The Superfoods brand launched in SA more or less when whispers of a raw food diet became the new healthy habit to adopt. I recall being completely taken by the notion that my microwave-nuked food probably didn’t contain all that many nutrients and set off on a 3-month raw food journey myself. I fell in love with a notion that said chocolate was good for me and consequently their raw Ecuadorian sourced cocoa powder. For me, raw chocolate was the only part that stuck, but the awareness toward nutrient dense food never left.
Some ten years down the line, the brand has grown in popularity as many more health-seeking individuals get onboard. Soaring Free Superfoods has also grown considerably in range as more and more power-packing berries are discovered in the jungle depths. But what makes a food so super and how did this particular collision of lifestyle and trend cross paths with two such life-affirming health-food believers? We had the opportunity to connect with founders, Peter and Beryn Daniels, on the makings of a truly Super-infused brand.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me for Faithful to Nature (via email). If we were doing this in person and I was sitting in your lounge what would we be snacking on right now?
Our Zero-Sugar Superherb Chocolate Bars with a bowl of goji berries and black mulberries on the side. (our personal favourite)
In case you have a sweeter tooth, we’d have our other 4 flavours of coconut sugar sweetened chocolate bars on offer for you too ☺
Yum (she says looking at her inedible keyboard)! For those of us who have only ever known you as the two founding pillars of the Superfoods brand – who were you before and how did you meet prior to the brand being born.
Peter and I met in our late teens, just out of school, way before we knew anything about food, health or superfoods! We fell head over heels in love and were married by the tender age of 22. With a big dream of one day living on a farm, we set off in the apparent opposite direction – travelling and adventuring together to gain some life experience and work out what we wanted to do with our lives. We spent a couple of years living and working in London, where we were first introduced to Superfoods. Whilst abroad we trained first as chefs and worked for a brief period in a French ski resort. Upon returning to the UK, we were introduced to the Raw Food Movement and trained as raw food (and superfood) chefs.
Inspired by health and the practical culinary skills to make healthy food taste great, we returned home to South Africa and started Soaring Free Superfoods.
Although Soaring Free Superfoods now imports and distributes the widest range of Superfoods countrywide, the core tenet of our business is education. We began the company as a means to share how delicious good food can taste as well as how delightful good health feels.
“Food and health cannot be separated, so it is important to be able to create dishes that inspire the senses as well as the cells.”
During our training, we were introduced to raw chocolate and were taught how to make a superfood chocolate mousse. As a chocoholic (raised in her parent’s bakery) that was it for me! We found many of the Superfoods we were accustomed to eating abroad were not available back home, especially the raw cacao (chocolate). So, we started importing our favourite superfoods mainly to keep ourselves, and our friends, in good supply. Very soon we were supplying the people on our workshops, then local health shops, markets and specialised delis. We created the Soaring Free Superfoods brand dedicated to sourcing and distributing only the highest quality organic and wild harvested superfoods we could find.
3. Was there a singular moment, that you can recall, where the entire ‘Superfood concept’ bloomed all at once or did it develop bit by bit, the way my blueberry bush yields limited but delicious fruit every year?
There is some confusion and controversy out there in the general public media as to what defines a ‘superfood’, so perhaps it’s best to clear up the concept first. Is salmon a superfood? How about eggs? Or is it broccoli and blueberries?
Superfood defined according to Peter and Beryn
We’ve come to define superfoods as foods that are:
- Organic or wildcrafted, raw, plant-based whole foods that have a history of traditional use verifying their nourishing ability
- Foods that have been revered by ancient cultures around the world for thousands of years
- Foods that have stood the test of time as healing and nourishing to the human body, recognised by ancient medicinal systems over generations of experience. (Western science is now verifying the nutrient density of these foods and numerous studies are showing the incredible healing ability of their nutrients. Every biome worldwide has its own superfoods that have been used by the indigenous peoples of the area.)
- Foods that deliver more: more nutrients, energy and healing
- Foods that have a high mineral and nutrient makeup
- High in minerals, vitamins and nutrients that are easily recognised, absorbed and utilised by the body
- They bridge the gap between food and herbal medicine – healing and nourishing
So with that in mind, the ‘concept’ has developed slowly over time… thousands of years, in fact, refined by mother nature.
- The Amazon rainforest
- The top of the Andes mountains
- The foothills of the Himalayas
- The wild African plains
Why do we need Superfoods
Somewhere between the industrial revolution and our current, high-paced, tech-information-age food is no longer the nourishing fare it should be to keep our bodies well-tuned and able to keep up with our modern lifestyles.
Something is needed to re-boot the system, boost nutrient levels and restore balance. This is why the ancient healing power of superfoods has returned and is quickly becoming a revered food staple.
4. So what was the very first product in the now vast range?
That would be the humble Goji Berry.
The goji berry’s Latin name, Lycium, comes from the root meaning ‘school of learning’. Chinese herbalists believe the berry can link one into the teachings of Chinese Medicine, generally making one more aware of health. Gojis were the first superfood we were introduced to, and I believe they had a subtle yet powerful guiding effect on us, helping us to embark on our journey into health education.
5. And how many superfoods are there in total in the range now… how many years down the line?
10 years down the line, the range includes over 20 single product lines, as well as our range of Simply Superfood Blends: pre-mixed breakfast, smoothie and snack options, plus the new range of Raw Superfoods Chocolate Bars (5 in total for now, with more in the creation pipeline).
6. Was your health in any way involved in the desire for “super” foods?
We have always been driven by health and the desire for greater levels of radiant health and abundant energy.
.We never realised that we weren’t healthy until we started to transition away from a standard Western diet and started to include a higher percentage of raw foods and superfoods into our lifestyle. But as I’ve said already, it was only once we came to understand how good (and delicious) good health feels that we realised how far we were from it at the outset.
“We never realised that we weren’t healthy until we started to transition away from a standard Western diet”
IF YOU’RE JUST STARTING OUT
7. How does a raw food diet play a part in all of this? I remember when I was getting to know the brand, I felt a bit like it was a whole lifestyle makeover and that these products were the building blocks to an entirely raw lifestyle? Is that your vision for the range or is it more a supplementary one?
The nutrition inherent within each of the superfoods will add massive benefit to your body, wherever you are at. Although Superfoods are often used by people enjoying a high-raw lifestyle, they are equally successfully used and enjoyed as part of ANY lifestyle.
From peak performance, athletes to healthy snacks for school lunch boxes, or an alternative to commercial mass-marketed chocolate – the ways to engage with and enjoy Superfoods are endless and don’t demand that you follow any particular diet.
8. So if someone who wasn’t living a raw food lifestyle, maybe they’re vegetarian or only beginning to cut out meat, and were going to add only a few (lets say 3) products from the range that would already greatly enhance their wellbeing – what would those be and how should they incorporate them into their lifestyle?
We’ve created our Simply Superfoods Range of breakfast, smoothie and snacking options for just this purpose. We’ve spent many years testing and playing with superfood recipes in our kitchen to bring what we do at home easily and conveniently to your home. You don’t have to choose only 1 or 3 because each product contains a perfect, synergistic blend of up to 8 superfoods (or more in the case of the superherb chocolates).
“The aim is to upgrade your nutrition to the next level!”
FOR THE CHOCOLATE LOVER
9. Okay, I have a massive chocolate sweet tooth – if all I wanted to change to improve my health was cut out sugar – which products in the range should I make friends with and how do I use them to achieve this goal? (If I’m not only buying the pre-made raw chocolate?)
The Zero-Sugar Added Superherb Chocolate Bar is really exceptional as a true sugar-free chocolate bar option that’s not ladened with xylitol, or any other artificial sweetener. It’s loaded with superfoods and superherbs and the mesquite and lucuma within give it a hint of sweetness with 100% goodness.
However, most of the Superfoods in our range, with the exception of the berries, are congruent with a sugar-free diet.
10. Are there any of the Superfoods that I can bake with to benefit from their nutrients or does the heat in the oven break any of the nutritional value down?
You can bake with them, but heat does and will destroy nutritional value. Cacao butter and coconut oil would be your most stable at high temperatures.
NEW TO SUPERFOODS?
11. What are your most popular products in the range and why do they make such an impact?
To name a few: Raw Chocolate, Chia Seeds, Maca and Hemp Seeds
Raw Chocolate – because everyone loves chocolate! Raw Chocolate is high in magnesium and anti-oxidants and it is oh so versatile – cacao powder can be used to make smoothies, hot chocolate or sensational dessert options, cacao paste and cacao butter can be used to make chocolates, cacao nibs and beans can be sprinkled over breakfasts… the list goes on…
Chia Seeds – such a good source of Omega 3’s and soluble fibre that it has fast become known as a go-to for brain nutrition and improved digestion. It can easily be incorporated into smoothies and breakfasts of all kinds.
Maca – known for its adaptogenic properties, which means it adapts to support your body’s metabolism, helping the body to deal with stress and support the immune system. A great addition to supercharge your smoothies.
Hemp seeds – contain all the essential amino acids, are high in fibre and contain Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids in a near perfect ratio for human nutritional needs. This is also such a super-versatile seed and can be used in many sweet and savoury dishes.
12. What are your absolute favourite recipes using which items in the range?
The recipes that we probably enjoy the most often would include:
- Chia Porridge (using predominantly chia seeds)
- Hemp Milk (using hemp seeds)
- Hemp Garlic White Sauce (using hemp seeds)
- Hot Chocolate (using predominantly cacao powder)
All these are found in our book “The Magic of Superfoods’.
DISCOVERING, SOURCING AND SUSTAINABILITY
13. I’m interested in how you source these products? I have visions of both of you trekking through jungles to find the perfect white mulberries. But I’m certain it doesn’t happen that way – can you speak to the sourcing process?
We have done some trekking across the globe to find quality suppliers that we can trust, but generally speaking when we find suppliers, we first verify their organic status, then get a step by step breakdown of their processing methods, and with many of the products we will do our own independent testing for pesticide residues. Personal relationship and connection are important to us, and we have met and spent time getting to know most of our suppliers. We deal with suppliers that work ethically with farmers who care for the earth and embrace methods of farming and processing that ensure concentrated nutritional potency, no shortcuts, no cheap binders or fillers – absolutely no nasties!
14. And how do you discover new superfoods to share with the world?
When a new ‘Superfood’ comes on the scene we ask ourselves the same question I referred to at the beginning of this interview:
Is this a food that has been revered by ancient cultures throughout history?
If the answer is yes, we’re likely onto something!
15. Is there any environmental risk of any one of these foods becoming the next ‘palm kernel oil’ that requires acres of other vegetation to be cut down in order to accommodate for its growth? Where and how do these plants sit on the sustainability and meeting supply and demand scale?
If they were, we wouldn’t stock them!
Our raw cacao is a good example of this: chocolate is grown in mass mono-crops throughout Africa. However, our raw chocolate is heirloom, organic Ecuadorian chocolate grown within the jungle canopy, by small-scale farming co-operatives which actually helps to preserve the jungle from other mono-cropping industries such as palm oil plantations.
16. What do you say to people whose eyebrows jump into their hairline in surprise at the relatively high cost? Is this an expensive lifestyle to maintain?
Over the years of importing superfoods, we have realised a few things about cost.
- The true cost: Producing poor quality poison-covered food and depleting soils of life and nutrients with chemicals is enormous. Generations ahead will be flabbergasted at this madness. Real food is more expensive because it is more expensive to produce: using natural composts and fertilisers, heirloom seeds and small-scale production methods. It is also far richer in nutrients, making its value much higher than ‘chem-food’.
- Cost of quality sourcing: Business moves in two ways: quality and quantity. Trailblazers take care to source products of the highest quality and integrity, supporting farmers and the earth for the best results for all. Once the word gets out, others jump on the bandwagon with inferior items driven by demand.
At the end of the day, it is up to each person to decide if it is worth cutting corners for their wallets. We believe that the only option is to feed ourselves foods of the highest quality, nutrient density and integrity. When you eat for quality and nutrient density, your body turns off the hunger signals and you feel satiated and satisfied, often for the first time in years!
- Concentrated nutrients: The important thing to remember is this – superfoods in their dried form are a very concentrated form of nutrition. We recently found that fresh blueberries can be three times more expensive than dried goji berries once you’ve dehydrated them!
The value to your body is in the quality of the nutrition going in, not the quantity or volume of food consumed.
“Although enjoying our food is key, we eat to live, not vice versa, and by putting the best quality fuel into our bodies, we give ourselves the fuel to activate our life without limits. “
ON SUPER TINY HUMANS
19 . You have a daughter, right? Can you speak a bit to the challenges in raising a child on a raw food diet. Does she come home from friends’ houses hopped up on sugar? Does she enjoy the taste of spirulina? What other challenges and considerations did you face in that area?
Yes, we have a daughter. She’s 5 years old now. She eats a lot of raw foods and a lot of superfoods, but she is not entirely raw, or even entirely vegetarian. We’ve let her guide us in that regard. She loves the taste of spirulina and chews on the tablets as ‘sweets’ (I still have no idea how she does that!) She has stayed away from most processed foods and when people around her are eating sugar-lad , or highly refined foods she doesn’t even have an inclination to try them… I’m still amazed by this, but she seems to have an inbuilt radar for what is real food and what is not. We are in awe!
ON BUILDING A SUPER BRAND
20. The biggest learning curve in growing a renowned brand like Superfoods? Any hindsight wisdom you can share about establishing a health brand in today’s society?
We are visionaries, and our goal is to make a difference.
- Learning the ins and outs of running a business and the admin related to this has by far been the biggest learning curve, which we couldn’t have successfully done without the help of many key individuals along the way who have stood as advisors, mentors and coaches.
- Learning to build and inspire a super-team has been another great learning curve and we are totally blessed to have the most incredible team of superheroes who bring their own love and enthusiasm to the (chocolate) melting pot!
- Re: establishing a health brand – integrity is key! Health is all about what you put into your body, primarily through what you eat, so ask the difficult questions that need to be asked, hold the vision and trust the process.
“Ask the difficult questions that need to be asked, hold the vision and trust the process.”
21. What were some challenges you had to overcome?
Our very first shipment of goji berries nearly sunk us before we’d even gotten out of the starting gates! We’d just spent ALL the borrowed start-up investment money we had to buy 1 ton of goji berries and when they arrived they smelled ‘weird’. We found out that the pallet had shipped alongside cargo which had contaminated it with diesel fumes. We had to dispose of the entire shipment!
Fortunately the cargo was insured, and our supplier was very supportive in getting replacement cargo to us as swiftly as possible, but I remember being in a heap! We learnt a good business lesson about being properly insured right there and then. We’ve paid our school fees many times over in the ‘mistakes’ we’ve made but that’s how you learn.
22. And what lies on the horizon for the Superfoods brand?
- Bio-degradable packaging: Our current drive and focus of the last year has been to re-launch our packaging into earth-friendly bio-degrable and compostable packaging. We are right in the middle of this roll-out! Superfoods are now packed in an inner bag of natureflex. This inner bag is made from wood pulp and is 100% home compostable and bio-degrable. The outer boxes are printed on sustainably farmed board using vegetable based ink. Although this packaging solution is far more expensive than the plastic options, we’re cutting into our margins because we don’t want our brand to be contributing to the mountains of plastics clogging up the arteries of the earth.
- A new look: Our inspiring new look reflects the essence of each of the superfoods. Months have been spent beautifully illustrating and individually capturing the power of these health-enhancing superfoods. We trust our new packaging will delight the senses and activate your superfoods journey, in the same way as the product within is designed to transform your health and inspire your taste buds.
- Our new packaging reflects our belief that: Love is the bottom line.
New products in the range: We’ve launched 3 new products:
By popular demand, we now have 2 of our favourite superfood berries: Golden Berries and Black Mulberries available as single line items (previously only available in the Berry Burst snack mix). Also by popular demand, we now have our Super-Chia available in a vanilla flavour.
- Bulk it up: We’ve launched a new convenient bulk size option. We have done away with our 500g and 1kg options to bring our customers 1 conveniently sized and priced 850g box.
- Christmas choccies: Oh and we also have 3 new flavours of Superfood chocolates in the testing kitchen which will be out before Christmas ☺
23. Is there any one singular thing that you are most grateful for on this journey?
That Peter and I have been able to walk this path together. Most people will warn you about going into business with your husband / wife and / or family and friends, but as this business has grown, it’s grown to include both of our brothers and many of our close friends, and we love that we can jointly put our efforts towards a vision that we believe in.
Thank you to Peter and Beryn for the opportunity to share their story and wealth of knowledge.