Leading a Family Owned CPG Through Change featuring Kim Gibson Clark, Coconut Bliss
Gooder Podcast featuring Kim Gibson Clark
In today’s episode I had the privilege of interviewing Kim Gibson Clark, CEO of Coconut Bliss, a fearless woman and a great leader. Kim takes us on the journey of growing up in a farming family and how those principles translate to her leadership style and apply to the direction she is taking her brand towards.
In this episode we learn:
- The genesis of Coconut Bliss – and learn more about Luna & Larry.
- How Kim’s upbringing impacts the operational and social initiatives of the brand.
- How the HumanCo partnership allows Coconut Bliss to advance their sustainability and environmental initiatives while evolving and to meet the needs of the modern diverse consumer.
- How having an open mind and leading with love – allows the brand to have powerful and productive conversations.
- Why converting the family farm business, from conventional to organic, is a bigger initiative than simply making a better-for-you product.
- How immigrants are key to the success of farming and ranching and advancing the organic movement.
- The plans that Coconut Bliss has to expand social and business initiatives.
- About a fun and new innovative product delivery and product offerings to engage with consumers in a new way.
About Kim Gibson Clark:
As a leader in local, national and global communities, Kim Gibson Clark has led Coconut Bliss as CEO since 2010. Throughout her time at Coconut Bliss, Kim has influenced real and impactful action in key areas, such as Coconut Bliss’ operations as an environmentally conscious company, creating transparency and insight into food production, and spotlighting the importance of supporting local and family-run businesses. As President and CEO, Kim is proud to have led Coconut Bliss’ transformation from a locally beloved ice cream company to one of the most acclaimed sustainable plant-based companies in the United States.
Kim is a board member of Oregon Tilth and Lane Food and Beverage Sector Strategies, working to make the state’s food and agriculture biologically sound and socially equitable through the initiatives of certification, education and advocacy. She is also a board member of Oregon Support Living Program (OSLP), which works to empower adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, bringing them into the fold of their communities. Prior to working with Coconut Bliss, Kim spent eight years as General Manager of Lochmead Dairy, where Coconut Bliss Pints and Cookie Sandwiches are manufactured. Throughout her career in the frozen dessert industry she has developed an unwavering standard for quality, and a commitment to organic and sustainable business and ingredient sourcing practices.
Coconut Bliss – At Coconut Bliss, all of our products contain organic ingredients that are minimally processed, ethically sourced and divinely delicious. Every dairy-free, plant-based pint, ice cream bar, and cookie sandwich is crafted with our signature care and commitment. Even our packaging is plant-based and sustainable! With a belief in quality over quantity, community, organic ingredients, and doing good for the world we try to make everything we do blissful.
HumanCo – a mission-driven private holding company that invests in and builds brands focused on healthier living and sustainability.
WAND Water Agroforestry Nutrition Development Foundation – The WAND Foundation provides social development programs with an emphasis on biodiversity, the environmental and agricultural sectors, and rural entrepreneurship for local communities in the Philippines. In collaboration with Science for Humanity, WAND aims to explore the use of treated household waste as fertilizer for crops and vegetation.
B-Corp – Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Loop – Loop Industries, Inc. is a technology company whose mission is to accelerate the world’s shift toward sustainable PET plastic and fiber and away from our dependence on fossil fuels. Loop owns patented and proprietary technology that depolymerizes no and low value waste PET plastic and polyester fiber, including plastic bottles and packaging, carpets and textiles of any colour, transparency or condition and even ocean plastics that have been degraded by the sun and salt, to its base building blocks (monomers). The monomers are filtered, purified and polymerized to create virgin-quality Loop™ branded PET resin and polyester fiber suitable for use in food-grade packaging, thus enabling our customers to meet their sustainability objectives. Loop is contributing to the global movement toward a circular economy by raising awareness about the importance of preventing and recovering waste plastic from the environment to ensure plastic stays in the economy for a more sustainable future for all.
Project Drawdown (Paul Hawkens) – The World’s Leading Resource for Climate Solutions. Founded in 2014, Project Drawdown® is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.
Monteez – Insanely delicious plant-based dairy staples you won’t want to live without.
Miyokos – Founded on the principle of compassion for all living beings, we’re on a mission to craft dairy products we all love, 100% from plants, making them kinder, greener and tastier than ever before.
Diana Fryc: Hi, welcome to The Gooder Podcast. I’m your host Diana Fryc; as partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency, I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the natural’s industry; food, beverage, wellness, even fitness. And as such, I decided to create The Gooder Podcast to interview these great people subject matter experts and have them share their insights, expertise and passions to help the businesses all around the world become gooder. I’m really excited today to introduce you to Kim Gibson Clark, CEO of Coconut Bliss. As a leader in local national and global communities, Kim has led Coconut Bliss as CEO since 2010. Throughout her time at Coconut Bliss Kim has influenced real impactful action in key areas such as Coconut Bliss’s operation, environmentally conscious company, creating transparency and insight into food production, and spotlighting the importance of supporting local and family ran businesses. As CEO, Kim is proud to have led Coconut Bliss transformation from a locally beloved ice cream company to one of the most acclaimed sustainable plant based companies in the United States. Hi, Kim, how are you?
Kim Gibson: I’m doing very well. Thank you, Diana, how are you doing today?
Diana Fryc: I’m doing okay, how’s Oregon?
Kim Gibson: Oh my Gosh! Well, Oregon is really great and normally this time of year, it’s starting to get a little more wet and cold outside, which I absolutely love because the leaves start changing to brilliant colors and so it’s really my favorite time of year. But last time we talked, we were in the midst of all of our fires. We’re really close to Eugene, and Salem and Portland communities and the fires now have calmed down a bit and many of them are contained. There are still about five active fires, though and we lost almost 900,000 acres got burned, including homes and properties and our much loved forest lands. So our staff, our family; most everyone we know got away with just mild smoke damage. But we do know many folks that had to evacuate and some who’s lost their homes. So we’re just sending out our prayers and some people have been actively helping in our organization with the volunteer efforts and helping these people to rebuild their lives. So, tragedy and hopefully we can be doing something about that as a community to prevent that in the future.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I was remembering our last phone call that we had and you’re in there, and you’re looking out the window while we’re talking and then you reveal that well, “I’m here because I wanted to keep my commitment to our meeting. But the fires are outside and like something like 10 miles away from here.” And I was like, “Holy moly!” That is a commitment to keeping your word. So thank you for that, that was astonishing.
Kim Gibson: Well, it was probably also a nice distraction for me because you don’t just want to sit at home and with your bags packed and doing nothing. So you were a pleasant distraction.
Diana Fryc: Awesome. I love that. Well, I love talking to you and Darcy was the one who I interviewed a few weeks; it’s been a couple three months now since I interviewed her but she was the one that inspired me to say, “I have a story but you really need to meet Kim.” And since Coconut Bliss is your baby, why don’t you give us a high level for some of the listeners who maybe don’t know you very well at all. What is Coconut Bliss?
Kim Gibson: Yeah, well, Coconut Bliss is my adopted baby. So Luna and Larry actually created the company and the original products and recipe and they started out very small with tasting parties in their home and just getting an idea from their community as to what flavors were really fabulous. But their entire mission was to create a coconut milk based ice cream, an ice cream that would taste amazing; that didn’t have Soya, dairy and everyone basically could eat a clean flavor, but was just as creamy and decadent and then enjoyable;
and brought that same kind of like joy and happiness as eating dairy ice cream for those who couldn’t eat dairy or were choosing not to eat dairy anymore. They created this beautiful product; they brought it to my family who had been making non-dairy ice creams for at that point 20 to 25 years. So we were very experienced in that; we were some of the first in the US to be making non-dairy ice cream for a very large brand that we no longer make. But we transitioned into making Coconut Bliss and then shortly after that, were able to invest in the company and then Luna and Larry decided they wanted to step down and pursue other passions. And so we really took it from there, bought the whole company and expanded the offerings from pines, expanded into novelties, and then eventually our cookies and sandwiches, and now even products like soft serve that are available in food service establishments, and people can make shakes with and different things like that. We took something that was just amazing to begin with and we’ve just been able to expand on that and expand on the original vision for that, which was really creating this thing that would have less impact on the environment, and just be better for our bodies and plan.
Diana Fryc: Oh, wow. That sounds so good. It’s getting near midday for me here, so maybe a little treat for my lunch. Since you took on the baby, at the time, they were vegan ice cream, plant based ice cream, vegetarian ice cream, and it was kind of so outlandish almost to develop that product and now it’s far more mainstream. The company or the brand itself in the last couple of years has gone through a couple of big changes with Darcy assisting you with rebrand. But then since then, that was HumanCo. This HumanCo acquisition that I spoke about briefly with Darcy was probably the original reason why I reached out to you. And I wonder what’s going on? What can you Jerry, how’s it going? What’s good?
Kim Gibson: Well, I’m really pleased to say that it’s going great and I am really, really pleased with our choice in HumanCo and also for them believing in us and choosing to partner with us. They did buy a majority of the company, but my family still has a fairly significant ownership in it and the product is still being made at our manufacturing facility, and we continue to make plans to even grow the production there in some different ways. HumanCo has these food values that are at minimum at Coconut Bliss standards, which we’ve always really thought of ourselves as creating a really high standard for ourselves to try to meet, in order to meet the standards, we think our customers want.
Now HumanCo meets that and in some ways, exceeds it. They’ve pushed us to think about things in ways that we hadn’t before or we’re not currently considering and they’re going to be providing us with opportunities that we may not have been able to afford in the past. We were self-funded and self-funding in our industry is very challenging, because you have to be very careful where you’re putting your innovation dollars or your sales, spends, getting dollars. And so with HumanCo de coming in, we’re able to focus in on some of the sustainability and innovation initiatives. We just were not able to in the past, but we’ve always had the passion for it. Our staff is really excited. In fact, earlier today, we were just on a call in deciding whether we wanted to do B Corps certification first or do this loop program first, which is the reusable package. So those are the kind of exciting opportunities that HumanCo is bringing to us. Also, we’re going to be transitioning into a compostable wrap for our bars.
Which we’re so excited about, we already did the plant based on the biopolymer based for packaging, but we’re going to continue to work on that, to get it even more either fully compostable or fully recyclable. So it needs to go in one direction or the other. Other things like connecting us with scientists and folks that have done lifecycle analyses for companies, making connections like that, that we didn’t have in the past is the type of thing that HumanCo is bringing. They’re playing our game, and they’re up there. Yeah it’s exciting.
Diana Fryc: We just received our B Corp certification, this last summer…
Kim Gibson: Congratulations!
Diana Fryc: Thank you. And I would suggest if you have the bandwidth; the B Corp certification processes is a little bit longer than you might expect. So you may if you have the bandwidth, try to do both at once since the loop fit so neatly into the B Corp but I digress. That’s a phone call over a beer or something.
Kim Gibson: Let’s talk about it. Yeah definitely, four o’clock somewhere have a glass of wine or beer.
Diana Fryc: Absolutely. Or pint of ice cream, whatever you’re pleasure. It sounds to me though, like with HumanCo some of the like, when even just this week, you reminded me while I’m not president and CEO, I’m just the CEO now. But it seems to me like they have in some way, shape or form, you could talk about as much as you’d like. They’ve somehow taken some things off your plate so that you can focus on other things that you might be more passionate about. Am I seeing that correctly?
Kim Gibson: Yeah, absolutely. With HumanCo coming on, we got one of their top guys on the HumanCo team that came out and decided to join our team in Eugene, and he’s become our COO/CFO, which we did not have that role. I was kind of doing all of that and so he’s brilliant, hardworking, super committed and passionate about the brand, and so he’s been just really moving things forward to probably at least 40% of the things off my plate so I could add these other initiatives on and focusing on actually a couple new projects that we’re doing. Without that help, I don’t think I could have got it done.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I do tell. Can you?
Kim Gibson: Yeah I can.
Diana Fryc: Okay, sure.
Kim Gibson: The first one, we decided we want to really meet people where they’re at with COVID right now, and just knowing where people are doing more cooking and innovating creating in their homes. So our behaviors have changed, amount of time with our family or our partners or roommates have changed and so we’re looking at things in ways that Coconut Bliss can add to people’s lives right now. And so where that brought us to, is taking our soft serve that we had already developed, and that’s being used in these food service chains, taking that and making it available in people’s homes and at the same time, I’m coming out with a bliss maker, we’re calling it so it’s an ice cream maker, that customers are going to be able to buy from us; it’s brandish that we sourced this machine just for this project, and people are going to be able to get it at a really great price bundle with a soft serve and then you can get a subscription package if you want. So every couple weeks or four weeks, you can get more soft serve delivered to your home. And then we also provide recipes that allow you to start; you can use our recipes, you can go off script and experiment and have your own inspirations. We’re calling it the doing it yourself kind of recipes.
Diana Fryc: Is it like the Snoopy snow cone machine but like the 2020 edition?
Kim Gibson: Yeah, the bliss edition. It’s really easy. You just put the components in and basically pour the mix in.
Or add whatever you want to the mix first but and then put it in the machine and it turns for 25, 30 minutes and then you have this amazing soft serve and you can add in chocolate or cookie dough or whatever you want. So it’s a really easy to use, and it’s flexible and it’s just our way of being in people’s lives and homes in a creative way.
Diana Fryc: I just love it.
Kim Gibson: Yeah, very fun. So, another new thing that we’re we’ve done is we decided to rebrand again. At first I was like, “Oh my Gosh, new packaging again, new marketing, just going through that whole process again. At first, I was honestly not looking forward to. But when we started going down this path and really started looking deep in terms of whom do we want to be going forward? Who are we really to our consumers? Understanding that and really reflecting that in our branding. And so our new branding is going to launch– Well, it’ll start to soft launch on at the end of next month with the soft serve, it’s really fast with the soft serve, but then it will be coming to market at retailers starting in 2021 and probably February. So it’s very creative. It’s a character based concept and it highlights like a community of characters and really, with our intention to support inclusivity in these times of social division, trying to really draw out the beauty in our diversity, and we just wanted the evolution of our brand to include these; our diverse consumer based and make sure everyone feels included in that. And so that’s hopefully reflected in the characters.
Diana Fryc: Pretty common after an acquisition for whomever you partner with to start to go, “Okay, so where are we now? Now we’ve switched tracks. What are we doing now? Is this the right thing? Or do we do something different?” Wow. Oh, my goodness. So you handed over a bunch of responsibility, and then just brought on a whole bunch of responsibilities?
Kim Gibson: Yeah, you got it, you’re now on the board.
Diana Fryc: I want to talk a little bit about your background and how it sort of influences a lot of what you’re doing now, at least I think so, and I think you’ve mentioned this before, too. But you grew up differently than pretty much everybody I’ve interviewed so far. In so far in that you grew up with the family, within the family business, it was a pretty male dominated environment, at least at the time. But the family didn’t run necessarily as a male dominated type of environment and without giving too much away, because I’d love for you to tell us the story. Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how it’s influencing the way you do things at Coconut Bliss?
Kim Gibson: Yeah, well, I think it formed me in ways that I wanted to always take with me in my life. I think there are things we all experienced in childhood that we decided we need to leave behind and I had a lot of things that I was really blessed with that I’ve been able to bring forward with me, which are really the people that were in my life. And those who are my grandmothers who were both successful business women and leaders in the community that we are in, my aunts and my mother, they were my inspiration. And they were the leaders in our family. They really kept things together. They were leaders in the business. They definitely showed me through their actions, perseverance, that every person has something to contribute and the entire thing is not whole without everyone’s contribution. So my dad always took the perspective that as long as you’re willing to work, we don’t care what your gender is. I don’t know if he was just desperate for cheap labor.
Diana Fryc: Maybe a little bit.
Kim Gibson: Yeah if you really believed in equality with these things. But a lot of opportunities arose for me and my siblings and my cousins around that, that created an environment for women and girls that is different because we didn’t from the beginning have to battle our way through this gender restricted world. All the opportunities were there and open available to us from the beginning. We recently lost one of my aunts, a couple weeks ago.
Diana Fryc: Oh, sorry.
Kim Gibson: Thank you, she was one of the farmers and she is just the quintessential farm, rugged ranch Lady of Oregon, and she taught me how to drive a truck when I was 14, 15. How to back up a tractor trailer combo with precision; she showed me that that is not a gender specific job and basically it opened my eyes to no job being gender specific, or maybe birthing a child.
Diana Fryc: There are some physical limitations.
Kim Gibson: Yeah but in terms of careers, and in terms of what you’re good at, and what you can do, there were just no limitations. And part of that with a farm family, it’s just that you do need all the labor you can get and we did our fair share of labor indoors as well. But we were taught to enjoy our work that we got a lot of community connection out of it and it gave us an idea of how to actually get something done and not to always think that it’s somebody else doing it, but that you can do it. You can do.
Diana Fryc: So you sort of grew up in this. I hate using the word bubble because it feels negative right now, it’s been politicized. But it’s a kind of bubble of empowerment in whether it was the nature of a farming family, or that it was the nature of your specific family. I can imagine, and I can see the parallels of how that comes through and has helped you or contributed to some of the successes today. I don’t know if there are any examples where you can say, “Well, because of this, I do this.” We can’t always draw those straight lines, but it feels like maybe…
Kim Gibson: Yeah, I think I have an example that does draw a straight line for me and that is every Sunday morning – we didn’t practice a religion growing up, which was kind of rare for a farming family. But we did have my grandparents’ house every Sunday, we would go to brunch, and there it was my mother’s parents, and their last name was Brunchin; so go for brunch at the Brunchin every Sunday. And my grandmother would hold court with all of us and she was very well read I liberal, very progressive in her viewpoints but also quite ecumenical. She took in all viewpoints. She was really an analytical, rational thinker and so she wanted to debate on Sundays. She wanted to put something out there; a topic that might or might not be controversial and then she wanted us to take the different sides of it and debate that topic and teach us how to maintain or being able to be thoughtful in the moment as well as reference facts, she would call us out if we weren’t referencing facts or maybe too tied up in our own emotions around something. Not everyone appreciated or enjoyed that; but I loved it. I loved it. I wanted more of that. And so I think we can do this today even during COVID we can have Sundays in our house where we are present a topic and debate it with our 11 year old daughter.
And it’s not quite the same as doing it with a grandmother, because that’s very special and you have this generational difference that that generation just provided the Great Depression generation just had such a different perspective on life and all the opportunities we have today as women that they did not have when they were born. So she was really an activist and leader in her time, in her own way and living in a conservative community, but she was not afraid and she always stayed true to her values and challenged us to really use our minds and her thing she would make us do is practice writing out; take time to think. And we would have to lay that out and we would have to make the top of the T go up because it shows progress, I think or grow. Then she would have us meditate on take time to think. She was a very unusual and just an amazing woman and she is always with me; I carry that with me all the time.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I can imagine. Well, particularly the product that you make and the industry that you’re in, I think you can see how the upbringing it’s just a natural path, probably. I don’t know, it feels like a natural and linear path but what a great story, what a great legacy to keep going. It sounds like you’re still…
Kim Gibson: Yeah, as much as possible. Yeah, it doesn’t even have to be family, just putting ourselves in environments where we can have stimulating conversations with people that we don’t agree with, and still respect one another and maintain those relationships, even when we don’t agree. And that was I think that core message she had was, we don’t have to agree, but we’re family, we’re friends, we’re community. We need to have these discussions because every time we do, we get closer together. We understand one another more, especially if we don’t let anger lead and we keep an open mind and we put love first; you put that in the forefront.
Diana Fryc: Yeah it’s interesting how having heard that story I can understand now some of the upcoming questions that I have. I can understand where all of this comes from and I’d be curious to find out what her inspiration was right? Like she didn’t come from like the shit that just didn’t manifest in her she was influenced by something it would be great to go back.
Kim Gibson: Yeah, my mom was a character. She was running businesses too and that was great at a time where women definitely did not run businesses and she was a powerhouse at four feet 11 and just taken on the world. So Lillian Henry she was a fierce woman. So yeah, no, she didn’t come by it just out of the clear blue sky. We have fun, don’t we? We pass it on to our daughters and our sons too and our friends and the community.
Diana Fryc: Well, so we talked a little bit, there’s some definitely strong women empowerment or equality movement and I think that one of the things that we talked about was in farming practices. First of all, you guys were conventional farmers, then you went through the process of becoming organic farmers, but then there’s like a bigger sense of farming there as well and we talk about people but let’s just talk about your family’s desire, and then your brand’s desire and your specific desire. What was it specifically about organic farming that pushed you guys into that direction and was that a long conversation? Was it a long process?
Kim Gibson: Just to make sure I’m not misrepresenting. So we still do have a lot of our farm under conventional farming practices;
And what we have converted is some of the hazelnut orchard and too organic. So that was kind of the crop that we decided to lead within because there was a really direct connection and market for organic hazelnuts and that was to put them into Coconut Bliss. So the chocolate hazelnut decadence flavor was kind of the inspiration to go to my brother who runs our farm and say, “Gosh, I’d really like to use our family’s hazelnuts and these pints of chocolate is on a decadence, Coconut Bliss, and do you know anyone that could maybe do that?” And he was like, “I’m thinking about it and I think I’m ready to do that for you Kim.” And so my brother’s an awesome guy, he doing an amazing job carrying on the family farm and traditions and he’s really looking towards the future. And he saw the business opportunity with organic hazelnuts and I think we’ll continue to look at the other crops and the food crops in terms of what are the other business opportunities to do that.
Now I come from a different perspective on it, whereas I’m coming from the environmental and so the planet and the people health well-being kind of perspective, but I think however you get there, the end result is still the same. We’re stacking acreage from conventional to organic and why it’s important is I guess starting with the people, if you are conventional, you have to put that pesticide on the crops at some stage, a human has to do that, a human mixing the chemicals on smaller farms or whether it’s coming in big tanks, already pre mixed and then pumped into equipment, you’re still handling and exposed to that, especially when it’s applied through the crop because there’s usually a mist or spray and so it’s aerated and so it’s definitely a human risk and there have been quite a few studies done around that by the organic center. And then the human risk also in eating any products that still have pesticides on or in them but then there’s the USDA, you can go on their website, and there are studies posted that show the pesticide residues of organic versus conventional, you do have to dig a bit, but if you’re diligent, you can find those resources and actually see the numbers. And it’s real. Those things are neuro inhibitors and they’re intended to kill bugs; and so in great quantities, they can’t be good for humans. It’s just pretty logical.
The other piece is our planet and our environment, which I’m pretty sure humans want to continue living on and walking the earth and enjoying the green and the flowers and the bees and all the foods we get, which are so dependent on the bees and some of the foods that we have like salmon, and all of the fish, all the micronutrients everywhere. Just from the smallest beings, these pesticides impact their ability to thrive, and they impact varsity of life and say in a negative. But I don’t believe in shoving any kind of shame in the faces of conventional farmers, like I don’t think that is right and I don’t think that’s the way to get to change. And I think we have to again, go back to brunch at the Brunchin and go back to the table and say, “Let’s talk about this. Let’s get together all these opposing viewpoints, get together and find a common ground and then a business solution to move us in the same direction.” And maybe it’s a compromise but all these steps will bring us together in this and it’ll be better for the planet and better for people better for business.
It’s a win-win all the way around. So that’s why I’m passionate about it, but I’m not aggressive. I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed or the hard work that they’re doing as conventional farmers is not appreciated or is not worthy, because it is. It’s feeding most of the world. So they’re very important and I want to honor that. But I just think that there are things that we can actually get on the same page about if we work together. So my brother’s a perfect example of that, he was open to it, he took the chance and now he’s able to sell his hazelnuts at a higher price, double. That’s a pretty big incentive for a farmer.
Diana Fryc: Well, and let’s be honest, when we’re talking about this, the economic impact for the farmers that are conventional, particularly family owned farmers, that transition from conventional to organic is not a small investment and it is not always feasible in this environment, when a lot of these farmers are working on margins that are slimmer than probably most people recognize. So it’s not an easy decision in the marketplace, quite frankly, can’t sustain it either when we have more than 50% of the population just in the United States don’t eat organic for multiple reasons. But some of it is because it’s financially out of risk or out of reach, I should say. Why on earth would we expect to be able to have everything be organic, double and triple in price and then now we created even more disparity because of income equality and accessibility? So it’s an ecosystem, and everything needs to adjust slowly. You can’t just one day go, “We’re going to do this.” But it is this conversation can like as you’re saying, to be able to just have this conversation over and over that influences on people moving to an organic diet, or to organic farming have to be slow. We didn’t come to this type of farming overnight. We’re not going to leave this kind of farming overnight. So it’s just going to be slow.
One of the other things that you talked about that it brought me so much joy, and I don’t know very many farmers we work with, we’ve actually worked with a couple of ranch brands before, we haven’t been really close to your end and I know we’re talking about the farm and Coconut Bliss is really not the farm. So forgive me for asking these questions. But when we talk about farming in general and farming practices, one of the things that you said to me was like there’s this group of people, these immigrants out here many immigrants that are sustaining our business and helping us and there was something that you had said, when we were talking about that actually one of your top concerns during the fire was, where are these people going to go? How can I help them? It was such an interesting thing for me to hear; not being in the farming community but that was something that was on top of mind, but it goes beyond just immigrant, it kind of goes kind of more added to a global level. And we’ll talk about global giving here in just a minute so you can talk about that a little bit more. But is that just– I don’t even know how to frame that question up; when you think of organic farming or being an organic business, you are not necessarily talking about simply the organic product, you said the people and the planet and farther out.
Kim Gibson: It’s the ecosystem that you’re saying. It’s the whole ecosystem, and it’s compassion for humans and the planet and it’s not also asking for perfection right now. It’s seeing that it’s broken on many levels. It’s broken for conventional farmers. Farms don’t get the price they need for any of the crops that they’re growing and subsidies don’t help from the government because they don’t show the public what the true cost of growing that food is. You go to the store, its like, “Where did you get that apple?” “I got it at Fred Meyer.” “Well, no, it actually came from a plant, it came from an orchard.”
And there were farm workers, immigrants, usually that had to harvest that and bring it to the stores and then to our tables. So, in our family, it’s always kind of a joke, like people say their milk comes from Safeway, but it doesn’t. There is a disconnect and I don’t think that’s a terrible thing. But I think it’s something that it has hurt the price of all food, but then, as you’re saying, the rest of the ecosystem and really economy in the US with minimum wages being depressed, it doesn’t allow for people to invest more in their food. I mean, families simply cannot afford it. There’s so many people, a million more people went into poverty over the last few months with COVID. How are they going to afford our grant organic apple or a full organic meal? So yeah, I very conscientious of that and also the fact that this is humans of the entire world issue. This is not just the United States issue because we have people coming from many, many countries from Mexico and Central America, Puerto Rico, that are coming in harvesting our food for us, and we need to care about their lives and care about their economics and their home, their standard of living, their health and well being. They are part of our lives, whether politically, we agree with it or not, or do or don’t agree with the immigration program of the US, but it’s a fact, they are part of our lives and communities and we need to respect them as humans and show concern and not right people off.
Diana Fryc: It’s interesting, because again, kind of going back to that HumanCo conversation on what it’s allowing you to do at Coconut Bliss, I feel like maybe now more so than ever, you’ve been putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak. But now I feel like you’re really going to be able to do that maybe at a bigger level or at a wider level. I’m not sure how that’s necessarily going to work out for you and Coconut Bliss. I saw this global giving on your website, and I thought, well, this kind of all, like it all fits in. we’re empowering women in the planet in farming, why don’t you tell us a little about a global giving? Why is it important for you and Coconut Bliss right now?
Kim Gibson: Yeah. As we’ve been talking about, I’ve been part of a woman led family business my whole life. And Coconut Bliss is very woman LED. I’m just hiring the best people for the job, but it’s definitely majority women running the company. And so with that in mind, we have a focus on social justice and sustainability and we’re really paying attention to what are the opportunities to give women more of a place at the table of voice? So maybe it was two or three years ago, we all as a whole company, read the Paul Hawkins project drawdown and which, he doesn’t take full credit because he has tons of scientists, collaborators. He pulled it all together. And then we went to a lecture and Eugene, because we used to be able to gather, and we heard from him. And so, really from that there’re research points to the fact that women are pivotal to addressing and reversing the effects of climate change.
We needed to identify what our role in that was because we believe in that. And so we partnered with WAND which is Water Agroforestry Nutrition Development Foundation to provide business opportunities for women in the Philippines. And so these opportunities are oriented around the coconut crop.
And then the donated funds help these women entrepreneurs make and sell products like charcoal from coconut shell, vinegar from coconut water, coconut eating organic fertilizer. So it basically is an incubator for women in areas that were buying our coconut products to have their own businesses and the coconut crop in some areas can be seasonal, and so they need something else to fill in their income. And so really, it’s on the front of just, it’s really on that empowering women from it’s like, money is often a barrier. And you have to have money to have your own business, if you want to be independent, control your own schedule which a lot of women need to because they have children, or families, elderly parents to take care of. And so they need to be in control of their schedules. And so that’s how business is so great for women is that we can be in charge of our schedules. And then we bring that same spirit of supporting women and families into our businesses when we run them, because that’s just already our mindset. We’re already thinking of, and acknowledging that people have lives and need to balance work and cannot be successful, unless they’re balancing everything else in their lives with their work. And so it’s just a reality.
We can’t judge people for having these other obligations we have. And so the women in the Philippines are getting opportunities that they wouldn’t have had. And this is just a very small start. I mean, we are looking forward to doing so much more on this level. But this was our test, this was our first attempt to make these connections and see if it does, in fact, have an impact. I mean, you can have theories, hypothesis about this, but until you actually put it in action and see what women are doing with it, which is a lot more creativity than we had even envisioned. It’s so much fun. On the WAND website, lists a lot of the projects that the women have been able, the businesses they’ve been able to start and the products they’re making as a result.
Diana Fryc: I’ll share that when we post the website, I always put those kinds of resources on there. So, that link will be on there associated with your podcast. That’s wonderful. The superpowers that you grew up with are certainly manifesting into these really giant initiatives. It’s pretty great. Our time is all almost up, but I always have a couple of questions that I like to ask people that are kind of related. Well, this might be related to your superpowers or your desire to do good in the world with your brand and your family, but is there any trends that you’re seeing whether it’s a business trend or consumer trend or product trends or anything that you’ve got your eye on right now? And if so, what and why?
Kim Gibson: Yeah, I love innovations that also keep nature in the innovation. So I don’t especially support all plant based products just because they’re plant based, because if they’re made with ingredients that I can’t find at home or that just don’t seem like something that my body would easily digest and feel good, then that doesn’t really turn me on. Actually I’ll do a little shameless plug for HumanCo, which is, some of the companies, they’re they incorporate just like Coconut Bliss nature and organic and plant based and really, really clean food and one of them is Montes. And they are really small right now, I think they have a little bit of West Coast distribution, mostly East Coast, but they are these vegan plant based cream cheese and butter are so amazing.
Organic and they’re made with cashews, the cleanest label, and I love Miyoko as well like, I’m a huge fan of Miyoko herself and her products and I think Montes is right there the same level and kind of creating something with a little bit different flavor profile. And I think it’s really exciting because they’re doing it without compromising the integrity of the ingredient, they’re just clean and beautiful tasting. And I’m excited about that. And I’ve been meaning to go on their website and order a bunch more. My first shipment is gone already.
Diana Fryc: Oh my goodness, that sounds yummy. I’ll have to check that out. Tell us a little interesting thing that you’d like to share with people about Coconut Bliss, or it could be about anything related to your business, that’s kind of like something I can take to a cocktail hour and go, “Hey, did you know.” Just something kind of fun and interesting.
Kim Gibson: I hadn’t actually come up with an answer to this one yet.
Diana Fryc: You can get back to me, the one that Darcy gave me was something about the melting of coconut, something about like, it doesn’t run. And it’s like, oh, that’s kind of cool. I like that, I guess we can just steal that one. And that will be the placeholder. How’s that?
Kim Gibson: We can or I mean, there’s just so many things. One thing I think people don’t know about coconuts is that the inside, they’re droop, they’re not a nut, first of all, so that’s weird to call them coconuts, is that the inside of the coconut is the water, coconut water. They don’t have milk in them, coconuts don’t have milk in them. It’s like coconut milk. But it’s actually the coconut water is on the inside. And when they’re young, they start out with a lot of coconut water and eventually, that water as they mature turns into the coconut meat. It’s called the meat, that forms the thick white coconut that we know that you may be having like a macaroon or some dried coconut. And so when coconut water companies that make their products, they’re basically breaking a young coconut, taking the water fresh out of that. So it really is just fresh coconut water from the inside of a coconut feeding this in the Philippines, and it’s really interesting, whereas what we do, how our coconut milk is made, is that it’s a mature coconut. And so it has very little water on the inside and a thick, nice, beautiful, fatty coconut meat. And you pick up all the husk around the outside and just cover it, and a lot of this was done by hand. And people are moving so fast with their knives.
And just getting all outside husk off. And then it gets broken and basically chopped, the meat gets all chopped up and then ground up and then a little water added to that. And that mixture and then it gets pressed. So the fat is left behind. And it’s just the fats and proteins and other solids in there, left in that make that beautiful white milk. So the coconut milk has to be made. It’s not on the inside of the coconut water.
Diana Fryc: How to make coconut milk, 101, I love it.
Kim Gibson: It just kind of goes down to the basics of how we do.
Diana Fryc: How are you keeping yourself sane right now?
Kim Gibson: Let’s see. That’s a great question. I love to read. Reading, it takes me outside, if I’m getting narrowly focused, it just pulls me back into this like bigger perspective thinking about other people’s lives, other people’s journeys.
I read a lot for just enrich my own knowledge. And so one book I just read was called Breath. It re-teaches you how to breathe properly. I think right now that is a really important thing for people because a lot of people have anxiety about time and their futures. But there’s actually so much that we can do to reduce our anxiety by actually breathing. And this is kind of different than what I thought but breathing a little bit less throughout the day and through our noses always except for it’s hard when you’re talking. But yeah, breathing through your nose all the time. And so I’ve been doing this so much more in the last few weeks and being really conscious of it. And I noticed that my anxiety level which is not normally very high, but I mean, I’m just like, I get super calm. And that was a little meditation. And sometimes I could run on the treadmill, things like that. We have a nice big patio. So we’ve had maybe one or two friends over at a time, social distance, have a drink.
Diana Fryc: Oh, good. Yeah, that in person time is really…
Kim Gibson: Yeah, try being really careful about that. Less and less now with the rates, COVID rates starting to go up, but I think we have to take care of ourselves, whatever that is for each of us. So for me right now, it’s just breathing.
Diana Fryc: Breathing, that is as real as an answer as I have heard. Yes, breathing. Before we go, if somebody wanted to reach out to you for any reason at all, do you prefer they reach out to you through LinkedIn? Or is there a different way?
Kim Gibson: LinkedIn is great. If they needed something faster, you can just go direct to my email, which is Kim@CoconutBliss.com.
Diana Fryc: Okay. Well, I cannot thank you enough for your time today. And I have a feeling there’s so much more that we could talk about. I have to tell you about when I worked on a Jane Goodall project directly for Jane Goodall one time, that will flip your lid. There’s so much to share there. But I am going to thank you for your time today. I hope you had fun.
Kim Gibson: I had a great time.
Diana Fryc: Oh good. And I really look forward to the next time we connect. I have some sneaking suspicion that I’m going to have some sort of shenanigans for when Expo happens for all of my podcast guests. So that will be fun.
Kim Gibson: Fun. Well, thank you. I really appreciate this. It’s an honor to get to know you and talk to you about things that I feel passionate about and hopefully your listeners do too.
Diana Fryc: Well, from the feedback I’m getting, they are.
Kim Gibson: Oh, good.
Diana Fryc: This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a creative marketing firm specializing in growing, fixing and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness and fitness industries. If your naturals brand is in need of positioning, package design or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at retail-voodoo.com. And so there you go. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this channel and share with your network.Until next time,be well and do gooder.