This month saw the 38th annual Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural products convention, which this year welcomed 85,000 health enthusiasts and innovators. mindbodygreen was there to taste the latest and greatest in future foods, and, importantly, to host a discussion on a topic core to our mission: widening access to wellness, and in particular on this occasion, nutritious food.
Jason Wachob, mbg founder and CEO, moderated a panel of three industry leaders: PepsiCo North America Nutrition president Seth Kaufman, senior director of R&D Betty Tovar, and CEO of the food and beverage business incubator the Hatchery, Natalie Shmulik. With thousands of healthful new products lining the convention floors around them, the question of how we open access to nutritious foods had resonance.
"Every entrepreneur who is in this space is here because of mission and passion. For a lot of us, something happened; we had an epiphany; we saw there was a better way," said Jason, who along with his co-founder and wife Colleen Wachob, founded mbg after a back injury led him to yoga. The shared mission for mbg, the Hatchery, and PepsiCo is to bring wellness into the mainstream. "A lot of folks think PepsiCo, and they don't think nutrition," said Kaufman candidly, "but we have the ability to make positive nutrition feel good." Quaker Oats, a PepsiCo product, is 14 cents a serving." Said Kaufman, "If we have the ability to get these products everywhere, I think we can play a role in solving this access to really positive nutrition."
Last year, PepsiCo worked with mbg to find the Next Great Nutritionist, a leader dedicated to sharing their exuberance for food with folks around the globe—and together we found three! "Access to great nutrition is a challenge right now," said Kaufman. Good nutritionists, equipped with the megaphone of social media, help educate consumers, which then reinforces the desire for more transparency, accountability, and real nutrition from food corporations.
With an estimated 23.5 million Americans living in a food desert, companies aligned with mbg and PepsiCo have their work cut out for them, but the payoff of creating meaningful access to nutritious food is huge.
Here’s to a healthy future!