The Future of Food is Vegan: How One Superfood Company is Getting Us Hooked on Plants

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Health Warrior is a seven-year-old, high-growth and plant-based superfood company based in Richmond, Virginia that might be best known for popularizing chia seeds in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space. But they are best known in my kitchen as the makers of my new favorite travel meal: vegan mug muffins. The co-founders behind Health Warrior have done some major heavy lifting when it comes to popularizing sustainable, healthful superfood ingredients and getting them into snack foods. They see the future as plant-based and to see this mission-driven company grow as quickly as they have is so inspiring.

Cofounded by college roommates Shane Emmett and Dan Gluck, along with friend Nick Morris, after reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma and Born to Run and realizing how much the food industry was hurting consumers, they aimed to start a food company based on real nutrition. Shane and Dan's words, “When we started the company we realized that Americans were overfed and undernourished.” Just 12 months after launching nationally in Whole Foods Market, the brand’s signature chia-based became the top-selling bar across Whole Foods’ stores. Currently, Shane is CEO of Health Warrior, and Dan is Health Warrior's board director and managing partner at Power Plant Ventures. Here, these two co-founders discuss the plant-based and vegan movement today and where healthy foods are headed next.

Why did you go the plant-based direction and why do you think it’s important to the market today?

Shane: What we are doing is really celebrating the biodiversity of heroic superfoods and making them more convenient. In modern grocery stores, most of the food you are surrounded with is not good for you. Even food that is considered ‘better for you’ isn’t ‘good for you’. We wanted to make food that is 'good’ for you. Superfoods are just foods that are nutrient dense, and we felt we could use them in an accessible way to make people healthy.

Dan: Something that helps us and guides the thesis at Power Plant Ventures is that the food system is broken and that it is unhealthy and unsustainable and inhumane. We believe that plant-based foods are one of the best ways to solve this.

How is Health Warrior different from other vegan snack brands?

Shane: I didn’t know much about CPG going in, and I realized that most packaged food is unhealthy not to make it taste good but instead to make it cheap. We use an exceptionally low amount of sugar and always use superfoods as our first ingredient. It’s worth noting that some bars will promote chia as an ingredient, writing it really large on their packaging, but chia will be the last ingredient on the list meaning it’s the smallest amount of any ingredient in that product.

There are around 300,000 edible plant species - and just three of them make up almost 60% of our American calories: corn, rice and wheat. There are so many other nutrient-dense superfoods out there that don’t get used. We started with chia, but we’ve always intended to explore different hero ingredients from the plant world. We also look to aid in sustainability and thoughtful land use with our supply chain.

Dan: You also see companies who advertise ‘no sugar’ but use sugar alcohols or other synthetics to sweeten their products. There are a bunch of white papers coming out now that talk about how your body can’t digest these. Some of these sugar substitutes are like the new Olestra.

Superfoods and vegan foods are becoming household names with mainstream shoppers. Is this a trend and what is the next vanguard in this space?

Shane: Eighteen months after we launched nationally with Whole Foods, we launched in Target. We thought we would have to educate everyone on what chia seeds were. But now I look at our Amazon orders and you will see them all over the country, not just metropolitan areas. We think that fixing food will fix the problems in our healthcare system with people suffering from diabetes and obesity. If we can fix food, we can fix healthcare. It’s amazing to see the awareness of plant ingredients that we use like chia seed and pumpkin seeds. Our pumpkin seed bars went straight to Costco. The awareness happened really quickly - and not just in New York and Los Angeles.

Dan: Something that we talk a lot about at Health Warrior and Power Plant Ventures is that we are in the early innings of the food revolution. We are seeing buy-in from consumers and we’ve read statistics about how there is a 600% increase in consumers who identify as plant-based. Facebook just opened up an office in San Francisco whose office is totally plant-based. Corporates are also buying in. There was $42b in M&A deals in 2017: large strategic food acquisitions are focused on plant-based foods. Tyson just bought a big stake in Beyond Meat. And beyond the US, China last year sent new dietary guidelines to help cut meat consumption by 50%. Buy-in as far as plant-based and better-for-you is really happening and is so important in being able to effect change.

You are evolving the Health Warrior brand beyond bars - what is next and why are you moving in that direction?

Shane: We are in every Whole Foods in the country and are one of the top ranking bars on Amazon. The rise in direct-to-consumer sales in food has been really exciting. It’s given us the opportunity to innovate more quickly. We can try new things and see what our consumers love before taking something into retail. We have two new product lines: a superfood protein powder that is unique in that it is vegan and paleo, it’s sourced from pumpkin and chia and flax, with no added sugars or sweeteners. We heard a tremendous amount of noise about ‘couldn’t these protein powders have less ingredients and be less refined and have less artificial flavors’ and so we are doing it. The second one is a protein mug muffin launching at Wegman’s. It's a warm, spoonable muffin with two times the amount of protein as sugar. Mug muffins and mug cakes have become so popular on social media, so we thought we could make this and have it be a great source of fiber, have really little sugar, have so much protein with few ingredients. As far as what’s next, I read a book called The Third Plate and the author talks about how fine dining restaurants created the quinoa trend years ago. Fine dining is still doing a lot to show us new foods and food forms, and now, if you look there and listen carefully and see what people are doing in digital media, we can pay attention to what is happening now and next.

Due to this listening and watching, we lowered the sugar content of our chia food bars by 40% this year and I think this will be demanded by other brands, too. The microwavable mug came from this. The mug muffins we hope will tap a major trend in the industry right now: lots of products are being built for small meals. Not a full 500-600 calorie burrito type of item but a smaller meal that is more than a snack. It’s a major social media trend, and a great format for delivering real food and real nutrition and a way that Americans are starting to eat. For this and all of our new products, it must fit our guard rails: superfood as first ingredient, low sugar and no fake ingredients that you wouldn’t have in your pantry.

Who are the brands that you both are paying attention to now, who are creating exciting vegan products or have made a traditional vegan product more appealing to a broad audience?

Shane: There is a brand new one that just launched called A Dozen Cousinsthat is a gourmet, ready-to-eat bean company. This company has a really great story about making beans delicious and gourmet again. One we have been eating a lot is Beanfield’s chip company. Beans as a platform will be a really big one.

Dan: We are investors in Beyond Meat and they have created a healthier product that mimics the consistency and flavor of meat. What is really unique about Beyond Meat from a marketing perspective is that they asked retailers put their products in cold case next to meat. We didn’t want to be next to vegan brands. If you need any validation more than Beyond Burger now being on every TGI Fridays menu, I don’t know what you need.  

What is next for the industry at large?

Dan: If you look at healthy food trade show Expo West as an example, 10 years ago it was made up of hardcore products. Now, the quality of the new brands that are joining is just transformative. Particularly as it applies to vegan eating. We’ve really seen the industry grow in terms of sophistication. In last Y Combinator class seven companies are in the innovative food sector. It’s encouraging to see some of the brightest minds out of Stanford and MIT go into this space instead of finance and traditional tech sectors.

Dan: Many larger brands don’t have resources to innovate or can’t do it with the speed that is necessary in the fast-paced market today. In the past couple of years, the strategics when looking to acquire - especially when a company is doing $50m or more - are now looking more downstream at companies who are doing $25m in sales. Earlier stage investors now have a much higher probability of exit earlier on. These large corporations are catching on to how quickly this industry is moving and how consumers are looking for mission-driven brands. Today, everyone wants to go to the ‘about’ section because people want to see the founder story and it has to be authentic. Large companies have a hard time making new products authentic. It’s really encouraging to see some of these large strategics embrace some of these brands - you see Chobani launching incubators and Nestle and Pepsi embracing working with smaller brands in concert.

In terms of sustainability, it’s becoming more known that eight times more land to produce one pound of protein for meat as plants, and four times as much water for the same. You also look at the majority of land in the US and global basis and the consumer is beginning to wake up to realize that to have a more sustainable food system there has to be more emphasis on plant-based diet.

Shane: this is intertwined with healthcare. The money is starting to follow the value of the food system changing. This industrialized, monoculture food system has only been around about 50 years. Like smoking, when something gets dangerous we begin to course-correct. We might see meat and sugar treated similarly to smoking in the near future. We see celebrities talking about the benefits of plant-based for the land and performance. James Cameron is now co-producing a movie called Game Changes about athletes and veganism, Serena Williams is talking about it for her performance. Maintaining the genuine whole food nutrition is really the key as we inevitably move to a plant-powered future.

What is next for you, at Health Warrior and at Power Plant Ventures?

Shane: In the bar category, there are no other bars with nationwide distribution who have a superfood as first ingredient. We eventually want to be able to transcend the retail shelf as Nike and Patagonia do. Movement is something of lifestyle, so we are working with emerging fitness and wellness brands as well as SoulCycle and Barry’s so we can really connect with our customer outside of traditional brick and mortar locations.

I wanted to stay that we would be running a plant-powered ad at the NFL. But in 10 years the women’s national team will be bigger and that is where we will be running ads. When you are starting a company and read about starting one, you have to work like a crazy lunatic for five to eight years and you can’t do anything else. At some point, I look forward to writing a book about the food industry.

Dan: We are investors in Thrive Market and they’ve let us know that plant-based is one of their highest searched terms. Power Plant will invest a billion dollars in plant-based food companies. I’m looking forward to an upcoming Spartan race with my three year old son.

How A Former Banker Built AnAdult Summer Camp For Gourmands and Outdoor Novices

How A Former Banker Built AnAdult Summer Camp For Gourmands and Outdoor Novices

Adult summer camps, complete with expert guides, gourmet meals and happy hours, are the next big wellness trend. Here’s how Pursuit Series Co-founder Julia Stamps-Mallon turned her idea into a sold-out outdoors festival.

The California Road Trip Adventure We’re Tripping on This Fall

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Friend of Well + Away and inspiring outdoor adventurer Veronica Baas recently visited California for a long weekend of healthy road tripping to explore her favorite outdoor destinations along the 101 and Route 1. Below, she shares her trip notes, from the most stunning national parks and vegan eateries along the way, to the tourist attractions that really are worth a pit-stop.

by Guest Contributor Veronica Baas

As a native Coloradan and newly branded Arizonan, I love getting out of the desert to visit the west coast. And as a technical marketer and burgeoning engineer I need to switch up screen time for outdoor green time to feel balanced. And when I say outdoors, I mean outside in the woods running, hiking or swimming. Basically, what meditation does for some of my friends, a hike does for me. A non-rushed, multi-day drive down the 101 freeway, stopping to explore  national and state parks along the way, is one of my favorite self-care, slow-living rituals.

Driving from the top of California, like, say, in Redwood country, to the tip, say in San Diego for margaritas, takes roughly 14 hours. To give myself enough time to enjoy it and soak in as much nature as I can, I give myself a period of three or four nights for the drive, depending on how much PTO I have to spare. I’ll pick one or two major cities I want to hit along the way, as well as stops for hot springs and can’t miss trailheads. All of this gets mapped along a paper map to ensure I don’t get overexcited by any far-flung trails and stray too far from my route.

Read on for one of my favorite routes down the 101, with stops along the way to get out and explore some of the most beautiful Northern California outdoors.


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1. Redwood National and State Parks

If you’re flying in, the adventure begins at the small California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport, just 30 minutes from the national forest visitor center. There’s something magical about seeing the country’s tallest trees tower over a horizon of full-on ocean..

The redwood protected area is made up of four state parks: Redwood national park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks. The entire territory lies within two counties, Del Norte and Humboldt. One of my favorite places to explore within the state parks is Fern Canyon. Or, if you’re strapped for time, the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail is a solid option for shorter hikes. It’s not too steep, and the trees are gorgeous. You’ll see tons of full-grown redwoods as well as old, hollowed-out trees.

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2. Russian Gulch State Park

After nearly four hours of driving, stop off at Corners of the Mouth organic grocery store in Mendocino to grab healthy picnic items for a hike up to the Russian Gulch State Park waterfall. Skip the heavily trafficked loop and find a shorter hike only one mile or so each way off of Road 409. Park where the pavement ends and go behind the horse camp gates to find this trailhead. The hiking itself should only take you 30 or so minutes round trip but the majestic atmosphere is a nice place to stop and take a few deep breaths.  You can also camp, bike, hike, kayak, or dive elsewhere in the park. Anyone who has plenty of time should stop and stay for a few days, but at the very least the falls are a must-see.

If you do take the Google-recommended route, remember to bring cash for an $8 admission fee that goes to maintain the park. This area was easy for me to fall in love with, so I ended up sticking nearby and heading to the Mendocino Headlands state park next, conveniently located in the same county. The headlands trail is a fun 4-mile hike with cliffside ocean views and gorgeous wildflowers to marvel at. Dogs are welcome here, too.

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3. Lands End Labyrinth

Hop back in the car and head south for three more hours to San Francisco. I like to stop by one major city on these drives, to  treat myself to a great meal and just a touch of hustle bustle (though I still try to keep myself from looking at my inbox). Here, I’ll often find myself headed to dinner at healthy restaurants such as vegan sushi spot Shizen or raw-friendly but not totally raw Nourish Cafe. And for an afternoon of slow-paced exploring, I love visiting the deYoung, San Francisco’s contemporary museum that’s surrounded by Golden Gate Park. Or Lands End Labyrinth, a locals’ favorite hike that sits on the northern tip of town.

If you do make it out to Land’s End, you’ll find one of my favorite San Francisco secrets: an oceanside labyrinth, at the literal land’s end. In the mornings and at sunset you might catch a few visitors meditating or practicing yoga here, I’ve yet to find a time of day where it’s not completely stunning. Though of course sunrise and sunset are peak prettiness. While in town, don’t forget to check out Well + Away’s favorite vegan meals in San Francisco, as well as some of my own favorite tasty vegan restaurants.

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4. The Mystery Spot

The next morning, time to hit the road again, this time for a two hour drive south of San Francisco to the Mystery Spot, a mysterious site riddled with gravity phenomenon just north of Santa Cruz. The museum is hidden in the mountains though each time I visit it seems more and more people are discovering this little natural wonder. Fun fact: a few years back California native Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, made a track called The Mystery Spot.

Within the gravitational anomaly you can lean fully forward without falling over or watch lighter objects hang in mid-air.

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5. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Head south for another two and a half hours until you hit Big Sur State Park. This stop might be a household name around the world, and for good reason. It’s too beautiful to skip if you’re passing by. Visiting this luxe, coastal town is a nice way to slow down and relax after a busy visit to SF. The town is home to less than 1,000 people, but the plant-based bites at the Big Sur Bakery compete with vegan hot spots in the city. I recommend the veggie saute with baby zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, and fennel confit or the creamy vegan risotto.

After an energizing meal it’s time to hit the trail again. This park boasts six popular trails ranging in length from a half mile to the most advanced, eight-mile Mt. Manuel Trail. For a good middle point in difficulty and a local favorite try the Valley View and Pfeiffer Falls trail. It’s an intermediate hike, three miles long that brings you to a 60-foot waterfall.

The state park itself is famous for its misty views, steep cliffs, and rocky shorelines. It is also formally known as the longest undeveloped coastline in the U.S, which should not come as a surprise with such endless vistas on hiking trails and from campgrounds. Before packing up, be sure to spend an hour or two sunbathing and swimming at Pfeiffer Beach.

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6. Hearst Castle

Worth a slight detour off of the 101, and three hours south of Big Sur, is Hearst Castle, one of my favorite architectural landmarks in the state. If time allows, be sure to take a scenic detour via CA-1 and stop at Slates Hot Springs while en route. The mansion itself is notable for its extravagant decor, both ocean and mountain views, and its iconic indoor and outdoor pools. Both pools are gorgeous but the indoor pool reminds me of something you’d find in a European castle. The Hearst Castle attract millions of visitors every year, so brave the crowds and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty mind-blowing architectural experience.

If you’re feeling peckish after your visit, pop down to Centrally Grown in downtown San Simeon for a wide variety of organic and vegan options. If you do choose to splurge on a meal onsite at the castle, know that most ingredients used are organic and locally-sourced. Plant-based options include a sweet and sour tofu, roasted artichoke, roasted butternut organic squash, and more.
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Please let me know what you think about my favorite road trip here. Taking time to get out and explore the outdoors and breathe in non-city air has such a big impact on my stress levels and happiness, and I hope you find it helps you, too.. For more details on route and drive time, check out the map!




Our London VitalGuide is HERE!!

Our London VitalGuide is HERE!!

Our first London VitalGuide is here, and ready to revolutionize the way you see hip, healthy London. Check out our chat with City Curator Emily Warburton-Adams on how she curated the best vegan-friendly restaurants, coolest fitness studios, wellness-focused escapes and more.

This LA Esthetician Turned her Home Spa Business into Downtown's Biggest Spa

I met up with DESUAR Spa owner Deisy Suarez to learn how this former home-spa esthetician transformed a grassroots operation into downtown Los Angeles' largest day spa. On the day we met, downtown LA's busy farmers' market had DESUAR's block sectioned off to cars, so I hopped out of my Lyft, grabbed a green juice and organic berries along the way, and followed signs for the spa into a commercial building. I wandered down a flight of stairs and after turning a corner discovered what felt like a massive spa-speakeasy.

High, exposed and metallic ceilings, gently lit candles and Moroccan Thuya wood appeared throughout. I met up with Deisy in the relaxation room, where they serve tea and sparkling wine, where she handed me off to one of her colleagues for a massage on Deisy's favorite amenity - DESUAR's Himalayan Salt Bed. It was a dreamy treatment, in a gorgeous space that felt both totally urban and a million miles away. 

Here is how Deisy built her dream spa:

Tell us about DESUAR Spa and how you came to the spa world?

"DESUAR Spa is a 4,400 square foot day spa located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. We have eight treatment rooms, one of which includes a Himalayan salt bed, in which we offer massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, slimming treatments, waxing, spray tanning and soaks. Our style is speakeasy-meets-industrial with a Moroccan twist. Our goal is to provide the best relaxation and also cater to the diverse community of Downtown Los Angeles.

I completed my massage program certificate at the National Holistic Institute in 2010, then attended Marinello School of Beauty acquiring my esthetician license in 2011. I opened a “home spa” offering facials, skin treatments and other beauty services out of a room in my home. In 2015, the home version of DESUAR Spa grew too big to operate out of a small space, and I started looking for commercial space."  

How did you know you were ready to make the jump into opening your own space?

"It was tough to find the right space and a landlord that was willing to take the risk and lease to me. My home business was flourishing and that’s when I began scouting for a bigger location, but I couldn’t find a landlord in Downtown LA who was willing to lease a space to a single, female Latina who had this dream of opening a spa. All they hear when I said 'spa' was 'massage parlor' and they just did not have interest in knowing more about it. It was around this time that I got married, and though he doesn’t have knowledge of the spa industry, with him in the picture, landlords were more receptive of renting to me. To some degree, at least with regard to obtaining a lease, my husband legitimized my business."

 

Did you raise money, or take it on solo?

"This has been a solo venture. I wanted to build my first spa without outside investors. My husband helped me build the spa, carrying wood and drywall up 12 flights of stairs, adding air conditioners, and finding water supplies. He secured business loans that he personally guaranteed, along with his pension and car to help get us the amount of capital we needed.  We worked seven days a week, 12 or more hours a day to secure our new location and cover the crazy buildout costs. We were denied by the city three times for permits thus making the process more grueling and more expensive, but we did it."  

How did you develop your clientele?

"From opening my home spa until now, I’ve always used the best products, found the best training, and have a true passion for what I do. I also posted ads in every local newspaper, dropped my menu to every Downtown LA building, attended and participated in every local networking event. We got our vehicle wrapped to advertise the spa, and I then spent many evenings driving around the local area, parking in strategic locations as a way to advertise. I encouraged my clients to leave reviews for me on every site; took advantage of any technology. Creating strategic partnerships with local businesses has also really served me well to this day. Relationships are very important. It is a challenge to get clients in the door but once I do, it is my goal to make sure they leave with the most positive impression."

How did you come up with the treatments?

"Coming up with spa treatments was the fun part! I traveled South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to soak in all that I could. I looked into everything, including a 700-year-old Turkish Spa in Downtown Istanbul with the 5" water bugs,  to learn about spa culture across every culture. My dream was to offer the most effective healing treatments, no matter how far I had to go to find them."

What is your next goal for the spa?

"We have been blessed with an incredible therapist team, who we recruited using online posts and social media, who meet strictest standards of spa education and service. Now, with the team in place, I’m excited to soon introduce our own product line and open more locations nationwide and worldwide."

What advice would you have to any current therapists or spa managers looking to open their own facility?

"My number one piece of advice is to dedicate yourself to your craft by constantly studying and improving yourself. You must be dedicated and always learning. Our business evolves and grows so much every day and the only way to stay ahead is to be ahead. Surround yourself with good people who will encourage you and help you grow."

Making Your Home Bedroom Five-Star Hotel Worthy, with Susana Saeliu of Pluto

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It's my dream to one day be able to transform my home bedroom into a restful sanctuary made up of my five-star hotel bedroom favorites: gorgeous, perfectly pressed linens, chic and soothing shades and textures all around, none of my usual bedside table clutter, not too modern but not too old world, and filled with decadently comfortable pillows.

In my lifelong quest to five-star upgrade my bedroom into a non-weird cross between my favorite hotels, Plaza Athenee and Park Hyatt Seoul, I discovered Pluto pillows. They are totally customizable, made with super sophisticated technology that makes them a solid contender for those five star pillows of my dreams. 

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I had a chance to chat with Pluto's founder Susana Saeliu about how those among us who do not live in a five star hotel can journey onward in our quest to convert a home bedroom into the ultimate personal retreat. Here are Susana's words of wisdom about how to decipher the difference between all of the bedding options out there, where she thinks the industry is headed next and some of her favorite bedroom upgrades. 

Susana Saeliu launched Pluto, the first direct-to-consumer (DTC), personalized pillow company in March, 2018. She was previously the founder of Kora Brand, a bamboo bath tissue company, and the COO of Tradex Marketplace, a reverse logistics company that processes customer returns and overstock merchandise from national department stores. She worked alongside the largest bedding manufacturers with years of material research. The woman knows the sleep industry better than most.

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Before we get to pillows, let’s talk mattresses. They are another key to this whole five-star sleep set-up. What is your take on the current set of mattress offerings available?

The number of DTC bed-in-a-box companies that have launched these past few years have really changed the way we buy a bed. Gone are the days of visiting your local brick-and-mortar stores, trying dozens of confusing options, and paying traditional, large markup for these mattresses. Instead, we have intense competition between many DTC mattress companies that compete on price, quality, customer service, trial periods, ease of returns, warranties, etc. We also see some of the old guards coming out with DTC mattress brands themselves due to the impact these new companies have had on the industry. Each of these DTC mattress offerings are also known for a different “feel” from one to another (if you dig a little deeper), but it is still definitely hard to know which one is ultimately best for you – hence the intense marketing of easy returns and lengthy trial periods.

Quality-wise, they’re all pretty similar and it’s frankly too early to say – none of the DTC mattress companies have been around long enough to tell who is truly ‘best in class’.

How are consumers supposed to tell them apart?

It’s definitely hard to tell them apart, and I’ve had conversations with friends who confuse one from another when describing which one they were most interested in for a new home, for instance. That’s why I feel each of these DTC mattress companies spend so much time, effort, and money to carefully craft distinct brand images for themselves: from goofy, memorable commercials, to being the brand that gives back to their community the most, etc.

Do you think the competition in this space is helping people find better solutions and get a better night’s sleep at a better price point?

I believe so! When there’s this much competition in a given industry, there are many more choices available for consumers to compare and contrast, which is ultimately a great thing.

What about the smart sleep systems, like these new, connected sleep pads? Are these helping- have you seen any evidence that tech products like these really aid sleep?

I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of these smart sleep systems aren’t as precise as they claim. The technology isn’t there yet to measure your brainwaves at home (the best way to measure sleep). We toss and turn during restorative sleep stages, so just recording movements can be misleading. However, I feel that if someone can benefit from the placebo effect of these smart systems, and are overall more aware of how much sleep they’re getting, there’s value in that as well.

Your new company Pluto is a non-smart, customizable pillow system. Why didn’t you go the smart route and do you think veering away from ‘smart’ products in the bedroom is a trend?

In terms of pillows, there’s a lot of research pointing out that smart pillows are the least valid and accurate in terms of actual research. Most importantly, we believe that in a fast-paced world filled with great technologies, electronics shouldn’t have a place near our heads when we sleep. Instead, we wanted to focus our efforts on creating quality, innovative, open-cell materials that are temperature-regulating and better yet, personalized to an individual’s preferences and body stats for optimized support and comfort.

We’re not sure if there’s a trend of veering away from ‘smart’ products in the bedroom, but what we do see are new smart sleep products coming to market quite frequently. So there’s definitely people who want data on the way they sleep, but along with that, there are also many others who don’t want electronics in their bedroom or near their heads.

What do you think traditional pillow retailers weren’t doing right, and why don’t you think the now relatively mature DTC mattress brands haven’t gotten pillow systems totally right?

All the DTC mattress brands have changed the way we buy beds. However, we felt that the way we purchase pillows largely remained the same. We go to a store, and we test out aisles of options with our hands, squeezing pillows that say “soft, medium, or firm” and realizing that what’s “firm” from one brand, can mean “soft” from another and a “side-sleeper” pillow from one brand can mean much thinner, etc. We also tend to buy what appears to be a great first impression, taking that back home to sleep on, and realizing that it actually results in terrible sleep.

I was surprised that among all these great DTC brands, no one has really modernized the way we buy pillows and the materials used. Instead, with the surge of bed-in-a-box companies, pillows became even more of an afterthought – something sold along with the mattress, and with one-size-fits-all designs. We truly believe that getting a great night’s sleep is more than having a great mattress -- where our heads rest matters just as much.

So our proprietary model and pillow designs take a more scientific approach in which we create and personalize pillows to you based on your body stats, how you sleep, and your preferences.

Our pillows are also a hybrid-design, with a supportive, high-grade CertiPUR-US inner core, encased within an outer plush pillow, both unique to your individual sleep profile. These materials now combine for over 30 variations.

What can people who are currently overwhelmed by all of the DTC sleep choices do to feel more in control or avoid just shopping on price?

It’s very important to not just shop on price. All of the DTC sleep choices have a ton of five-star reviews. However, you really have to dig a little deeper and find legit customer reviews on three important points:

  • Product feel and durability
  • Ease of returns
  • Customer experience

Ease of returns and customer experience matter most because at the end of the day, you’re buying something you haven’t truly felt in the comfort of your home. Going with companies that have truly great customer experiences can save you a lot of headache – especially in cases where there is some trial-and-error involved before arriving at that perfect sleep product.

How do you ensure you’re getting the best night’s sleep? What is your nightly routine?

To be honest, it’s very hard to shut-off when you’re running a start-up that you’re incredibly passionate about. I’m a complete night owl, but I’ve never regretted going to bed a little earlier than I actually want to – and I try to remind myself of that every night. Before bed, I list out all the things that are top of mind, whether it’s something I have to do tomorrow or even a plan I’d like to execute in the following month – just get it all out. I also tend to keep my workspace very separate from where I relax and sleep. Lastly, going to bed the same time every night (as best you can!) has also been incredibly helpful.

If you're considering a bedroom upgrade, here are Susana's favorites:

  • Google Home or Alexa: I have one and it's the perfect alarm clock, great way to check weather, snippets of daily news, and a great way to play your favorite music.
  • Candles: Love anything from Diptyque, Jo Malone, or even the Blueberry Blitz from Tyler Candle Store
  • Premium nice sheets that are also breathable - I really like the Twill collection from Brooklinen and also the Threshold Organic Sheets from Target that fit very, very well (they don't move around and surprisingly soft for the value)
  • Quiet air filter - I use the Coway AP-1512HH 
  • Ambient lighting, dimmable and not harsh is key

Our Favorite Crystal-infused Beauty Products This Summer

Crystal Beauty Products

Holistic beauty has birthed a new luxury beauty trend that we've been all about this summer: crystal infused serums, oils and luxurious balms. While 2017 had seen an uptick in the use of jade rollers for massaging serums into the face, 2018 has gone full-on, with pieces of crystal included in and infused into products to imbue the user with healing properties. While no clinical trials back up claims of crystal healing, there are long traditions of using gemstones in beauty rituals for a variety of purposes. This new category of ‘crystal luxe’ beauty is growing with a set of up-and-coming indie product lines and major retailer releases. Below are some of the names to watch:

Los Angeles based, natural luxury skincare line Odacite, founded by Valerie Grandury, introduced its first crystal product on June 15, a Co-Q10 lip serum with a green aventurine roller applicator (ed. note: this is one of my absolute favorite new products out there - I am obsessed). Grandury, who remembers her French grandmother saying that she could not sleep without the calming energy of a piece of magnesite on her nightstand, has been a lifelong devotee of the power of crystals. Green aventurine, Grandury suggests, is ‘known to be the luckiest of all crystals. Healers believe that aventurine has the power to absorb electromagnetic pollution created by computers and cell phones, helping you sleep better and wake up with newfound energy.’

It’s not just the luxury-wellness frontier of Los Angeles that is hopping on the crystal bandwagon. Growing natural beauty retailer The Detox Market just launched an exclusive rollout of crystal-infused Nazan Schnapp products on May 15 that lasts through the summer throughout all North America locations. The Zurich-based Nazan Schnapp line has used gemstones as ingredients in its products since the company’s 2011 launch. A Sublime Hydrating Treatment Essence is made with rose quartz, intended to encourage ‘a natural renewal process’ of the skin, and a Regenerating Blue Clay Iris Amethyst & Peony mask uses amethyst for its ‘calming effect’.

More approachable brands are getting in on crystal-infused product, too.  Pacifica released an entire crystal collection called the Crystal Collection in March, available to purchase at Ulta.com, with a range of products containing powdered gemstones, including a Crystal Primer that contains powdered rose quartz and a Crystal Foam face wash that contains rose crystal extracts. Cult beauty brand Glossier’s crystal infused Haloscope highlighter regularly sells out. The most popular color? Quartz, naturally.

Santa Monica's Drive-by Facials are No-Frills Perfection

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Fast facials are quickly replacing luxury day spa visits for the millennial set. We're more interested in results over pampering, as evidenced by the proliferation of drop-in and slightly more affordable facial retailers cropping up across New York and Los Angeles. 

The other week I discovered that Santa Monica's Montana Avenue is one of the ultimate incubators for testing and growing these drive-by pore cleansing purveyors. I checked a few of them out to see just what can be done in the span of a mini appointment. Here is the scoop on some of the buzziest fast facials in LA's most wellness-obsessed beachside community. You better believe these quickie facial chainlets are coming for your town next, if they're not already there! 

If you have 10 minutes:

Dermalogica is Santa Monica’s original quickie facial purveyor, offering a range of aptly named Express treatments that take 10 minutes. A technician asks what skin concerns or requests there are, offers an option of around six facial themes ranging from hydration to peel, and then dives into a super quick treatment targeting specific issues. All Express treatments are $15, which can then be applied to products if any are purchased.

If you have 12 minutes:

Bulletproof Labs on Main Street offers seemingly every machine-based biohack available, including a cryotherapy facial device. Cryotherapy is said to aid in cell rejuvenation, improve skin tone, reduce signs of wrinkles and promote skin tightening. Bulletproof performs its cryo treatment across the face and neck, which in addition to the above reported benefits, can also reduces puffiness and inflammation to help reduce eczema and acne. Treatments are $50, and package pricing is available.

If you have 15 minutes:

Laser facial empire Skin Laundry’s very first laser facial location is located in Santa Monica, and still acts as an incubator for new treatments including a new ‘mini Fraxel’ that is only offered at the Montana Avenue location. This and every other location offers a signature dual laser treatment, administered by registered nurses in private rooms. The first part of the lightning speed treatment is a YAG laser said to deep clean the skin, followed by one pass of IPL on a low setting, said to stimulate collagen production. There is zero downtime and Skin Laundry has most faces out within under fifteen minutes. Treatments start at $65 per appointment.

If you have 45 minutes:

Since opening in 2013, Facehaus has treated over 50,000 faces at three drop-in facial studios across Los Angeles. Having just opened a location on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica this June, the new kid on the block might be the tipping point that makes Santa Monica's Montana Avenue officially Facial Row. Facehaus offers 30-60 minute treatments bookable by the type of results preferred and performed in an open, sterile-chic and spa-like space. A signature Facehaus treatment costs $65 for 45-minutes of straight to business facial work. Boosts like extractions and oxygen can be added for a $10 fee.

The Best Vegan Brunch in Beverly Hills This Summer

Vegan Lunch in Beverly Hills

Vegans staying at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills no longer have to skip their luxurious hotel digs to find one of the city’s best plant-based meals. While always on the forefront of plant-based options, the property has just launched its most ambitious vegan food and beverage endeavor: an entirely vegan summer menu with renowned vegan chef Matthew Kenney. Called Folia, meaning “from the leaves”, the new vegan and often raw menu is comprised of 10 appetizers, entrees and desserts designed by Kenney. The Folia menu is offered at Four Seasons’ Cabana restaurant starting July 25 and lasting through September 7, 2018.

Folia appetizers include watermelon poke, hearts of palm ceviche and beet hummus; entrees include green herb tacos and a kelp noodle cacio e pepe; and dessert includes a coconut cream pie. Prices start at 12 USD per item.

The partnership with Matthew Kenney is the latest in the property’s partnering with local wellness experts. Just this spring, the hotel launched a juice bar partnership with Kimberly Snyder of The Beauty diet.

Of these partnerships, general manager Michael Newcombe says, “Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is excited to partner with Chef Matthew Kenney on the new plant-based menu Folia, as well as celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder on a new juice bar, to further enhance our wellness offerings throughout the hotel. Our new wellness rooms and suites have proven to be very successful, and we are confident that our new food and beverage options will be well received.”

What to Pack for a Yoga Festival

What To Pack For A Yoga Festival

Combing the internet looking for the perfect yoga festival or retreat is the easy part. Harder is figuring out how to pack for early morning hikes, post-breakfast Vinyasa flows and 3pm pool parties. Depending on your location, the amount of layers required might change, but the general formula for packing remains the same. This year I drove up to Wanderlust Squaw Valley with co-pilot and Stretch*d Founder Vanessa Chu, who as a former yoga teacher and current time-strapped founder of a New York stretch studio knows how to pack a perfectly edited yoga carry-on. Together, Chu and myself, a veteran of Wanderlust Tahoe and yoga festival fangirl, put our heads together to come up with the ultimate yoga festival packing list.

Best Mineral Sunblock

Sunblock
Before you pack anything else, make sure you’ve stuffed a mineral sunscreen into every bag headed to the festival: luggage, backpack, purse. The more the merrier, and in a variety of sizes. Natural sunscreens with high SPF like Coola are an easy pick with bonus points for smelling like the tropics. Chu says she likes Colorescience’s travel-sized Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-on Shield in SPF 50, that she says takes her from, “sweaty yogi to poolside presentable even on a minimalist yoga weekend.”

Best Hiking Boots for Yoga Festival

Hiking boots
Nike Frees are meant for the road or the treadmill - not a dusty, gravelly or muddy mountain. And if you’re used to sitting behind a desk all day, having ankle protection to stabilize joints can mean the difference between having a full weekend of outdoor adventure and having to watch from the sidelines. For a well made, comfortable option that won’t break the bank, Hi-Tec’s Altitude VI boots are an easy go-to. Chu also recommends, “Bombas socks because they are super comfortable and supportive and they don’t slide down, which matters when you’re trekking up a mountain.”

Best Swimsuit for Yoga Festival

Bathing suits
Keep your bathing suit (and a towel) in your backpack at all times - you don’t know when your group of yogis is going to want to ditch afternoon Vinyasa for a dip in the pool (especially if you’re going somewhere warm). Guarantee you’re prepared for any water sports or poolside margaritas that might arise by packing one chic, poolside appropriate suit like the flattering one pieces at Andie plus a stand up paddle-friendly one that is built for movement like the new Malia Manuel collaboration collection at lululemon.

Best Refreshing Facial Spray

Luxe facial spray
You will be hot and covered in a thin layer of dirt mixed with sunscreen and sweat for the duration of your time outdoors. Do yourself a favor by taking a moment every few hours to spritz your face and exposed limbs with a cooling and luxurious-smelling facial spray. For something summery and natural, Kat Rudu Dewy Botanical Flower Mist has a chamomile rose cantaloupe scent and is made with witch hazel to chase away bacteria from all of that dirt.

Best Linen Top for Summer

Apres-yoga gear
Yes, it’s a yoga festival, but you’re going to want to take a break from spandex by the end of the day. Mix it up with wellness-vibing separates like gorgeous and flowy linen tops and pants or dresses by a sustainable brand like Rough Linen. Or for lounging in your cabin, gear from Spiritual Gangster is one of the comfiest yogic options.

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Apres-yoga shoes
Post-shower, when you toss on your linen separates for evenings of healthy, family-style meals and kombucha or cocktails, having a pair of easy-to-toss on and comfortable slides feels like such a luxury. San Francisco’s Birdies makes the perfect apres-yoga slipper-shoe in a multitude of jewel tones and textures, from citrine to blush.

BKR Bottle Water Balm

Water bottle
It is not possible to over-hydrate at a yoga festival. Many don’t even have bottled water as an option and instead have fill stations scattered around festival grounds. Having a full water bottle will ensure you’re feeling great all day. Bkr makes a variety of sizes, with cheeky details, so you won’t confuse your bottle with your neighbors or forget it after an extra zen meditation session. Even better than a standard bottle is Bkr’s new water bottle with their new water balm snapped onto the cap.

Best Affordable Sunglasses for Yoga Festival

Sunglasses
It’s likely you’ll be under the sun’s rays for a solid portion of your days, so sunglasses are key for protecting eyes and being able to soak in the scenery. But an active-outdoor trip is not the time to splurge on designer shades. Instead try fashion-forward but affordable options from sustainability minded brands like Sunski or Diff. Chu says that “even if you lose them, you know they’ll at least go to another yogi and you’re not out hundreds of dollars.”

Yoga Road Trip

Bottom line
Chu recommends that if you forget all else, remember to, “think survival mode-light. Pack strategically for what you need for the day: you’re going to go from class to poolside to grassy picnic to live music without going back to your home base.” And if you’re making any new purchases, to, “try to buy mission-driven, you are going to a yoga weekend after all!”