When 17-year-old Andrew was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of muscle cancer, his recovery post chemotherapy and radiation treatment included homemade organic shakes to help gain his appetite and strength. The only shakes available in the market at the time were made with synthetic and unhealthy ingredients. This unexpected brush with illness and the path to recovery as a cancer survivor set in motion the launch of a $300 million brand and business, with founder Dr. Andrew Abraham establishing his nutritional food company, Orgain, in Irvine.
“I started Orgain in 2009 with the sole purpose of looking to improve the health and wellbeing of people’s lives. It was a time when nutritional products that were marked as being nutritious were using ingredients that were far from being good for you,” says Abraham. “I felt that there was a big need in the space to build a brand and company that has a completely different approach. We wanted to focus on what we could do to improve the lives of millions of people and the path for me was clean nutrition.”
Today the company is positively influencing millions of lives not only with its wellness products but also through giving to others with initiatives in the same realm. Orgain recently launched its Grants for Greater Good program seeking companies that are an extension of its mission in helping to make people healthier holistically through cleaner nutrition, active lifestyles and mindfulness. Applications for the grants opened February 1 and will be accepted until March 20, with companies across the U.S. eligible to apply for one of three $50,000 grants.
“We are very fortunate to be in a position to offer these grants, the response has been extremely positive. We are learning about a lot of companies across the nation that are doing some wonderful things,” he shares. “In addition to the grant money, I am happy to guide companies to navigate the path to success and learning from my mistakes. I have learned the hard way how to make something work and succeed and I know starting a company is not easy. I am trying to help companies avoid the same pitfalls that I made so they can accelerate their success.”
Abraham can attest to the challenges any entrepreneur steering a startup experiences. As the naïve one-man show behind the business for the first few years, he now realizes guidance from a few seasoned industry leaders would have provided much-needed impetus. “I was flying blind in the beginning and took a sink-or-swim approach,” he says. “Also, everyone underestimates the amount of resources they need, I certainly did. I did not realize how much time it would take, how much of my energy would be devoted to the brand.”
Orgain first introduced ready-to-drink nutritional shakes and protein shakes as its core product offering. Then came powders, with the company offering the number one selling plant-based protein in the country. Nutrition bars soon followed as well as products for kids All dairy based products are organic or grass-fed dairy, and the 100 percent plant-based products can be used by anyone, including vegans. Products are now available in more than ten countries including China, Mexico, and Canada, either in stores or online.
“We really are after the mainstream market — those that are looking to improve their health and wellness every day,” says Abraham. “We have over 100 SKUs overall, and the brand has grown by leaps and bounds. Innovation is top of mind for us, it’s part of the company that I lead, and it’s a hyperfocus of mine because we are constantly trying to push the envelope in nutrition.” That persistence to constantly innovate found the company launching multiple new products this year.
One of the exciting items debuting is a plant protein pancake mix. Other products include collagen zero waters, organic sport plant-based powders and sport energy, recovery and protein powders. Among Orgain’s bestsellers are the plant-based protein powders and a clean protein shake that has 20 grams of protein, extremely low sugar and tastes like chocolate milk. Additionally, the kids’ protein product is one of the fastest growing items — a nutritional shake perfect for picky eaters, positioning the brand as the nutrition company for the whole family.
“I make a smoothie every morning using the plant protein powder. My favorite is peanut butter or chocolate peanut butter flavor,” he shares. “I use our clean protein shakes after a workout or when I need a snack during the day. I have two sons age 9 and 10 and they use the kids’ protein after soccer practice. We are trying to solve the need for the chocolate milk that may have 8-9 teaspoons of sugar, so we pride ourselves in using far less sugar, using organic ingredients and really serving a need for children.”
The company has also expanded into the sports nutrition category, catering to athletes looking for cleaner products. Orgain has a 30-gram, plant-based protein powder, and a pre- and post-workout powder, where instead of using artificial stimulants and caffeine, food-based ingredients such as organic beets, organic turmeric and organic ginger take center stage to help with recovery and inflammation. All of Orgain’s clean nutrition products are non-GMO and made without soy ingredients, and most are USDA Certified Organic.
Future plans include numerous new products, more brand awareness with a new national marketing campaign, and growth in terms of staff, space and market success. The company’s 80+ staff members work from the Irvine HQ, and a larger facility is being built down the street to move into in the next few months. “I’ve been able to surround myself with a wonderful team that has really helped to grow the brand and accelerate the scale,” says Abraham. “It’s been wonderful to hire people that are driving the business forward in the same way that I am.”