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Nutiva Founder John W Roulac feature from Green America

Nutiva Founder John W. Roulac

In 1999, John W. Roulac started a food company called Nutiva as a way to create a marketplace for hemp farmers while “nourishing people and planet.”

In 2009 and 2010, Nutiva was named one of the fastest-growing companies in America by Inc. Magazine, and it has the ambitious goals of reaching $100million in sales by 2015 and $1 billion by 2025.

“Our goal is nothing less than to revolutionize the food world,” says Roulac. “If we change the food, we change the world.”

While growing up, Roulac’s favorite way to spend his summers was to wander among the tide pools and hike into the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Then a truck driver spilled a load of radioactive waste nine miles from Roulac’s home when he was 19, causing him to restrict his outdoor time out of fear for his safety.

As reports of the environmental devastation caused by just one vehicular accident rolled in, says Roulac, “I just kept asking myself, ‘Why?’”
The experience stayed with him to adulthood and was the driving reason he decided to study natural systems, in the hopes of discovering practical solutions to pressing environmental challenges.

Focusing first on the need to minimize waste and nourish soil, Roulac helped jumpstart the modern home-composting movement in the 1990s. He is the author of Backyard Composting (Harmonious Technologies, 1997) and other green how-to manuals, and he has since set up around 700 municipal home-composting programs. In addition, he helped launch multiple successful businesses and nonprofits, including Forest Forever and Hemptech.

“I focus on what I am passionate about in life,” Roulac says. “I have chosen the road less traveled, which makes for an exciting life journey.”
Most recently, Roulac has turned his passion to hemp foods. The idea came from a time several years ago when he lived on an organic farm in the middle of the Redwood Forest. “I became fascinated with hemp as a solution to reducing the clearcutting of redwood forests, and I later discovered that hemp is a great rotation crop that improves our soil,” says Roulac

Hemp is an extremely versatile and hardy plant, with many uses including textiles, paper, and plastic, he says, noting that it is also one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. It is packed with protein, omega-3 oils, fiber, and vital minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron, he says.

In addition to creating what Roulac says was “the world’s first hemp food bar,” Nutiva now sells 30 hemp, coconut, and chia “superfood” products in over 6,000 natural food stores and supermarkets in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Items include extra-virgin coconut oil, coconut manna, shelled hempseed, hemp shakes, and chia seeds.

Nutiva’s coconut oil and manna are low in saturated fats and contain healthy omega-3s. The company’s chia seeds are bland enough to add to just about any dish and provide a nutritional boost of fiber, protein, minerals, omega-3s, and antioxidants.

“We are lucky in that we have picked food categories that people didn’t know much about and now they are just discovering,” says Roulac. “Hemp, coconut, and chia have been dismissed by the food industry.”

All of Nutiva’s products are certified organic and do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Nutiva was also one of the first US food companies to place the Non-GMO label on its products.

“We all need to shift back to being in harmony with nature rather than destroying it,” says Roulac of his decision to embrace organic and non-GMO superfoods. “If we kill the planet, how do we live on it?”

— Kara Turtinen

This article first appeared in Green America’s 2012 National Green Pages:,

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