Creating a new food product – something that no one else has thought of or marketed – can be a difficult task, but the creators of RawNature5 protein drinks have taken on the challenge and done just that. They’ve created a protein drink that is lactose-free, natural, gluten-free, vegan and for the record, tastes amazing.
Founder Dustin Baker, in a partnership with co-founders Maya French and Chris Fanucchi, started RawNature5 in 2013. What originally started out as a juice company blossomed into a protein shake company that currently offers six flavored protein drinks: almond butter, cacao bean, coconut almond, pumpkin (my personal favorite), chai blendk and vanilla bean. Because of RawNature5’s unique position in an overly saturated market, they truly do have the opportunity to change the way people view and consume protein drinks.
I sat down with founder Dustin Baker and co-founder Maya French to get the inside scoop on RawNature5.
Me: First things first, what is RawNature5?
Dustin: RawNature5 is one of the only plant-based protein beverage companies currently in the marketplace. We make everything with a small batch approach and are able to guarantee the use of only the highest quality ingredients. About 98% of all beverages sold in the United States are pasteurized, namely because it prolongs the shelf life of juice and is more cost-effective than not pasteurizing. Unfortunately, pasteurization destroys the vital living components of the fruit and vegetables, making them nutritionally deficient and pointless. RawNature5 uses a HPP (High Pressure Processing) machine instead of heat. This is an external process – the liquids themselves are never touched so they remain raw.
Me: This is such a unique idea. What made you start RawNature5? Where did the idea stem from?
Dustin: I have always been an entrepreneur with a love for small businesses. When I met Maya, she introduced me to healthy eating, and the idea of living a healthy lifestyle fueled by all-natural, non-processed foods. I became extremely passionate about healthy eating and working out so it only seemed natural to create a business that matched this lifestyle. Financially, I was fortunate to have a steady stream of income from my daytime job. I guess this is where the expression “don’t quit your day job” comes from!
Me: I know that you originally started out by making juice, which at the time I had the opportunity to try, and it was delicious. What led you to the decision to stop making raw juice and start making protein drinks?
Maya: After hundreds of hours of doing product and health food research we discovered that the juice market was very saturated and we found a consumer need to gain more protein in their diets. What the market lacked was a great tasting plant-based protein product in the grab-and-go section of grocery stores.
Me: Speaking of grocery stores, you started out in one store and are now in over 50 retail locations. What did this growth look like and what stores are you in now?
Maya: As our product became more prevalent in the grocery store space, we started gaining more requests from other stores to carry our product. In a year’s time we were able to jump from eight locations to over 40 locations across two states. We currently self-distribute to about 50 Chicago and Michigan retail locations including: BetterHealth Markets, Jewel Osco, Wholefoods, Dill Pickle Co-op, Plum Markets and Karyn’s Fresh Corner and Day Spa, to name a few. Distribution is a daily challenge for us, as it requires a lot of help and time on the road. We expect to begin working with a large distribution company as we begin to expand more outside of the Chicago area.
Me: Although you’re a very niche product, there must still be competition. Who are your biggest competitors and how do you view them?
Dustin: First off, let’s start by saying we love and respect all of our competitors. We see ourselves in the same category as other high-end health beverages such as Califia, Suja and Evolution.
Me: Who’s your customer?
Maya: I would describe our typical customer as someone who appreciates organic, high-quality ingredients in their food and drink selections. These are health-conscious people that live the lifestyle that RawNature5 represents. It’s safe to say that these people live very active lifestyles and pay close attention to what they put into their bodies.
Me: What are you doing to market yourself now? Have you been successful in doing so?
Dustin: Much of our success has been through word-of-mouth; we’ve actually done very little marketing. Chicago has been very supportive as a whole and we’ve been reached out to by several media bloggers and have a following on social media to help spread the word about our product.
Me: What are your next steps in terms of marketing or advertising?
Maya: Right now marketing and advertising have taken a backseat, because we are focusing more on expanding the product to other markets in the region so that everyone can have the opportunity to experience it.
Me: Describe your personal approach to business.
Dustin: There’s nothing more important than listening to our customers. We have spent countless hours on market research to create the wonderful product that we have today. We greatly value our customer’s opinions and will continue to keep an open ear as we expand in the future. Another important thing for us in our approach to business is that we pride ourselves on producing locally and sourcing our ingredients from philanthropic farmers, who, like us, enjoy giving back to their communities. We manufacture all of our products in the west Chicago area of Fulton Market District and we pride ourselves on being local.
Me: What’s your next move?
Maya: We are currently in one Whole Foods Market in Chicago (Lincoln Park on Kingsbury), but we hope to expand to all of the Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
For more information on RawNature5 visit the links below.
Visit their website at www.rawnature5.com