Spotlight on Novato: Superpowers

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The most recent mega-trend for Novato-based Navitas Organics include turmeric and matcha. Photo courtesy of Navitas Organics.

Once a buzzword on health websites, “superfood” is now a lifestyle; it’s become less and less exclusive and easier to decode. In some parts of the country, matcha is no longer a novelty, goji berries have found their way into yogurt bowls, and turmeric is painting smoothies bright yellow in more households than ever before. The superfood market is dynamic and competitive, and at times confusing, as many brands adopt otherworldly, faraway appeal and wrap their products in exotic descriptions.

It might come as a surprise to some, then, that one of the biggest players in the superfoods industry is based not in Tulum or Pondicherry, but right here in Novato. Previously known as Navitas Naturals, before undergoing a rebranding process in 2017, Navitas Organics is gradually taking over the country with its powders, snacks and blends, while operating from a local campus.

It all started in 2003 with maca, a root vegetable widespread in Peru and said to have boosting effects on energy, memory and libido. Navitas Organics founder Zach Adelman, originally from Canada, started importing the powdered root, making it the inaugural Navitas product. Eventually, Adelman and his family moved to Ross, while establishing the brand in Novato.

“[Novato] is a great hub for people who care about their health and wellness,” says Michelle Russell, Navitas’ brand manager. “You’re close to the city, to the suburbs, to the beach and to the mountains, and the area really captures the clientele.”

Soon, products like Japanese matcha, hemp and cacao nibs followed, as well as the now-trendy breakfast star, acai powder, the barely sweet lucuma and the newest craze out of Colombia, the tart golden berry, impossible to stop snacking on. The newest addition comes in the form of blends, meant to be used quickly and on the go.

“We’re starting to move into a more conventional type of space, toward the Target and Safeway shopper and not just Whole Foods and health stores, and giving them an easy way to be introduced to snacks,” Russell says.

Other novelties include dates-based bars and nut mixes. On the company’s 44,000-follower Instagram account, photogenic juices, bountiful bowls and colorful salads can be found; all are, of course, staples of the #eatclean world, but there are also superfood-powered hamburgers, seed-sprinkled tartines and ice cream decorated with pomegranate seeds. When you find ice cream in the mix, you know that the conversation has gone mainstream.

“We’re really seeing people getting more familiar with superfoods in general, although there’s still a lot of confusion,” Russell says. “Everyone has heard of kale and blueberries, and maybe less people have heard of golden berries.”

On the company’s website, extensive information can be found about each powder and seed, including how to use the occasionally obscure product. Recipes and tips appear as well.

The “healthy” aspect doesn’t stop at packets and sachets; Navitas holds a B Corporation certificate, given exclusively to companies able to meet certain standards of social and environmental accountability and transparency. Though not all Navitas products are made locally—they are, rather, produced in the areas the foods are native to—the company partners directly with small farms through A Growing Culture, an organization supporting smallholder farms and faro-trade processes.

On the Novato campus, where products are developed, marketed and branded, employees can be often found meditating, practicing yoga or hiking far away from the spreadsheets.

“We really practice what we preach,” Russell says with a laugh. “We train with trainers, we can participate in CycleBar in Novato, someone comes and teaches us how to dance salsa.”

Employees are also encouraged to volunteer in the local community, around food and environmental initiatives; when the Sonoma fires struck, Navitas supplied first responders with nutritious snacks. More recently, the company supported the Conscious Kitchen, a healthy school meals organization, by bringing 15 employees to prepare and plant the garden at Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Marin City, to be used directly for the school lunch program. On other occasions, workers volunteer with the Marin Food Bank.

All of this activity ties into the brand philosophy; superfoods, as they evolve into everyday foods, are primarily a lifestyle choice, not without commitment to larger goals. If, however, all you have time for is sprinkling chia on your yogurts, Navitas has you covered.

Navitas Organics; navitasorganics.com.

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