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Profits vs. Health

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Our company making coconut kefir was slowly growing and we had been relying on investors to keep us afloat. Mostly family and some friends, but also friends of friends we had never met before. A certain “Dr. M” was one of those we hadn’t met. He became interested in our products because he worked with a gastroenterologist who was “prescribing” his patients the coconut kefir and seeing incredible results. Dr. M was following his investment (our sales numbers) and wasn’t happy with our growth. He began insisting that we water down the products or dilute them to be more profitable. Mike explained that this would diminish the quality of our drink. If it wasn't something we would confidently give to our daughter Tula, then it was against our values to tamper with it. We didn’t know where our company would go, but our mission was to help others in the same situation we'd been in. Our primary concern wasn't making tons of money. After months of uncomfortable conversations with this investor, he finally threatened us and said if we didn’t start diluting the products, he would start his own coconut kefir business and become our competition. After many difficult conversations, we thought it best to give Dr. M his money back and go our separate ways.

Yes, this was a huge surprise to us but knowing there are so many products out there claiming to be healthy, it really wasn’t a surprise. Food labels can be very misleading. Shortly after our product came out, there were tons of other products that were labeled “probiotic” or “live cultures”. Gum, chocolate, snack bars, muffins, juice, even ice cream! I noticed that so many of these foods not only were claiming to contain live probiotic cultures but were also loaded with sugar, which counteracts the benefits. Also, there is a difference between fermented foods that are truly living foods and foods that simply have dried cultures added to them. (Note: Dried cultures are not technically “living.”) On the truly living side…kefir, sauerkraut (non-pasteurized, in the refrigerated section), kimchi, tempeh, miso, yogurt (we made our own coconut yogurt because most store brands are filled with sugars), are examples of fermented foods that are great for your gut!

When I buy anything processed, if there are ingredients I have never heard of, I don’t buy it. I always look at the serving size because the label could say 2 grams of sugar but how much are you actually going to eat? Labels can be tricky that way. Some labels say “made with real fruit” but if you look at the ingredients it could say “juice concentrate”, which may as well say refined sugar. We always avoided kids’ supplements because so many come in gummy form which have fewer vitamins and minerals than regular vitamins, and may contain artificial dyes and fillers. When looking at the ingredients, they are listed in descending order of predominance. Did you know that there are 71 names for sugar now? Some food companies got smart about hiding the sugar content and use more than one version on their label. For example, even though sugar is the predominant ingredient in a food, the manufacturer can split it up using agave AND high fructose corn syrup and make it look like sugar isn’t the main ingredient. By splitting up the sugars in this way, they move further down the ingredients list.

We didn’t buy processed foods much when the girls were little but as they grew I started buying them snacks instead of using my dehydrator to make them. Blue corn chips, cassava chips, popcorn, seaweed chips, and dehydrated vegetables were staples in our house!

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