The Future of Health Beverages: Angela Zeng By Madison Nagle

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How did you get started in the medical research industry? What sparked your interest as a natural food innovator? 

 

Since I was young, I have been fascinated by traditional Chinese medicine, however my parents were concerned the traditional medicine is not a mainstream science and I therefore went down the path of medical research. I started Karuna after observing the two growing issues in the natural food and beverage industry: under delivered functionalities and wasteful production. I believe by combining my knowledge in the traditional medicine with modern scientific research I can design formulations to overcome these two issues. 

 

What is the mission behind Karuna?   

 

Inspired by “Food Is Better Medicine”, backed by modern nutritional science, Karuna’s whole plant-based and eco-friendly wellness drinks revitalize the body and enlighten the soul. The name Karuna means compassion in Buddhism. It capsulated our belief that life is about compassion, kindness, simplicity, and our perpetual bond with nature.

 

Karuna’s roots are balanced between ancient far east remedies regarding food as medicine and modern nutrition backed by medical science. Can you provide more insight on this philosophy? 

 

In the recent years, the traditional and holistic approaches to improve our physical and mental wellbeing have gained increasing popularities. Along with the uptake of super food, super herb has become a hot trend not only in the supplement field but also in the natural food and beverage industry. While some of such herbs’ uses are based on ample research data such as turmeric’s application in treating inflammatory diseases, most still lack adequate research, for example, the recent uptake of cannabis is surrounded by growing concerns over falsely claimed efficacy and safety issues. Many new products were rushed into the market just for the sake of catching up with the “hot trend”. In contrast, we take the approach to combine knowledge gained since ancient days with modern nutrition and medical research in developing Karuna formulations. The health benefits of each our functional ingredients can be traced back for at least few hundred years and are also supported by rigorous studies at molecular level. We also emphasize on the proper combination of ingredients to achieve synergies and therefore to maximize the health benefits of each Karuna product. 

 

In your opinion, what is the power of whole plant ingredients? 

 

We believe natural food products should incorporate healthy ingredients in their natural forms rather than mixing various processed extracts, such as purified protein. Over millions of years, our planet has created abundant natural food crops that contain a wide variety of healthy ingredients. The perfection and wholesomeness of these crops just cannot be replicated by any human engineering. The art and science of natural food formulation, in our opinion, is how to select, combine and blend these gifts of nature to create nutritious and tasty products without adding any artificial or synthetic materials.

 

How do natural food makers like yourself navigate in this fast-changing, ever-evolving consumer market? 

 

The natural food market has evolved into an era like never before, consumers are quickly abandoning the legacy brands and consistently demand new products that are healthy, tasty and convenient at a lower cost. The rapid information exchange era we now live in means falsely claimed health benefits cannot stand for long and both a good and bad experience by one single consumer can be quickly amplified and initiate a cascade effect. I believe the only way to excel under such environment is to follow the old gold rule of marketing: listen to your customers and try you best to over deliver. I also believe it is critical to build a nimble business model that can be quickly tailored based on consumers’ demand. 

 

As a modern entrepreneur in an era of environmentalism and conservationism, what does your company do to care for our planet? 

 

Karuna also means compassion to Mother Nature. We believe being environmentally responsible should be an important principle in developing natural food products. We believe in selecting highly renewable food ingredients that do not require large amounts of natural resources to produce. We also believe in designing smart manufacturing processes to maximize the uses of valuable resources. For example, we are the first beverage maker to utilize hydroponic machine to grow bean sprouts, the key ingredient in Karuna Detox juice. The process uses small amount of water with no needs on chemicals or excessive energy. We also consistently look for improvements in packaging material, currently we use recyclable level 1 BPA-Free plastic bottles, but our ideal packaging is bottles made with recycled paper, I have looked into a couple of prototypes even though they are either in the premature stage or not suitable for our needs. However, I am confident environmental friendly packaging material will become viable in the near future.

 

Where can you shop Karuna products? 

 

As a young growing brand, we are expanding into many retail stores across the country. Currently, you can find Karuna drinks at Whole Foods Market in the Midwest region and many natural grocers such as Festival Markets, Fresh Thyme, Earth Fare, Dierbergs’ Market and many independent stores. You can also find Karuna juices on Amazon. For a detailed store list, please visit our website: www.mykaruna.com, the store locator page.

 

What’s next for Karuna? How do you plan to expand the company?

 

My ultimate goal is to grow Karuna into a national staple for natural healthy food that consumers can trust. We also hope to set an example for the industry that profit can be achieved via a carefully structured business model that emphasize on minimizing wasting and taking on social and environmental responsibilities. Our current focus is to gain access to more consumers by getting onto the shelves of trustworthy natural grocery stores. I also have plans to expand into international markets which we will reveal next year. 

 

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