Enjoy the journey…It’s a long road to your final destination, and a far more pleasant one if you can enjoy the twists and turns along the way.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Bernell.
Kathryn Bernell is the founder of reBLEND, a line of frozen smoothie pops packed with fruits, veggies, and superfoods, with a bold mission to radically tackle food waste. Kathryn previously spent 14 years in the food industry and took this experience to create these high impact smoothie shortcuts. reBLEND is built on a sourcing platform to reHARVEST + rePURPOSE fruits and vegetables that are not to cosmetic standards and would otherwise go to waste.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
ReBLEND began while I was a time-strapped grad student struggling to find ways to fuel my body with the healthy foods I wanted to eat. I was sick of staring down processed snack bars or sugar-laden yogurt parfaits and knew I could find a better way to squeeze the good stuff into my day.
I’d spent 14 years in the food industry, and I decided to use this experience to create these pops in my own kitchen. My friends started asking for me to make them some, and that is how reBLEND was born!
I began self-manufacturing the product in a soup/sauce factory during their off-hours, hit the streets at local farmers markets + mom/pop shops, and used customer input at every step along the way to optimize our products.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
I have learned that you need to stay open minded, remain persistent, and above all, follow what you care most about. When I was in college, I was interning at McDonald’s in their marketing department, and really was searching for ways to better align my career with my values. I read Raising the Bar (written by Clif Bar’s founder, Gary Erickson) and immediately tried to get an internship at Clif Bar. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a role. However, I knew that I really wanted to work there and started networking with their leadership team, took several other jobs in-between to get more experience, and three years later was able to score my dream job.
My time at Clif Bar changed the way I think about business. The company showed me the power of having multiple bottom lines when you think about growth and success. I am glad that I followed my passion and persisted through the various steps it took to get there.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Right before COVID, I was planning to launch my company into foodservice outlets, exclusively. All my eggs were put into one basket. Needless to say, this proved to be a painful pivot when COVID arrived. I was forced to execute a rapid pivot for our entire business…and it was a bit painful. It did, however, open the doors to new online channels of growth, and highlighted the importance of diversification. I recently was advised to never allocate more than 20% of any part of your business to any vendor, supplier, or customer. You can rebound a 20% loss, but more than 20% can put you in a precarious position.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a brief story about that?
I was in my late 20’s when I met one of my most trusted friends and advisors, Karyn Mashima. Karyn pioneered leadership roles within tech throughout her career and is one of the wisest human beings I know. At the time, I was focused on what would be next for me and my career, and I really needed someone to help me think bigger about what could be achieved. Karyn encouraged me to go to grad school, was the fiercest advocate when I decided to start my own company, and became one of my very first investors in reBLEND when I only had a vision to stand on. My gratitude towards Karyn can only begin to be described. When I find myself in a bind, she’s one of the first people I call as I always know she has something thoughtful to share. Karyn saw my potential before I could really grasp it myself and continues to share her wisdom and support with me.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I created reBLEND with the mission to help people get necessary fruits, veggies, and superfoods into their diets in a super simple and efficient format. reBLEND’s pops incorporate unique ingredients that might otherwise be challenging to work into a daily routine — like camu camu, Goji berries, Moroccan rose water, rosehip powder, baobab, plus other fruits and veggies with countless health benefits. I wanted to alleviate people of the task of having to make their own smoothies.
These smoothie blends come in four SKUs: Your Daily Detox (detoxifying and enzyme-rich), Tropical Bliss Recover (immunity boosting and electrolyte-rich), Frosé All Day Chill (antioxidant and fiber-rich), and Very Berry Glow (antioxidant and beauty-boosting).
We are also tackling food waste via the reHARVEST + rePURPOSE platform. Through this initiative, we work with farmers to purchase and use fruits and vegetables that are not to cosmetic standards and would otherwise go to waste.
Each functional, RTD smoothie blend reharvests roughly 30 grams of fruits and vegetables, offsets over 4 grams of CO2 by shipping ambient, and saves up to 6.5 gallons of water from being wasted.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Sleep. Without it, I’m operating at a baseline 70% capacity. I force myself to shut down all work-related activities one hour before bed so that I can give my brain a bit of time to ‘cool down’ before trying to get to sleep. I also keep a notepad by my bed that I can write down any ‘action items’ that pop into my head so that I can take that off my mind.
- Move your Body. I start each day with a walk, bike ride, or workout. It can be only 10–15 minutes, but getting my body moving allows me to set the tone for my day ahead.
- Plan your snacks. I know that when things get going, I sometimes find myself just reaching for whatever is within arm’s reach. Planning my snacks has allowed me to build healthy snacking into my day and gives me the ability to think through the types of foods that will support me in doing what matters most.
- Gratitude Journal on your Phone: I have a note in my phone that I pop into when I’m anxious or stressed out. I input the date and then list 10 things that I’m really grateful for. Focusing my mind for a few minutes on the things that are going well helps me to shift my state of mind out of the loop I’m in.
- Carve out Time for your ‘Joys’: I have a list of my personal ‘joys’…the things that I know brighten my day and give meaning into my life. On Sundays, I assess the week ahead and build in time to have dinner with friends, hike my favorite trails, walk my dog to a nearby park, and prepare a delicious meal. When life gets busy, it is easy to lose sight of the things that actually replenish you most, so I try to keep an active eye for ways to build this into my week.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement centered around eating more fruits and vegetables. It’s quite simple, but if fruits and vegetables could be the mainstay of everyone’s diet, I know we would begin the impact on overall wellbeing. An emphasis on fruits and vegetables would also push out so many other types of foods that slow us down and generate internal inflammation.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Everything takes longer than you expect.
- Your superpower will come from how you manage rejection.
- Never put all of your eggs into one basket.
- Drink from the cup as you pour…e.g. Make sure to take care of yourself as you take care of your business. A business can’t grow without a well-fueled leader.
- Enjoy the journey…It’s a long road to your final destination, and a far more pleasant one if you can enjoy the twists and turns along the way.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
They are all so interconnected….if we turn to more fruits and vegetables, we can strengthen the link between our mind and gut. However, these efforts can only exist in a vacuum unless we take hold of the environmental threats in front of us. I worry that as food shortages near and resource depletion becomes a real and imminent problem, large populations and communities will lose access to some of the most powerful tools mother nature gave us to support our wellbeing: fruits, veggies, and planet earth.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!