Supplier of the Month – The Wheat Grass People
Pines is pleased to provide some of the wheat grass, barley grass and alfalfa as ingredients for products sold by other companies, who share Pines concern about quality. Pines was pleased to be named the September, 2011, supplier of the month by Nutritional Industry Executive, the trade magazine for all products sold in the natural foods industry.
From: Nutritional Industry Executive Magazine – September, 2011
In 1976, Ron Seibold and Steve Malone decided to grow cereal grass and set out to make dehydrated cereal grass a staple in the American diet. The two formed Pines International, Inc., the first green foods company in the United States, and chose the name “Pines” in recognition of the fact that the pine tree is an internationally recognized symbol of the peace that exists in nature.
With $50 contributed by Malone, the pair approached investors and within a few months, had about 40 stockholders. According to Seibold, most of those who invested money only put forward approximately $100, and most of the company’s stock was issues for services. The landlord, the farmer, the dehydrator and the employees were all paid in stock. Over the next two years, more than 200 people invested.
After the first harvest, Seibold and Malone hit the road with the message that Pines Wheat Grass is an economical and convenient way to get more vegetable nutrition and fiber in a person’s diet. After their original business plan of marketing Pines Wheat Grass as a multi-level product was working too slowly, Seibold and Malone stopped into a health food store and the storeowner bought six bottles of wheat grass. From there, the pair went from store to store in Denver. Because most health food storeowners understood the benefits of wheat grass, after a few days, they had sold enough Pines Wheat Grass to convince a distributor to health food stores in Colorado to carry the product and supply it to stores.
For the next eight months, Seibold and Malone traveled to 35 states, repeating what they accomplished in Colorado. When they were finished, Pines Wheat Grass was being sold in more than 2,000 stores.
Today, Pines International is still owned by the original founders and stockholders. Celebrating 35 years in business, the company has grown from a two-person business to an international company that ships cereal grass and other green foods to thousands of stores across the U.S. and more than 25 countries.
Supply and Demand
As the company continues to grow, it faces the challenge of keeping up with the demand of its customers. “Our biggest challenge as an ingredient supplier is being able to produce enough cereal grass for the demand. Because we harvest at the jointing stage, our yields are less than 1,000 pounds per acre per year,” said Seibold. “Thus, it takes large tracts of organic farmland to provide our customers with ingredients. Further, our harvest season is only a few days each year in the early spring. We are in the process of building additional dehydrators in other locations that also have certified organic glacial soils so we can continue to supply the ever-growing demand.”
Since the company’s inception, the goal of Pines International was to make a difference in the environment, in people’s health, in agricultural methods and in land use patterns. “From the beginning, we wanted Pines to be an example of a ‘green’ company,” said Seibold. “Most of our 200 shareholders, who invested an average of $100 each, became a part of Pines not so much because they expected big returns, but because they believed in our philosophy.”
Staying true to that original goal, the company has brought about 2,000 acres into organic certification, has set up a foundation to protect about half of that acreage as permanent wildlife habitat, with most of the rest set aside for organic farming. Additionally, the company has provided several million servings of wheat grass to feeding programs around the world, and has supported many organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and helping people.
Pines International has also incorporated green measures into other aspects of the company’s operations. Office paper, cardboard and shipping pallets are all recycled, and the company also uses recycled paper for all printed material. Promotional t-shirts are printed with a company that uses organic unbleached cotton and uses water-based inks. Pines International is also looking for new ways to conserve energy, trees, water and clean air.
As Pines International now celebrates 35 years in business, it is certain that the company will continue to spread the health message of “eating more greens” to people around the world for years to come. “With two additional dehydrators in the planning stages, we expect to continue to be the major worldwide supplier of quality wheat grass, barley grass and alfalfa for many decades to come,” said Seibold.