Persistence and patience; I call it “P-Squared.” You have to be patient to get an order; it might take 6 months or a year. You have to be persistent to keep in front of them. Don’t worry, sales will come. We grow from within, our sales department is filled with people who started as everything from pro volleyball players to babysitters, admins and receptionists. We have a guy who started in the freight room who now heads up logistics. Learning how to be a CEO is a baptism by fire kind of thing. Be patient with yourself. We are all always learning. Actions should follow values. We are in the health business, so we make sure our staff is thriving by providing a kitchen, filled with nutritious food and a personal trainer for everyone.
I had the pleasure to interview David Janow, the CEO of Growing Naturals. David — is a JD/MBA/Biology major from Wall Street, who created a new non-petroleum method using natural enzymes to fraction protein from rice. His Oryzatein organic brown rice protein is now the largest supplier of plant proteins in the U.S. and Growing Naturals is the only product available on the market that is a pure plant protein powder (without other vitamins, fiber, etc.) in it. The patented, FDA GRAS blessed rice protein ingredient is replacing animals for protein. Clinical trials show it equals animal-based whey protein and this was done with UFC fighters recently. Oryzatein organic rice protein is in 10000’s of products you know and probably already eat. Plant proteins are one of the biggest trends in the food biz today; Starbucks just announced a high protein coffee last week and “plant protein” packaging claims have skyrocketed by 14% alone last year. It’s a $7B business. Rice is now the 2nd largest global crop, replacing, GMO infested corn. It’s vying to replace, the #1 crop, wheat, because of the gluten issues worldwide. Growing Naturals rice and pea proteins are in more than 3000 retailers throughout the U.S.
What do you think makes your products stand out? Can you share a story?
How about I start with a shocking answer?
Every company in the naturals space crows about high quality, but what I’m going say next is not another banal “we give you good stuff” statement.
Did you know that there is lots of “fake organic” products out there?
In our plant protein ingredient business, we see truckloads of conventionally grown, Roundup-infested pea protein go in one door of USDA organic-sanctioned distribution facilities and come out the other door with USDA organic stamps they did not earn. This means that there’s a flood out there of fake organic pea protein, specifically, that has been tested to have herbicides and Roundup in it.
The reason why the top 5 food giants use our ingredients is because they know this game. It’s not news to them and they can afford to pay for quality ingredients that are truly organic.
This problem comes down to two things: the naturals business is still growing and as such isn’t regulated, really, yet. Secondly, it’s about economy of scale. The large companies, who people tend to think don’t use high quality — — are the only ones who can afford it.
How can consumers tell?
It’s simple. If something looks a lot cheaper than the competition, chances are the ingredients are not what you think.
We discovered this because one of our customers asked us to do some random testing. We found some issues with our product, for which it was easy to make corrective actions. In the process, we found a lot of fake organic pea protein. Our testing facility found herbicides and Round-Up in them.
Tell us about your products; is this one of your most exciting projects?
Well, Growing Naturals is the only company in US who makes pure plant proteins that are not mixed into a formula of some kind. When you buy protein powder, it’s a finished product that may include vitamins, minerals, fiber, probiotics or a myriad of other functional ingredients.
We created something that you can mix and match with whatever YOUR body needs. We figured it was easier to add what you need instead of spend money on stuff you don’t need.
Some of the best stuff happening here these days is about clinical trials that have shown rice protein to equal animal-based whey protein to build and maintain muscle — in UFC fighters! It was the first time that pro athletes were used in a trial like that — and If you’ve ever watched MMA; that was exciting! Here is a little snippet of a series of webisodes that shows these guys training and fighting during the “Plant Vs. Animal Protein Challenge.”
To me, I’m excited because this means we are contributing to the highest and best good globally.
Did you know that every human body requires protein to live?
By 2050, the world population will not have enough water and uninhabited land to raise cows for protein. This means that rice is becoming the new meat. I don’t know about you; but that gives me goosebumps.
How do you think this product will help people?
We were not the only ones to say that “rice is the new meat;” CNBC thought so too.
Rice protein is hypoallergenic and, of course a non-diary product. Whey protein is made from cheese — dairy from a cow.
So, rice protein solves problems with the global population explosion and resource shortage from Los Angeles to Mumbai, Siberia to Patagonia.
Food allergies have become a real thing. They are so real, in fact, that hospitals are releasing their newborns with testing that guides their parents on dietary restrictions that will affect them for a lifetime. That’s amazing.
In the US. 30–50M Americans have dairy issues and can’t consume products with animal-based whey protein. We’ve created a product that’s been clinically shown to act like animal protein. That will help people.
There are entire populations of folks who live on gravage foods. This means their food intolerances are not only real, but they cannot live without introducing hypoallergenic foods directly into their stomach. I met a young ice skater at the Association of Food Allergy Bloggers a few years ago who could only eat 5 foods and subsisted on an intravenous feeding tube. She was able to add a 6th food, when she experienced our hypoallergenic rice protein. That made me feel good.
Aside from this product, are you working on any exciting new projects now?
So protein can be fractioned out of almost any plant, but rice has the highest percentage of it. Enough rice is grown in the world to make it the most commercially viable option for protein.
A few other cool things: since the age of refrigeration in the 1950’s, processed foods has become a massive part of our life. Did you know that food flavoring, as a result, has become also a massive issue?
All kind of foods are utilized in ways that are different than their original form, so flavoring is a big deal. For example, pea protein is something used for alternative meats and fillers for meat products. We can’t have our meat tasting like yucky peas, so we’re the first to introduce a neutral-flavored pea protein this fall.
You may have noticed that high protein claims on food products run the gamut from cereals to nutrition bars, beverages to cookies. For the business readers here, it’s risen 14% in 2017 alone. Using rice protein for a smooth mouthfeel has proven to be a problem, because it comes from a grain — it’s gritty. For beverages, suspending rice protein in a liquid, also proved to be a big challenge. But it’s something we’ve just overcome and we’re very proud to be the first to introduce a wholly suspendable rice protein too.
One the cooler things on which I cannot give too many details is the creation of plant proteins from what are called “waste streams” of other food products. In this case, there is a very protein rich by product becoming available from a very favorite alcoholic beverage that could become another game changer.
“Waste products,” by the way are the result of the food processing age. Whey protein was discovered as a waste stream of cheese.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, I would say that my mother firing me from our family commodities business inspired me to start my own business. Though it was hard, it pushed this bird out of the nest to become someone contributing good things to the bottom line of the world. That was a big one.
I was a biology major in high school and earned my JD/MBA. So, it was the combination of all these things that lead to what I do today. Ironically enough, that job I had with my parents was selling rice protein for animal feed. I would have never dreamt that this nutritious food component would become what it is today, but we are now the largest maker of it in America.
It’s often incredibly painful and odd things that point us in the direction of our fate.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons you learned?
I have yet to find a mistake I’ve made as funny — at the time. When I think of mistakes, there is often a lot of pain attributed to them. I think of times I hired distributors I trusted implicitly, and in the end I was betrayed. Looking back, I can laugh (a little), but those lessons were hard. No matter how successful you become, it never gets easier when others surprise you with a less than excellent set of values. You never get used to it.
Here are 5 of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned that I can share — some might be a little witty:
1. Going into business with “Mother Nature” is not as easy as it looks. Natural is a constant, but worthwhile, challenge to maintain.
2. A president’s job is 50% visionary leader, 50% fixer of challenges & 50% managing human assets
3. No company is too small to act globally like a big corporation
4. No company is too big to act locally like a small company
5. You’ll find the greatest talent in the least likely places. Be open to possibilities with everyone you meet.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Persistence and patience; I call it “P-Squared.” You have to be patient to get an order; it might take 6 months or a year. You have to be persistent to keep in front of them. Don’t worry, sales will come.
We grow from within, our sales department is filled with people who started as everything from pro volleyball players to babysitters, admins and receptionists. We have a guy who started in the freight room who now heads up logistics.
Learning how to be a CEO is a baptism by fire kind of thing. Be patient with yourself. We are all always learning.
Actions should follow values. We are in the health business, so we make sure our staff is thriving by providing a kitchen, filled with nutritious food and a personal trainer for everyone.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a team?
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way.
Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to mom for firing me. Otherwise I’d never be where I am today. She pushed me to get to the next level in my own professional evolution; thought I didn’t know it at the time. This experience helped me to realize my entrepreneurial passions.