Health Warrior is a seven-year-old, high-growth and plant-based superfood company based in Richmond, Virginia that might be best known for popularizing chia seeds in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space. Cofounded by college roommates Shane Emmett and Dan Gluck, along with friend Nick Morris, after reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma and Born to Run and realizing how much the food industry was hurting consumers, they aimed to start a food company based on real nutrition. Shane and Dan's words, “When we started the company we realized that Americans were overfed and undernourished.” Just 12 months after launching nationally in Whole Foods Market, the brand’s signature chia-based became the top-selling bar across Whole Foods’ stores. Currently, Shane is CEO of Health Warrior, and Dan is Health Warrior's board director and managing partner at Power Plant Ventures. Here, these two co-founders discuss the plant-based and vegan movement today and where healthy foods are headed next.
Why did you go the plant-based direction and why do you think it’s important to the market today?
Shane: What we are doing is really celebrating the biodiversity of heroic superfoods and making them more convenient. In modern grocery stores, most of the food you are surrounded with is not good for you. Even food that is considered ‘better for you’ isn’t ‘good for you’. We wanted to make food that is 'good’ for you. Superfoods are just foods that are nutrient dense, and we felt we could use them in an accessible way to make people healthy.
Dan: Something that helps us and guides the thesis at Power Plant Ventures is that the food system is broken and that it is unhealthy and unsustainable and inhumane. We believe that plant-based foods are one of the best ways to solve this.
How is Health Warrior different from other vegan snack brands?
Shane: I didn’t know much about CPG going in, and I realized that most packaged food is unhealthy not to make it taste good but instead to make it cheap. We use an exceptionally low amount of sugar and always use superfoods as our first ingredient. It’s worth noting that some bars will promote chia as an ingredient, writing it really large on their packaging, but chia will be the last ingredient on the list meaning it’s the smallest amount of any ingredient in that product.
There are around 300,000 edible plant species - and just three of them make up almost 60% of our American calories: corn, rice and wheat. There are so many other nutrient-dense superfoods out there that don’t get used. We started with chia, but we’ve always intended to explore different hero ingredients from the plant world. We also look to aid in sustainability and thoughtful land use with our supply chain.