Rick Goldberg and Chris Glab were partners in G&G Foods when they sold the company in 2006, and set out for retirement at an early age.
Goldberg began doing volunteer work for a nonprofit called Ceres, which worked with high schoolers to teach them how to cook healthy and nutrient-dense food, and then deliver the meals to cancer patients.
Rick Goldberg and Chris Glab, Co-Founders, Wildbrine
“One of the products they were making was sauerkraut because of all the health benefits, which is really great for people with cancer because they can taste it, and it’s great for the gut with lots of nutrition,” he said. “Coming down to the end of my tenure there, I decided to help the project by starting a little sauerkraut company and we sold the product to about 4-5 stores in Northern California to raise funds.”
However, the organization didn’t have the resources to commit to the business long-term, so Goldberg and Glab took it over full-time and thought it would be a nice little retirement project.
“We rebranded it to Wildbrine, do it for profit, but continue to give back to the project,” Goldberg said. “We took it to a natural products show in Anaheim eight years ago, and it just took off. The market was ready for good fermented foods and we were back working full-time again.”
Wildbrine offers a variety of products
Today, Santa Rosa, CA-based Wildbrine specializes in organic, probiotic-rich fermented foods, with a product roster that includes sauerkrauts, kimchis, salsas, and sugar-free srirachas for improved gut health.
“We are very much traditionalists when it comes to product development,” he said. “Everything we do is organic in sauerkrauts, but for our kimchis, we are very traditional in the way we make it, and it’s really hard to find napa cabbage in organic year-round, so that product isn’t organic now, but we hope to find a grower in the next year so we can.”
Among its organic kraut varieties are Raw Organic Green, Raw Organic Red, Organic Red Beet Red Cabbage Kraut, Smoky Kale, Arame Ginger Kraut, Organic Dill & Garlic Kraut, Organic Curry Cauliflower Kraut and Coleslaw.
“As organic farming becomes more widespread and cost effective, we will continue to develop and expand our line of organic krauts,” Goldberg said. “As growers find ways to do organic more cost-effectively, we will continue to go down that path of more organic.”
Wildbrine's sauerkrauts are 100% organic
The products Wildbrine offers are important for a number of reasons, he said. A healthier gut contributes to digestion, disease fighting and overall well-being.
“There are so many things that are fermented that are good for you,” Goldberg said. “It’s a category that has really grown a lot, and not only from sauerkraut.”
Once the items come in from the West Coast farmers, Wildbrine inspects everything, then workers start chopping Napa cabbage, hand peeling ginger, finely chopping beets, grating horseradish root and hand stemming, seeding and coring jalapeños. Once the fresh raw ingredients are ready, they add sea salt and spices, mix, then tuck them away in the proper environment to ferment.
Wildbrine focuses on sustainability and reducing waste with the products they use
He believes Wildbrine is the No. 1 fermenter in the U.S. in the natural category, and has seen a large increase in growth over the years as it works with major retailers such as Costco and Trader Joe’s.
“We are now venturing off into a really interesting project,” Goldberg said. “Last year, we purchased another building that’s about 21,000 square feet, and we’re in the process of renovating that and we’re going to do a plant-based dairy based off of ferments.”
He explains that will involve taking the juice off of the sauerkraut, adding in some other stuff to turn it into a culture, which will then be turned into new products that will be ready for market in 2020.
Chris Glab and Rick Goldberg continue educating consumers about gut health and healthy eating
The biggest challenge that Wildbrine has faced has been educating the consumer about gut health and healthy eating. Goldberg noted consumers are starting to get that, and that has helped the demand for the company’s products.
“To grow further, we are looking more at conventional stores and looking at putting product in produce sections, where most of the stores want to slot us,” Goldberg said. “We are finally seeing more of an acceptance from retailers and a lot of that came from consumer education.”