and Cutlery Could Help ... ›
Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Plain Naturals offers a 5000mg CBD oil tincture in 30ml bottle for $99.99.<p>Consumers have gotten used to paying high prices for low amounts of cannabidiol. Plain Naturals is beginning to change that. There are myriad <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> showing that low doses of CBD (less than 50mg per day) are ineffective for many users. And many clinical <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> have shown effective dosages of 100 - 800mg per day to be effective for many conditions ranging from <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">anxiety and depression to Parkinson's disease and cancer</a>. And several <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> published by the National Institutes of Health have shown up to 1500mg per day to be consistently "well-tolerated" by adults. </p><p>Now it is always recommended to begin with a lower dosage and increase until an effective dose has been reached. But the advantage of starting with a higher potency CBD oil is that it is much easier to use less to start with and increase over time than to buy very low dose CBD oil and ultimately end up buying more and more stronger products. To start at 50mg per dose of a 5000mg oil, you would simply use ⅓ dropper or about 10-12 drops.</p>
The Truth About CBD Product Potency<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDc2NTg1N30.OAm3iOTO_pKZLXi7KdJ7n0DGOFMdOmIYuG4ArGooFC4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d657c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee016a81b29caa699b9185b64ce345d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
CBD gummies from Plain Naturals are 100% vegan and sugar free.<p>Unlike most CBD brands which can be much smoke and mirrors when it comes to stating their product quality, potency and consistency, PlainNaturals.com has <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/product-information" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">lab tests</a> conducted by FDA/DEA approved laboratories and publishes their product lab test <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/product-information" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener">reports</a> right on their website so customers know the quality of the product they are buying. </p><p>In a recent <a href="https://crnusa.org/sites/default/files/RAC%2520attachments/CBD/CBD%2520RTC%2520Final.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">report</a> published by the Food and Drug Administration, FDA tested 147 cbd oils and cbd products. They found that of the 102 products that indicated a specific amount of CBD, 18 products (18%) contained less than 80% of the amount of CBD indicated; 46 products (45%) contained within 20% of the amount of CBD indicated; 38 products (37%) contained more than 120% of the amount of CBD indicated and of those 147 products, the FDA also found nearly half contained levels of THC above the limit of 3.1 mg per serving (or .3%). </p><p>So there's a 70% chance that a CBD consumer is not getting what they pay for and a 50% chance that the product they are buying may not be legal.</p><p>When you buy CBD oil online from <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener">PlainNaturals.com</a>, you also get an unconditional money back guarantee and the manufacturer's warranty of the product quality and potency.</p>
CBD and Hemp Creams offer high-benefit, low-cost options to consumers.<p>Plain Naturals has taken the uncertainty out of the online CBD store process. By offering detailed laboratory reports on all their products and offering a money back guarantee, PlainNaturals.com online CBD store puts control back in the hands of the consumer when it comes to making their decision about where to buy CBD online.</p><p>In all 50 states and at the federal level it is 100% legal to <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-oils" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener">buy CBD oil online</a> from an online CBD store provided that the product meets the standards set forth in federal regulations, containing not more than 0.3% THC and manufactured from industrial hemp.</p><p><a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">PlainNaturals.com</a> offers CBD (Cannabidiol) products like <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-oils" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD Oils</a>, <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-gummies--edibles" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD gummies and edibles</a>, <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-isolate-powder" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD isolate powder</a>, wholesale CBD, <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd--hemp-creams--lotions" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD and hemp cream</a> and <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/essential-oils--aromatherapy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">essential oils</a>. <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">PlainNaturals.com</a> continues to be a top supplier of wholesale CBD products to retailers and has also opened a retailer online portal for stores and CBD dealers to buy CBD in bulk.</p><p>EcoWatch readers can take advantage of a special offer from <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">PlainNaturals.com</a> and save an additional 25% off any purchase of $99 or more through 10/31/20 with coupon code <strong>ecowatch25</strong>.</p>
By Matthew J. Landry and Heather Eicher-Miller
When university presidents were surveyed in spring of 2020 about what they felt were the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, college students going hungry didn't rank very high.
Why It Matters<p>This is not just a matter of growling stomachs. This is a straight-up education and health issue.</p><p>When students don't really know if they'll be able to get enough to eat, it can lead to a series of problems that make it harder to stay in school. For instance, it can affect <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359105318783028" target="_blank">academic performance</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sleep quality</a>. It can also lead to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318783028" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poor mental and physical health</a> outcomes for college students.</p><p>Food insecurity can also result in disrupted eating patterns if there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627945/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not enough food or the variety</a> or <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quality of what someone eats</a> is low.</p>
Campus Food Pantries<p>Previous strategies by <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696254.pdf" target="_blank">colleges and universities</a> to fight hunger in their student bodies have varied widely. They include campus food pantries, emergency cash assistance and nutrition education through noncredit classes or workshopse.</p><p>These strategies were put to the test during the spring 2020 semester, when nearly <a href="https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hopecenter_RealCollegeDuringthePandemic.pdf" target="_blank">three in five students</a> said they had trouble meeting their own basic needs during the pandemic.</p><p>College food pantries saw <a href="https://www.utrgv.edu/newsroom/2020/05/01-utrgv-student-food-pantry-seeing-recent-increase-in-demand-during-covid-19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big increases</a> in demand. Others said they <a href="https://www.theprospectordaily.com/2020/09/22/uteps-food-pantry-is-running-out-of-food/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were getting less donated food</a>. This made it even harder to meet the rising food needs of students.</p><p>Campus food pantries largely rely on local or regional food banks, which have been dealing with <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/04/indiana-food-banks-call-more-food-stamps-meet-publics-need/3523683001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">greater demand</a> than they are able to meet during the pandemic.</p><p>The many students who are attending college remotely will, of course, have less access to campus resources like food pantries.</p>
Federal Help<p>Other potential ways to get more food are government programs like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility" target="_blank">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, known as SNAP. Yet the majority of able-bodied students are not eligible. Long-standing restrictions, like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students" target="_blank">college SNAP rule</a>, prevent full-time students from receiving these benefits.</p><p>Such regulatory hurdles were created under the assumption that most students can rely on their parents to get enough to eat. However, college students have vastly different levels of financial support. Some students can rely on their parents for everything and others cannot rely on their parents for anything.</p><p>Decreased reliance on parental financial support is <a href="https://ir.library.louisville.edu/jsfa/vol47/iss3/5/" target="_blank">especially common</a> for first-generation students and students of color, who now make up <a href="https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">45% of enrolled college students</a>.</p><p>Under normal circumstances, many college students might rely on part-time jobs to pay for their food.</p>
Short-Term Solutions<p>Universities and colleges can make it a priority to ensure students are aware of all available campus resources and services. They can also potentially help students apply for federal assistance benefits.</p><p>Campus food pantries are not a fully effective and efficacious solution for the scale of college food insecurity, but they can be a good interim solution to increase access to food for students.</p><p>Campuses without food pantries can start one, making use of resources the <a href="https://cufba.org/resources/" target="_blank">College and University Food Bank Alliance</a> provides. Schools with food pantries can try to get them to <a href="https://www.swipehunger.org/5campuspantry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reach more students</a>.</p><p>Universities and colleges can also lean on one another for support. The <a href="http://wp.auburn.edu/endchildhungeral/alabama-campus-coalition-for-basic-needs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs</a> is a great example of this. It brings together 10 universities across the state of Alabama collectively working to address student food insecurity.</p>
- 23 Organizations Eliminating Food Waste During COVID-19 ... ›
- 12 Universities Leading the Charge in Serving Locally-Sourced Food ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Cases Pass 6 Million, 180,000 Deaths as Schools ... ›
Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up a mysterious oil spill that has spread to 11 miles of Delaware coastline.
- Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills up to 50,000 Gallons of Oil on ... ›
- Citgo Must Pay $143M for a Delaware River Oil Spill, Supreme ... ›