By Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review/ANN
Don Otis knows sales. His grandfather, his dad, and his uncle were all involved in the publishing ministry. Don himself managed Adventist Book Centers in three conferences in North America. “I never thought I’d ever leave publishing work,” he says.
Then he was contacted by Worthington Foods to be a regional sales manager. After turning down their offers several times, Otis went to work marketing Worthington Foods to Adventists. When Worthington was acquired by Kellogg, he was one of the few from Worthington to make the transition, again marketing Loma Linda, Worthington, and Morningstar Farm foods to Adventist outlets.
With the salt, fat, and additives contained in many “vegetarian” offerings, it seemed to Otis that the foods he was marketing bore little resemblance to those envisioned by the Adventists who embraced the health message when it came to the church 150 years ago.
“I tried to effect change from the inside for a number of years,” he says. “I kept thinking, I need to start my own company.”
Otis left Kellogg six years ago and started Heritage Health Food. “I called my company Heritage because I believe very strongly that we need to get back to our heritage of a corporate food company that is one of the best at health.” Heritage Health Food is an all-organic, vegan, gluten-free, non-processed product that is finding wide acceptance in mainstream markets. Heritage Health Food is available in Sprouts, Whole Foods (soon), Publix, and Safeway.
“I want Adventists to be able to look at a company and say, ‘That’s our health message right there,’ ” he says. “ ‘That’s the way we eat.’ ”
Heritage Health Food started in Angwin, California. “But it got too expensive to do business there,” says Otis. So several years ago Otis set up a production plant in Collegedale, Tennessee, trimming his overhead by 30 percent.
One of Heritage Health Food’s innovative offerings is Kim’s Simple Meals, based on Kim Otis’s recipes (Don’s wife). Kim’s Simple Meals require just water to prepare vegan, dairy-free, kosher food products that include Golden Waffles, Macaroni Casserole, Homestyle Burger, and Breakfast Sausage. Several more items are in development.
Otis recalls being contacted by people in other parts of the world when he was at Kellogg. They were asking for healthy vegetarian offerings. So having food products that require only adding water is a great service to populations that have very few vegetarian options.
“I’ve always looked at this as a mission,” he says. “We can share this technology with Africa, with Asia, with Eastern Europe, with Central and South America, where, if you have water and a heat source, you can have organic, great tasting, vegetarian food.”
Another benefit is that processing plants that produce Heritage Health Foods in different parts of the world can provide industry and labor resources at schools and institutions and give local growers a place to market their produce.
Otis points out that in some parts of the world, the Adventist health food industry provides financial resources to support the spread of the gospel. Sanitarium Foods in the South Pacific regularly supports Adventist outreach activities.
Heritage Health Food recently exhibited at Expo East, an international food exhibition. Over the three-day event, it placed in the top five of all new food products in the world. Had Heritage Health Food exhibitors been present on Saturday—the most important day of the exhibit—who knows where it might have placed? “They told us we would have won, had we been there on Sabbath,” says Otis. “It’s exciting to be part of something that is now being validated in the mainstream, where we want to make our mark.”
For more information, visit HeritageHealthFood.com.