I enjoy the Oscars as much as anyone and I’m all for celebrating art. But when you get right down to it, I’m always left with a big, “So what?” What have those actors—great actors, yes—really done for the world? Have they made me healthier? Richer? Happier? Not really.
I’ve often thought that we don’t do enough in our society to celebrate the lives and the work of people who truly have improved the health, wealth and happiness of many Americans. So I was so excited and honored to get to be a part of New Hope Natural Media’s inaugural Hall of Legends induction ceremony. The response from the industry has been so positive and stirred up a lot of excitement. It’s as if we were all just waiting for someone to do this.
Twelve Legends were honored in the ceremony and received our version of the Oscar—a translucent little guy holding a green leaf. They all got up and gave their Oscar speeches. Mark Blumenthal’s was my favorite. It went something like, “Working in nonprofits is like wetting yourself in dark pants. You get a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices.”
Behind the scenes with the honorees
But the best part of the whole experience happened behind the scenes and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. The Functional Ingredients team—with a lot of help from Connor Link, Fran Schoenwetter, Brad Mastrine and an awesome film crew—filmed interviews with most of the honorees. The video is still in editing and will be up in the next couple of weeks. Every interview was inspiring but a few tidbits stand out in my mind.
Every one of the Legends we interviewed got their start in the industry as the result of a personal health experience.
- For Sandy Gooch it was a near death experience that inspired her to eat better and bring quality food to the people that wanted it. Her commitment to quality markets has led to a massive shift in how Americans shop for food and what we eat.
- For El Richard it was seeing how extra protein increased his stamina and performance as a young athlete.
- Mark Blumenthal became a vegetarian to protest the killing in the Vietnam War and that awareness and commitment set him on the path he’s taken in his career.
In a way these stories are universal—every one of us can recall the event or inspiration that brought us into the industry.
Even more striking than their accomplishments was their humility and continued passion to nurture a healthy and thriving natural products industry. That doesn’t just mean healthy profits. It means healthy people.
El Richard made an impassioned speech about the short-termers in the industry—the ones that come in to flip a house, so to speak. His commitment to his employees and to the longevity of his company for the sake of everyone that depends on it is rare in American business these days.
But then this isn’t your average American business is it? It’s the natural health business. We’re all here because we believe in what we’re doing and we’re proud of what we offer. May we all live long and prosper.