CALL TOLL-FREE (800) 993-4367 | Wholesale Login | Canada

Santa Paula’s Nutiva grows with hemp, coconut and chia products, plans move to Oxnard

Here’s a great Feature Story on Nutiva, as we prepare to move our HQ.  From Ventura County Star.
Read the original article HERE.

Photo by Chuck Kirman, Photos by Chuck Kirman / Star staff

Nutiva, with its headquarters and warehouse in Santa Paula, has been a pioneer in getting hemp food products to consumers.

Now in its 11th year, the company has branched out into coconut and chia seed products and generated about $10.3 million in revenue during its most recent fiscal year, which ended in June. Its founder wants to reach $100 million in sales by 2015 and $1 billion by 2025.

As it moves toward those ambitious goals, Nutiva continues to expand its product offerings in retail stores and online and will move its headquarters and warehouse to a new 18,000-square-foot location in Oxnard next month to house a growing team of employees and pallets of products.

Selling hemp products has meant becoming an advocate and working to build a domestic hemp industry.

Wearing a shirt of hemp fabric, Nutiva founder and CEO John Roulac quickly sorted through a display of everything that can be done with hemp — from Nutiva’s food products to insulation for cars, pressboard for construction, even the random Frisbee made of hemp “plastic.”

“We’re not just selling a product, but also educating,” Roulac said.

Because of its relation to marijuana, industrial hemp has had a spotty reception in the United States, although the plant doesn’t have the narcotic qualities of its cousin.

Nutiva garnered a lot of press early in its existence. After government officials seized a shipment of Nutiva hemp bars from Canada in 1999, the company became a central figure in the push to get hemp food products on store shelves and keep them there.

“It’s changed a lot, but it has a long ways to go,” Roulac said of the current perception of hemp.

He shakes his head that medicinal marijuana can be grown in California, but industrial hemp is still illegal.

He has advocated for bills to make cultivation legal. The governor vetoed the most recent one in 2007, because cannabis plants, including hemp, are a federally regulated controlled substance, although it is legal to import, buy and consume hemp foods in the United States.

Roulac said he wants to start sourcing the company’s hemp closer to home. Nutiva currently gets hemp from Canada. “We will grow hemp in America. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Hemp remains a cornerstone of the company’s business, but its coconut products are grabbing a larger share of sales. Roulac advocates Nutiva’s coconut oil as the best oil for cooking. A new product, Coconut Manna, is garnering demand as a spread or ingredient for smoothie drinks, he said.

Photo by Chuck Kirman, Photos by Chuck Kirman / Star staff

‘Awesome’ business

Enrique Candioti, owner of Henry’s Frozen Delight in Ojai, has started using Coconut Manna in his raw vegan ice cream, replacing the coconut butter he was using before. He said the product works well and is less expensive than the butter, and it adds an extra layer of flavor and texture when combined with the organic young coconut he also uses in his ice creams.

As a business, Candioti said, Nutiva is “awesome.”

“They’re very efficient and well-organized,” he said. The process is easy for wholesale customers, and the company is quick to fix things if anything goes wrong.

“They’re a small company,” Candioti said. “I get the impression that John has a very personal relationship with his employees. There’s always communication.”

Candioti counts himself a personal fan of Nutiva’s products, including its hemp seed. He’d like to eventually create a hemp-flavored ice cream.

Education drives demand

Roulac said the company wants to have a few “super foods” and focus on them. Consumers are seeking out natural and organic food products.

In 2008, natural and organic food items registered $29.7 billion worth of U.S. sales, up 11.4 percent from 2007, according to Nutrition Business Journal information reported by the Natural Products Association.

Nutiva doesn’t advertise beyond Google, but it focuses on educating the public on organic and sustainable products, which helps to build brand awareness.

A lot of people still don’t know what hemp seed is, much less how to use it. Nutiva will reach its revenue goals by moving more into the mainstream, Roulac said. The company is starting to do that through sales on

A little celebrity endorsement doesn’t hurt, either. Roulac said sales spiked after a celebrity chef sprinkled a little hemp seed on her yogurt in February.

Continued growth

Inc. magazine put Nutiva on its list of the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in 2009, because of the company’s 145.2 percent revenue growth from 2005 to 2008. The company also made the magazine’s list this year, announced last week, based on its 104 percent growth — from $4.4 million in revenue in calendar 2006 to $9 million in calendar 2009.

Nutiva employs about 20 people, with 11 in Santa Paula. The company has added employees as it has grown and added products.

It started out sharing space with an organic coffee company, then moved into its own office and warehouse space two years ago. Now, it’s moving to a larger building in Oxnard. Roulac said he wanted to stay within the county as the business grew.

Roulac said he looks to other successful businesses for lessons on how to grow — for example, Patagonia for its sustainable and charity efforts, and Zappos for its customer service and employee happiness.

The company donates 1 percent of sales to charity and programs including one that gives coconut trees to farmers.

Author Credit: Allison Bruce

Read more:

Leave a Reply