interview

The men who invented the term “green superfood” way back in 1978 agreed to an interview.

Interview: Steve and Ron Reflect on 1976 and Now

Steve with one of Pines' stockholders at a Trade Show in 1980.

Steve with one of Pines’ stockholders at a Trade Show in 1980.

In the fall of 1976, Ron Seibold and Steve Malone set out to make dehydrated cereal grass a staple in the American Diet. The realization of their dream continues, but you only need look in any natural food store to see their legacy. As a result of their pioneering work, cereal grass products and other green foods are now common place and virtually hundreds of products now contain cereal grass as an ingredient.

Pines Wheat Grass first appeared on health food store shelves years before stores devoted shelf space to a category called “Green Foods.” Before the pioneer work of these two founders of Pines, the idea of using a supplement to increase the green in your diet was not a part of the consciousness.

Interview: Founders Invented “Green Superfood” Term

Ron with Pastor Don Matison in 1985 after loading a truck with Pines Wheat Grass tablets that were sent to Africa. This represented the first of many shipments of nutrient dense greens by Pines to poorly nurished people worldwide.

Ron with Pastor Don Matison in 1985 after loading a truck with Pines Wheat Grass tablets that were sent to Africa. This represented the first of many shipments of nutrient dense greens by Pines to poorly nurished people worldwide.

Four years after advertising and promoting their message of “Eat More Greens,” another cereal grass product hit the market, and the first algae arrived a year later. As these new products joined Pines on the shelf, Steve and Ron came up with the term “green superfoods” to describe this new segment.

About 20 years after they started, stores stocked scores of wheat grass and barley grass brands as well as various forms of chlorella and spirulina. All the new products used Pines’ message of increasing the intake of dark green vegetation by using a naturally concentrated green superfood in a tablet or powder form.

The adage “imitation is the highest form of flattery” applies, and dozens of green superfood blends flatter Pines in the Natural Foods Marketplace

The Interview with the Co-Founders

Co-founders, Ron Seibold and Steve Malone, sat down for an interview with me recently to talk about their first 35 years.

Q: Ron, I notice that the nutritional content on your food facts panel is considerably higher than companies who claim their dehydration method is revolutionary. How do you explain that?

Steve and Ron with Ron's mother at a trade show in 1989.

Steve and Ron with Ron’s mother at a trade show in 1989.

Seibold: Processing methods vary between manufacturers for any food. The most important factor is how good the food is before you dry it. We follow a tradition in Kansas that goes back more than 80 years. We know how to do it right, but when it comes to how we dry the product, the dehydration method Pines uses is still is the best.

Data show that our drying method, researched and adopted by the scientists who discovered the high nutritional density of cereal grass and alfalfa, produces the most nutrient density. On a cost-per-nutrient basis, this time tested low-temperature process is superior to freeze drying, spray drying or any of the other method.

Interview: Glacial Soil, Rainfall,  Harvest and Packaging

Steve and Ron in Hong Kong in 1990 at a convention for distributors of Pines Wheat Grass

Steve and Ron in Hong Kong in 1990 at a convention for distributors of Pines Wheat Grass

But again, growing standards represent the most important factor.  Glacial soil, natural rain water and harvesting a just the right time also relate to achieving maximum nutrient density. Pines people know the right way to grow cereal grass and the right time to harvest it. We know the importance of keeping product under nitrogen and in storage conditions that greatly reduce nutrient loss. At Pines, we know that glass bottles with special caps are the only way to seal in an oxygen-free environment.

In addition to the loss of nutrients and the effect of humidity on green superfood products packaged in plastic, our processing method creates a denser product than those from other producers. One teaspoon of Pines weighs as much seven times more than some other cereal grass products. Even if Pines were nutritionally equal to them by weight, if a dehydration method causes a product to lack density, Pines would provide up to seven times more nutrition per teaspoon because it weighs seven times more per teaspoon.

Interview: Pines’ Green Superfoods Costs Less Per Serving

Q: Steve, I can see why a consumers appreciate using only one teaspoon of Pines instead of many teaspoons of another product for the same nutrition. Does that mean Pines costs more?

Pines banner as the "official green food" of the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.

Pines banner as the “official green food” of the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.

Malone: That’s a good question. Actually the price per serving of Pines often compares as less per serving than the plastic products. Our oxygen-free bottles simply have more per gram, so it is really costs much less on a cost-per-serving basis. For the same price or less, you can significantly increase your nutrition with Pines. Best of all, if you keep your opened bottle of Pines with the lid screwed down tight or in your refrigerator, you will always have the freshest possible green superfood for your recipes. Of course, you can also just use the tablet or capsule form. Compared to other mammals or to our ancestors, very few of us consume enough dark green, leafy vegetables. Any green food provides important green food nutrients, but Pines provides the most nutrition for the price.

Interview: More on Oxygen-Free Bottles

Q: Ron, I notice both you and Steve mentioned “oxygen-free” bottles. What do you mean by that?

Steve and Ron at a convention for Pines Wheat Grass distributors in Taiwan in 1991.

Steve and Ron at a convention for Pines Wheat Grass distributors in Taiwan in 1991.

Seibold: All nutrients deteriorate through the process of oxidation. The nutrients discovered in cereal grasses and alfalfa oxidize very quickly. That’s why scientists recommended packaging in an “oxygen-free” atmosphere. The simple fact is that since nutrients loose their potency because of oxidation, removing oxygen prevents loss of nutrients.

We package all Pines products in amber glass bottles with special caps designed by the scientists to keep an oxygen-free atmosphere in the bottle for ten years or more. The seal looks very much like the seal used in home canning. When screwed down tight against the lip of the bottle, the oxygen-free atmosphere inside the bottle cannot mix with the outside air.  We feel frustrated to see so many brand put profits over quality.  They ignore what the research taught about how oxygen lowers nutritional value and causes green color to turn brown.

For more than 80 years, all brands packaged green food powders and tablets in oxygen-free bottles, Now, most  are using plastic bottles. Such packaging easily allow outside air and humidity to transfer through the walls of the plastic, something that is not possible with glass. A newly-opened bottle of Pines Wheat Grass remains as fresh as the day as when packaged. In the case of plastic bottles, oxidation began occurring months or even years before opening.  Oxidation occurred while storing the product in a warehouse, while transporting it and while sitting on the store shelf.

Interview:  Seal in Metal Caps Keep it Fresh After Opening

Q: What about after I open the bottle, won’t the nutritional level start to drop?

Seibold: Yes, it will, but you can pretty much stop all oxidation by putting the bottle in the refrigerator or even freezer. Even without refrigeration, the seals in the metal cap allow you to tightly close the bottle to keep it much fresher than the cheap lids on plastic bottles and tubs. However, one should remember that Pines’ products are already much fresher than anything packaged in plastic and most people will use up a bottle of Pines long before any significant nutritional loss, but if you can keep it in the fridge, that’s all the better, but not necessary.  Mostly, just remember to screw down the metal cap so the seal can keep out moisture and outside air.

Interview:  Pines Embraces Planetary Responsibility

Q: Steve, the Natural Food Market has great respect for Pines. People point to your commitment to organic farming, wildlife habitat, your feeding programs and other charitable work. Has that always been the case?

Steve Malone at a March Against Monsanto. Pines strongly opposes GMO farming.

Steve Malone at a March Against Monsanto. Pines strongly opposes GMO farming.

Malone: Definitely, back in 1976, these ideas were the center of our discussions. It has always been the case that our primary goal has been those kinds of things. It took quite a few years of hard work to get to a point where we could make a real difference. For most of our first 15 years, Ron and I did most of the work. Ron lived at the office and took phone calls. I typed the orders and did all the shipping. We both worked on making tablets and filling bottles, but as our sales increased, we did start to use part-time college students to help.

Starting in 1980, we served on committees to write organic standards for Kansas.  As 100% organic farmers, we have provided leadership in promoting organic agriculture ever since.  One of our Facebook pages concerns educating consumers about organic farming and the dangers of GMO food. Foods with GMO ingredients contain the highest levels of herbicide and pesticide poison residue in human history.

 

Q: How did you get the product into the health food industry?

Malone: Initially, Ron and I traveled through 35 States and walked into 2,000 health food stores. After we successfully would get the product on the shelves of a good number of stores and then contact local distributors to supply them. Once we had a good distribution network, we could then focus on mailings, advertising and attending trade shows to build on our initial work.

Interview: “Holding Down the Fort”

Q: Who ran the office and made your product when you took your trip through 35 States?

"<yoastmark

Seibold: We closed the organizational office and moved the phone number to the home of two of our stockholders. They volunteered to fill orders out of their garage. When we first started out, we did not own any land, drying facilities or inventory space except for that garage. We contracted with farmers, dehydrators, tablet-making and packaging companies. That started changing as soon as we returned from our trip late in 1977.

Q: Wasn’t that expensive to do that much traveling?

Malone: Most people would have found it expensive, but we stayed at KOA Campgrounds during the first several months. As we started making more sales and had more money, we decided we could stay at motels. We made a rule that as long as a motel didn’t cost more than $15 per night, we would stay there. We’d hit a town, I’d make up a card for each store in the telephone book. Ron would mark them on a map. The next day, Ron would navigate, and I would drive. We’d hit as many stores as we could between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

Interview: “Giving the Common Person a Chance”

Q: You mentioned stockholders. Where did you find the money to start the company?

Ron, Steve and Steve's son, Skyler, at a trade show in 2013.

Ron, Steve and Steve’s son, Skyler, at a trade show in 2013.

Seibold: Not really. We started with $50 that Steve contributed. With that, we opened a Post Office box and photocopied a prospectus. Within a few months we had about 40 stockholders. Most of those who invested money early only invested a hundred dollars or so. We only had $8,000 in cash.  Pines issued most stock for services. We paid our landlord in stock. Pines paid the farmer in stock. Pines paid the dehydrator in stock. We paid our employees in stock. Our slogan to potential investors was “Give the common person a chance”.  By 1977, we were up to more than 100 investors with an average investment of about $200.

Q: That’s interesting. Most companies start because of one or two large stockholders or from a single loan.

Malone: It didn’t work out that way for us. Part of it was our philosophy. Our goal was to make a difference. That included the environment, people’s health, agricultural methods and land use patterns. We wanted the company to be an example of using the free enterprise system to work for the common good. We wanted a broad number of stockholders. Pines did not want just one family involved. We wanted a hundred or more families and individuals involved. The year was 1976, America’s Bicentennial. Our Nation had just been through the transformations of the sixties and the Vietnam War. We wanted to prove that free enterprise could still work. We wanted a broad-based company that cared about more than just the bottom line.

Concluding the Interview and the Future of Pines

Q: It seems like you have done that. So what is ahead for the next forty years?

Seibold: More of the same. So far we’ve brought nearly 2,000 acres of our own land into organic certification. We’ve set up a foundation to protect about half of that acreage as permanent wildlife habitat. We have helped set up and support another 3,000 to 4,000 acres owned by other organic farmers.  So far, Pines has provided several million servings of wheat grass to feeding programs around the world.  Pines has supported scores of organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and helping people. Certainly, we intend to continue to spread the health message of “eating more greens” to people around the world.

Q: Continued good luck to you. I hope that you will see your dreams accelerate even faster rate in the years ahead.

Where to Find Pines’ Products

The USDA says that 9 out of 10 people do not eat enough veggies.  Pines offer servings that are easy to consume and that cost considerably less per serving than other greens.  You can find Pines’ green superfoods at a store near you with our locator.  You can also use our online shopping cart.

WCEF