Philosopher Foods revolutionizes regenerative snack nuts

Learn more about the company’s mission and how it’s working to improve the food industry with sprouted almond butters and fermented snack nut products.

Heather Carter, Associate Editor

June 3, 2024

8 Min Read
Philosopher Foods revolutionizes regenerative snack nuts

Philosopher Foods is a CPG focused on the interplay between food and sustainability. As founder and CEO Tim Richards puts it, the company “exists to promote the flourishing of all life through delicious, nutritious, ethical and ecological food products from regenerative agriculture.”

But that only begins to scratch the surface.

While studying to become a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Richards learned about the art of sprouting and “how it makes food sweeter, more digestible and more nutritious.” He began experimenting with sprouted almonds, which led to the creation of a line of sprouted almond butters.

After positive feedback from his housemates, Philosopher Foods was born. The company, founded on Earth Day in 2013, was one of the first Cottage Food Operations (CFO) in California. In late 2012, the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) made CFOs possible by legalizing selling home-kitchen prepared food to the public.

“I started making nut butter and selling it, and the orders never stopped coming in,” Richards said. “It’s still the bread and butter of the business.”

Sprouting also presents a range of health benefits, according to Richards. “When you sprout the almonds, it makes them way more nutrient dense,” he explained. “We ran a metabolomics analysis with Utah State University and found that sprouting increases the antioxidant content by about four times compared to raw almonds. Antioxidants make almonds medicinal.”

Related:Painterland Sisters’ yogurt wins 2024 Expo West’s Pitch Slam grand prize

Philosopher Foods founder Tim Richards competes in Pitch Slam at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, in March. Gut Nuts was named runner-up. Credit: Bryan Beasley Photography

Gut Nuts, the ultimate ‘snaccident’

While sprouting a batch of almonds one day, Richards accidentally created the company’s latest product, Gut Nuts, a line of fermented almonds and cashews.

“We just moved into a new facility, and I didn’t know you had to ventilate it,” he said. “As the almonds were sprouting and dehydrating overnight, the room got too hot. When I came in the next day, it was 90 degrees, and the almonds were bubbling.”

Richards thought he ruined more than 100 pounds of almonds, but after tasting one, figured out they spontaneously fermented. “They were delicious,” he said of the “snaccident,” as he likes to refer to it. “They didn’t have that sweet, normal sprouted almond flavor, but had a savory, tangy kind of umami flavor.”

The benefits of fermentation

To produce the fermented nuts, Philosopher Foods uses anaerobic fermentation, a more controlled form of fermentation compared to the open-air fermentation that initially occurred. “It’s also using lactic acid bacteria instead of yeast,” Richards detailed. “These different organisms create a different flavor and functional benefit profile.”

While sprouting quadruples the antioxidant content of the raw nuts, Richards explained that fermentation increases the antioxidant content by 15 to 20 times. It also doubles the amount of B vitamins, increases prebiotics and introduces postbiotics to support gut health, and allows for a two-year shelf life. “You’re getting so many more functional benefits,” he said.

Another added health benefit: Fermentation removes some of the phytic acid in the nuts, which imparts that heavy bloated feeling consumers may experience after eating them. “We decrease that by 41% through fermentation,” Richards explained. “That’s part of the gut health claim we make: This is a nut that’s friendly for your gut because it has fewer anti-nutrients, but also because it has more polyphenols and prebiotics that feed your gut bacteria.

“We’re also reducing pollutants that are in the products, like glyphosate,” he went on to say. “Fermentation can reduce glyphosate contamination by 65%.”


Sustainably sound

A large part of Philosopher Foods’ mission is committed to sustainable production. All of the company’s products are USDA Organic and Glyphosate Residue Free. They’re also Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC), with the exception of the cashews.

“We’re working on the certification with the cashews,” Richards said. “ROC is a lot of work for growers. They have to do a ton of stuff related to animal welfare, worker pay and soil health, but for us as a processor, we just have to buy from them and prove it. It’s a lot easier for us than it is for the grower. They have to do all of the heavy lifting.”

The company utilizes locally grown California almonds for the nut butters and Gut Nuts—from ROC-certified farmers—but imports the cashews used for Gut Nuts from Vietnam since they need to be grown in a tropical climate.

Creating award-winning products

Currently, Philosopher Foods works with a co-manufacturer in California to produce all products. “It’s been really hard to find a co-manufacturer for Gut Nuts because people either ferment or dehydrate,” Richards explained. “The fermentation people work with vegetables but not nuts, and then the nut people dry nuts but never ferment anything. I’ve looked at dozens [of co-manufacturers] nationwide and found one in California about an hour and a half away from me that’s willing [to make the product].”

The company technically launched Gut Nuts in December 2022, but according to Richards, the products “officially” launched at Natural Products Expo West in March. “For the first year and a quarter, they were packaged in glass jars as a beta launch because we had glass jars for the nut butters,” Richards said. “I wanted to fill the glass jars with nuts because it’s more sustainable. But most of the retailers said it was more expensive and less appealing, so we pivoted to pouches.”

The pouches are composed of 44% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, but Richards is working to double that number in the coming years. “We’ve tried compostable pouches, but we didn’t get the shelf life we needed,” he said. “It was only nine months, and we need longer for them to hold that crunchy, awesome texture that they have. PCR is going to be our best bet until someone makes a much better compostable pouch.”

Retail action

Since launching 11 years ago, Philosopher Foods has established a strong retail presence. The sprouted almond butters are available in roughly 300 stores, mostly on the West Coast, including Whole Foods, Erewhon, Gelson’s Markets, Jimbo’s, Lassens and Lazy Acres.

Gut Nuts are currently available in 33 stores, also mostly on the West Coast, but just launched in more than 400 Sprouts Farmers Market stores nationwide as part of the chain’s innovation set, a 90-day trail to see if the products have traction with the store’s consumers.

“Gut Nuts are about to get a lot bigger than the nut butters,” Richards said. “Thrive Market is going to launch [them soon] nationwide online, and Whole Foods is signaling a likely launch in at least Northern California in October.”

Both product lines are also offered nationwide at select retailers—as well as in some European retailers—through Faire, an innovative online platform for independent retailers.

With a goal of obtaining more retailers and investments for Gut Nuts, Richards is looking forward to exhibiting at Newtopia Now this August. “Most of our investment has come from the regenerative community,” he said. “So far, we haven’t had any CPG-specific investors, so I’m hoping that we can attract some more [at the event].”

Tim Richards won the grand prize and the Don Buder People's Choice Award at the Naturally Bay Area Pitch Slam on May 9. Credit: Naturally Bay Area

The future of Philosopher Foods

In less than two years, Gut Nuts have received global attention and national accolades. Richards pitched them at the 2024 Natural Products Expo West Pitch Slam and won second place. Most recently, they took home the Grand Prize and Don Buder People’s Choice awards at Naturally Bay Area’s Pitch Slam on May 9. He will be presenting Gut Nuts nationally at the Naturally Network Pitch Slam on August 8.

Additional exposure has also attracted reputable retailers like World Market and CVS—but that’s only the beginning of the company’s retail strategy. “I want Gut Nuts to be in 7-Eleven and Safeway,” Richards said. “They might not be able to be Regenerative Organic Certified for all of those places, but a conventionally grown fermented nut is still a cleaner, better-for-you option than a conventionally grown raw or roasted nut.”

He also envisions a future where Guts Nuts become “the kombucha of snack nuts.” “I’ve got big visions for this company,” Richards explained. “Think about it this way. In 1999, no one knew what kombucha was. Now, 25 years later, it’s a $9 billion category. I’m trying to do the same thing with Gut Nuts. Right now, no one knows what a fermented nut is, and in 25 years, I want it to be a ubiquitous snack that represents a multi-billion-dollar category.”

As far as line extensions go, rather than introducing different flavors, the focus is going to be on fermenting different types of nuts and seeds using different types of organisms.

“I want to ferment with different organisms, like yeast and mold, because each organism has its own flavor profile on the one hand, but also its own functional benefits,” Richards said. “We’ve already fermented nine different nuts and seeds. They were all good, but we can only launch so many at a time as a small company. I think next will maybe be fermented sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or peanuts. Then later, fermenting with different microorganisms to really highlight the superstars that these microbes are.”

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Heather Carter

Associate Editor, Food & Beverage Insider

Heather Carter is the associate editor of Food & Beverage Insider at Informa Markets. She has worked in trade publishing for nearly a decade, covering a variety of topics, from tile to bedding. Reach her at [email protected].

Subscribe and receive the latest updates on trends, data, events and more.
Join 57,000+ members of the natural products community.

You May Also Like