Brendan Brazier became a vegan at age 15, mostly to improve sports performance. " But I was a junkfood vegan at the time," he says. Eventually, he became passionate about nutrition and seriously stepped up his athletic program, participating in the Ironman Triathlon for six years. He also is a two-time champion of Canadian 50-kilometer ultramarathons. In 2003, he was hit by a car while cycling. While recuperating, he wrote a book, The Thrive Diet, outlining the eating program that boosted his athletic accomplishments. He then partnered with Sequel Naturals to commercially produce the same blender drink he'd been making since he first went vegan. Later, Sequel produced his homemade raw-food energy bar, and other products followed, all under the brand name VEGA.
In 2006, Brazier was nominated for the Manning Innovation Award, the most prestigious award for innovation in Canada, where he is a citizen. In 2006, he was invited to speak to the U.S. Congress about the social and economic impacts of a better diet. Recently, he was invited to address the 2008 Democratic National Convention about the environmental benefits of a vegan diet.
What are the biggest challenges facing the naturals industry? I would say keeping the standards high. With mass market being interested in it, it's great that more people are coming to it. But the concern is that the natural foods industry may become less healthy if it sees it can take a big chunk of the mass market. If we hold strong, the rest of the people in mass market will come to us, so hopefully we won't be in too much of a rush to go to them.
What would you like to see change in the naturals industry in the next five years? I think the way it's progressing is very good, and I think it will naturally evolve the way many people would like it to. Keep the emphasis on organic and local, small farms.
What's the one natural product you can't live without? Coconut oil. It's a really good energy food without being a stimulating food. I put it on dates before I go for a run.
If Ben & Jerry's named a flavor for you, what would it be? Coconut hemp.
What's next for you? I just finished writing a new book, Thrive Fitness: Mental and Physical Strength for Life (to be published by Penguin in January 2009), so I will be doing a tour for that. I'll continue to expand the VEGA line, do new product development. I'd like to get back into competitive running next year. I'm not in race shape right now.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 18