Ep. 215: After A $550 Million Exit, Why Vega’s Co-Founder Has ‘Culture’ On His Mind

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In recent years, few trends have impacted the landscape of food and beverage as significantly as that of plant-centric diets. Things were certainly different in 2004, when there were just a handful of brands that focused on and promoted plant-based products. One of those was Vega, an ahead-of-its time brand of protein powders made with vegetable-based ingredients. Brendan Brazier, an endurance athlete and expert in plant-based nutrition, co-founded Vega and was the original formulator of its products.

Amid a surge in plant-focused eating habits, Vega became one of the leading brands in the fast-growing business of nutritional powders and bars, and in 2015 the company was acquired by Whitewave Foods for $550 million. Last year, Brazier rekindled his entrepreneurial spirit as the co-founder of Pulp Culture, a first-of-its-kind brand of fermented cold-pressed juices anchored in the emerging business of “better-for-you booze.”

In an interview included in this episode, Brazier spoke about the roots of his passion for plant-based foods and how it culminated in Vega, why the brand’s heavy investment in consumer education paid off, the reason he launched Pulp Culture despite avoiding alcohol for 14 years, how he’s drawing upon lessons from building Vega to support the brand’s development and his perspective on the evolution of plant-based foods.

Show notes:

0:43: Brendan Brazier, Co-Founder, Vega & Pulp Culture -- Brazier sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for a conversation that explored his background as a professional endurance athlete and why he incorporated plant-based nutrition into his training regimen. He also explained why a flavorful and good tasting product was not an initial focus of Vega, why the company embraced the saying “ignorance is our only competition,” and why private equity firm VMG was the right partner for its first round of outside capital. Later, he discussed the creation of Pulp Culture and how he assessed the opportunity for a better-for-you alcoholic beverage, why he implores entrepreneurs to find a co-founder and what he views as the keys to a successful plant-based food brand.

Brands in this episode: Vega, Pulp Culture

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