Jan 11, 2017
Co-hosts Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview
Justin Gold, the Founder of Justin’s Natural Foods Company, which
produces organic and natural nut butters and peanut butter cups.
From their humble beginnings at local farmers’ markets to launching
a national brand, Justin’s is now one of the country’s fastest
growing natural foods companies. Justin’s has received numerous
local and national accolades and ranked in the top 15 on the Inc.
500 and 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies List, in the Food and
Beverage category, two years in a row.
Jan and Jim speak with Justin about innovation in
sustainable food and reduced packaging, and how entrepreneurial and
academic mentors guided Justin in his business start. They also discuss how taking
an innovative risk led to becoming an industry thought leader, and
how Juston worked out a plan with an acquiring organization that
allows him to continue his innovative ways.
Listen in to learn more about how leadership and
sustainability can support profitability.
[5:24] In a Twitter exchange with musician John
Mayer, Justin accepted the challenge to produce the world’s first
Chocolate Almond Butter with Cookie Dough. John put a photo of it
on Instagram, and wrote, “Thanks Justin. You've ruined me for all
other of life's awaiting pleasures.”
[9:27] Justin believes in walking the talk. If we’re
going to support sustainable food ingredients, and reducing the
packaging on our products, then we should be really mindful of the
origin and disposal of everything we use, not only in the company,
but in our lives. Their products are actually making a difference
to people, with healthier food, and less packaging.
[11:02] Justin challenges his team consistently to
question the way it’s always been done in the past. People in
companies fall into a rhythm, and keep sustaining this rhythm,
because it’s easy. We lose track of how we got into this rhythm in
the first place. Whether in packaging, product, or consumer
engagement, keep looking for better ways to work. Always question
[12:59] Justin didn’t hit his home run until he moved
out of the form factor of jars. After years of really not
succeeding with jars, they had the idea of the squeeze pack, and it
was a category disruptor for nut butters. Then they tried the
peanut butter cup, which led to the snack pack. If he hadn’t
started with jars, he would not have gotten to the squeeze pack and
[14:50] Tips to get momentum: get validation from
someone you admire; have the attitude that anything’s possible.
When you’re positive and you’re excited, that energy is infectious,
and it will draw the right people to help you. Positivity attracts
[18:37] Justin did not foresee being a thought
leader. He sought out early as much help as he could from other
entrepreneurs, and they were all open to help him. He made note of
that, and realized his obligation and purpose to pay it forward.
Knowledge gained can really help a young company. Justin gets
inspired by opportunities to share knowledge that did not come
[21:48] Justin got help from the U of C Leeds School
to write a business plan. Looking back at his first plan, Justin
laughs, because he had no idea what he was talking about, but it
was important to get it on paper and declare to the world, this
is what I want to do. After a professor’s critique, he rewrote
it, and it was spot on. He was able to execute it successfully.
[26:01] Justin’s first hire was a roommate, but his
biggest step to success was hiring
Lance Gentry, who became a business mentor and hero. Lance raised
investments, saw them through the 2008 downturn with expertise, and
landed them Whole Foods and Starbucks national orders. Lance passed
away suddenly, and Justin necessarily carried on to become a
[32:54] Justin talks about Hormel. Finances,
commodity supply, and manufacturing capacity, required partnering
with a big company to provide top quality at the quantities needed,
without creating conditions for a food recall. Hormel and Justin
inspired each other with their visions of the future of food, so
they came to a deal. Justin’s goal is to impact change at a larger
[43:23] Justin loves the Whole Planet Foundation’s
Microloan a Month program. It gives beginning entrepreneurs the
ability to start a company, which gives people jobs, a sense of
importance, and the opportunity to earn money to buy their own
food, while building a local economy. Justin’s also sends products
to relieve conditions after natural disasters.
“If we’re going to support a healthy lifestyle, then
we should be engaged in a healthy lifestyle.”
“When they see me doing it and they see the other
leaders ... do it, it gives them permission and a sense of
“A lot of times, with technology, or with science,
there are new ways to engage consumers or to solve an end-use
“What I do know, is, if you don’t start with your
idea, then it ends right now.”
“Your mission as a business evolves as you grow and
become more successful and more powerful.”
“Positivity attracts positive people.”
Justin Gold is a passionate entrepreneur, who
encourages others to follow their passions, and never stop asking
questions along the way. In 2013, Justin was recognized as Ernst
& Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Mountain Desert Region.
He lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and children, finding
his work/life balance by enjoying an active lifestyle there as an
avid trail runner, mountain biker, skier, and backpacker.
Justin is a founding member of the Whole Planet
Foundation’s Microloan a Month program that supports microfinancing
institutions across the globe. Justin is passionate about
pollinators, sustainable sourcing, mindful packaging, and