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Keep doing what you are best at

Levana Nourishments Plant-Based Meal Replacements- with all the mandated nutritional elements of an actual meal

Please introduce yourself and your startup Levana Nourishments to our readers!

Throughout my career, I have always worked in the natural foods space, long before the public consciousness was raised about the importance of eating clean. Although I spent my student years studying for and earning a Master’s Degree in Psychology, my life work has been accomplished in several fields of the Natural Foods Industry: I co-owned Lévana Restaurant in Lincoln Center, which earned me the title of Pioneer of Upscale Kosher Dining; I had an all-natural catering service; And I wrote three cookbooks, my Magnum Opus being The Whole Foods Kitchen; I teach natural foods cooking regularly.  

Lévana Nourishments came as a natural next step.

How did you get the idea of Levana Nourishments?

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, he became regularly subjected to intensive chemotherapy treatments. Although his response to the treatments was positive, he reached almost skeletal weight due to extreme appetite loss and inability to tolerate most foods, including all the standard institutional meal replacement products. I was put off by the high sugar content and synthetic ingredients found in many commercial nutritional powders. Drawing on my lifelong experience with natural foods and cooking, I decided to create my own, concentrated nutrition shake powder based on pure, simple and familiar plant-based ingredients.

Even in its first formulation, the result was a very promising and highly effective version of what eventually became the Levana Nourishments line of natural meal replacements. Even today, these powerful complete-meal shakes make up the lion’s share of my husband’s nutrition needs.

Why did you decide to start with Levana Nourishments?

I looked around me, and found precious few good choices when it came to complete meal replacements, made with real foods. Not all meal replacement shakes are created equal. Too often they contain synthetic and chemical ingredients. Also, many of them target weight loss or sport nutrition and are not designed to close a dietary gap or provide the whole-meal nutritional value that many consumers desperately need. This is where I saw my opportunity to make an essential difference in that space with a nutritious, plant-based meal replacement. My mantra became: create maximum nutrition in a minimum volume.  

What is the vision behind Levana Nourishments?

My vision is that the line I have developed will get a central spot in the Integrative Nutrition Community; that it is recognized not as just another protein powder or as another supplement, but as a valuable all-inclusive completely balanced meal replacement, with all the mandated nutritional elements of an actual meal: calories, protein, fat, fiber, minerals, amino acids. 

We were very mindful of every area of compliance, so as to accommodate all consumers: the line is low in sodium, non-GMO, certified natural, soy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, Kosher, sugar-free, dairy-free. 

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

The built-in challenge was that my husband’s dire straits forced me to be doubly creative and doubly productive even as I cared for him all day and all night. But seeing him regain his strength was the greatest encouragement and the greatest reward I could get. It was in fact his idea that I should take my project well beyond the confines of my own home to the larger public: it could help so many people!

The main challenge in developing the plant-based meal replacement line was to stay true to my vision and not compromise on the quality of the ingredients and make sure that the products will be clean-label.

Who is your target audience?

Our clean-label line of complete meal replacement shakes suits people with special dietary needs, picky eaters, children, and active persons who live on the go with little time to prepare meals.

What is the USP of your startup?

The USP of my line is that it results in visible well-being improvements, while using a short list of clean, plant-based ingredients. It also keeps you regular, which is the Holy Grail for people relying on supplemental nutrition. Too often we see a meal replacement achieve one health benefit at the cost of other benefits (where it provides enough protein it contains too much sugar, too many allergens, too much sodium, too little fiber, too many synthetic additives etc). 

Can you describe your typical workday? 

My days are arranged around tending to my husband’s needs, exploring possible collaboration with potential partners, and developing new exciting savory flavors in my meal replacement line.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Levana Nourishments in five years?

Because I have done so much of the groundwork to put the line in place, my ambition, my dream, is to partner up with Functional Foods and supplement companies that will recognize the value of what I have built and how many people it can help, We have created a working proof-of-concept and it is practically ready to go on to the market on a private label basis and we would like get commercialized with a partner that can take this line to health food stores.

What 3 tips would you give to founders?

1. Many of us do not work with an unlimited budget: this often turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Working with a small budget pushes every envelope: You will be delighted to get fully acquainted with your own resourcefulness, ingenuity and creativity. I believe this is precisely what will lead us to the bigger people and will make them want to work as a team with us and partner with us. Keep doing what you are best at, you will soon meet the people who can do some other essential things better than you can. 

2. You will often be exposed to conflicting and contradicting opinions and recommendations by well wishers, which will often result in diffidence and even discouragement. Listen to that still small voice that keeps whispering encouragement in your ear, and keep trucking! 

3. Your project might go through periods when it looks like nothing is happening. You started so long ago, and you didn’t get there yet. But your project is not the only thing going on: your regular life gets in the way! You should indeed be proud that even with the all-consuming undertaking you took on, your life with your loved ones, your friends and your community is going strong: enjoy their support and the togetherness they offer you. 

More information you will find here

Thank you Levana Kirschenbaum for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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