Garden of Life Listens to Your Gut
The supplement brand believes digestive health is at the root of overall health.
There’s no surefire channel to perfect health, but your digestive tract is a good place to start. That’s the position of Garden of Life, a supplement company that integrates probiotics into everything from vitamins to protein powders. The common denominator among its varied lineup of powders, oils, gummies, tablets, and more is a commitment to traceable, organic, non-GMO ingredients. We spoke with Jeffrey Brams, the brand’s General Counsel and VP of Product Development, Quality, Regulatory & International, about “food-first” product development, building a community of educated eaters, and the science of microbiomes.
How did Garden of Life come to be?
Garden of Life launched with the creation of our industry-leading probiotic, Primal Defense, in 2001. As one of the first companies to bring probiotics to market, we have always devoted ourselves to the belief that a healthy digestive system is the key to lasting overall health.
How does your brand differentiate from competitors in the health and wellness space?
We believe in food first. To live your best life, you need to experience and enjoy the benefits of healthy, real, whole foods—fresh foods brimming with vitamins and minerals and grown without toxic fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics.
Our company also elected to become a B Corp to reflect that it exists for the benefit of the people we serve and that we are unflagging in our commitments. Those commitments start with our employees: we provide a creative, wholesome, safe and adventurous work environment that reflects our lifestyle. We offer organic lunches for vegan, paleo and keto diets, an onsite state-of-the art gym, a quiet meditation room, paid time off for volunteerism and more.
Beyond vitamins, probiotics and powders, you offer food items like bars, coconut oil and seeds. How do the different products work together?
We lead the industry in multivitamins, but ours are created from real, whole foods, vitamins cultured in probiotics, and botanical extracts. We even created a new way to make a tablet that we call “Clean Tablet Technology” using only Certified USDA Organic foods rather than the chemicals used by other companies (like magnesium stearate, stearic acid, silicon dioxide, cellulose, shellacs and resins) to support proper digestion of the vitamins inside your body.
Our foundational belief in supporting healthy digestion is the common thread tying all of our product formulas together, not just our industry-leading probiotic lines. For example, we are the leaders in organic plant-based and whey-based protein powders, yet every one of these formulas includes meaningful amounts of clinically researched probiotics.
There’s no magic pill for health.
Your website features an extensive blog with recipes and general wellness tips. How do diet and lifestyle habits fit into your overarching philosophy regarding nutritional supplements?
We communicate through blogs, our self-published quarterly magazine Extraordinary Health, e-newsletters, social media and other digital and print resources. We also employ a national team of highly qualified nutritionists, dietitians, trainers and educators who travel and lecture in healthy food locations across the country. There’s no magic pill for health. Supplements are intended to integrate into—and supplement—a healthy lifestyle. And for each of us, our needs are specific. Education is key to charting our healthy future.
How are new products conceived of?
We recognize that in today’s world, most of us cannot get the nutrition our body needs from food alone, and when we have issues of specific concern, we want to find meaningful supplements that help us address and overcome them as part of our wellness lifestyle—that’s the reason that our formulas always start at the farm.
We continue to evolve and grow our offerings, staying abreast of the science and making innovations to the supply chain to bring to market new offerings. In 2014, we aligned with David Perlmutter, M.D., one of America’s leading neurologists and a best-selling author, and brought to market our Dr. Formulated product line. This alignment was a perfect continuation of our commitment to building a healthy digestive system in everything we do.
Over 180 of your products are Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. What is your approach to ingredient sourcing?
We do not create any product without first building a supply chain that reflects our obsessive commitment to clean nutrition, and particularly Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified foods. Sometimes it can take us years to build the supply chain and achieve these goals, but we are relentless in our pursuit. For us, this food-first, clean, traceable pathway is the only way.
Can you elaborate on the philanthropic initiatives at the core of your corporate social responsibility strategy?
Since 2008, I have served continuously on the board of Vitamin Angels, an amazing charity we are proud to support, as well as on the board of the Organic Center, the scientific arm of the Organic Trade Association. I am also the chair of the Supplement Owl initiative at the Council For Responsible Nutrition, and our company was one of the first to participate. This requires all companies to manufacture their supplements in audited, fully compliant good manufacturing practices facilities, and to publicly list every ingredient and product label in a database shared with the Food and Drug Administration.
We also sponsor many local charities, most notably the Special Olympics, where we sponsor an annual 5K from which all proceeds support our local chapter, and our regular commitment to SOS Children’s Villages and the Place of Hope group homes for children.
What key demographics do you target?
We target a variety of demographics, placing an emphasis on those who are passionate about making healthy choices, and those who prioritize organic products and ingredients. As Dr. Perlmutter expands our understanding of emerging microbiome research, we continue to draw even stronger correlations between a healthy digestive tract and emotional health, digestive well-being as it relates to school-age children and their ability to remain focused, and even the benefit of digestive health as it relates to the varied needs of adult women and men, including concerns over maintaining a healthy urinary tract and prostate health as men age.
What's next for Garden of Life?
We just launched our first ever line of herbal products, mykind Organics Herbals, and they are breaking ground as the first full line of herbals where every product is Certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten-Free and packed with best-in-class herbals. Also, it’s the first line available to consumers in so many different delivery methods, from our clean tablet technology to liquids, sprays, powders, drops, and even gummies.
On the heels of that massive launch, we are about to reinvent the protein aisle with our upcoming launch of Dr. Formulated Keto. As a neurologist, Dr. Perlmutter has long been committed to the principles behind the ketogenic diet. We recognized that in the popularization of the keto diet, there are very few clear, credible voices helping explain and provide reliable guidance to consumers. That’s why we felt that it was important to not only innovate groundbreaking new product solutions, but also to provide meaningful information on the “why” and “how” of the keto lifestyle. Look for our new keto line coming at the end of this year.
Frances Thomas is a writer based in New York City. She recently graduated from NYU.