Hain Celestial CEO: The Dawn of the Health Food Craze


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Brendan Byrnes: Hey Fools, I'm Brendan Byrnes joined by Irwin Simon, the founder and CEO of Hain Celestial . First of all, thank you for your time.

Irwin Simon: My pleasure.

Byrnes: Now one of the things that I think is great about Hain Celestial is you're positioned right at the heart of this so-called better-for-you food kind of revolution, organic healthy foods. Talk about how you had this insight in 1993, almost two decades ago. Did you know that this was going to be such a big deal coming up over the past several years?

Simon: Well I'd like to sit here today and say, Absolutely, I know; I'd look like a genius, right? Or I looked into some crystal ball and there it was and said Hey, 20 years from today, eating healthy is going to be just a big part of everybody's life.

What I did know back then; I was in the food business previously. I worked for Häagen Dazs Ice Cream. During my years at Häagen Dazs, consumers wanted good quality ice cream, which Häagen Dazs was, good tasting products made from high butter fat and good, natural ingredients and would pay a premium. I left there in 1990 and went to work for Slim-Fast. And when I was at Slim-Fast, everybody wanted to lose weight. The shake in the morning, a shake at lunch, a sensible meal and it was powder in a can or a magic potion that was going to get you to lose weight. And people did lose weight on Slim-Fast, but no one every kept it off.

So what I figured out is during these two companies, I did learn all about brands and brand equity, how important a brand is, and as I really studied ingredients, I'm like, Oh my God, look at these ingredients. No matter what, how could you ever lose weight? Processed foods, GMOs, ingredients, artificial ingredients and what really hit me was Snackwells was a product that came out. Here it was a fat-free product. The number one ingredient was high-fructose corn sweetener. And what's high-fructose corn sweetener? It's sugar that turns into fat.

So ultimately that's where my synopsis came out, was that nobody was doing it. and also in 1992, when I visited the Natural Food Show in Anaheim, California, I walked around the show and I said, There's no real big guys here. You would rather eat the box than a lot of these products because they taste horrible. And just think if somebody ever really did a roll-up, brought some creativity, brought marketing, brought good tasting products, how big this could be, and I couldn't see any big food companies in there, so that's where I saw my opportunity to jump in.

The article Hain Celestial CEO: The Dawn of the Health Food Craze originally appeared on Fool.com.

Brendan Byrnes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Hain Celestial. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hain Celestial. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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