Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Hallie Rich is the founder & CEO of alternaVite the first quick-dissolving multivitamin for adults who can’t swallow pills. After the success of alternaVites for adults, Hallie launched alternaVites Kids, the all-natural alternative to sugary gummy vitamins that stick to kids teeth (Pediatric dentists highly recommend alternaVites). Recently, Hallie lobbied on Capitol Hill with the Natural Products Association – she can speak on that experience. She has a new book coming out in 2016 called, “Should I Scoop Out My Bagel?” – Gives no holds-barred answers to the questions that keep every modern woman wondering why her weight is high, her libido is low, and her mind is scattered.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, everybody—we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and this is the second part of It’s All About Food. And before I bring on my next guest, I wanted to just sum up a little bit more about our recent fundraising event, The Happy B’Earthday Revue. We had some really great sponsors at this event, and one I wanted to bring up is Vaute Couture, which is a vegan fashion company, and they offered a vegan version of wool for this lovely little felt pencil skirt. It was really adorable, and we had one of those to give away in one of our silent-auction boxes. And the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, which is really a lovely, lovely sanctuary—they offered a stay in their homestead, which is a lovely bed and breakfast, and if you ever want to get a gift for someone, this is a great gift because they get to go and stay in a beautiful place in a lovely atmosphere, and then if you want for them to learn a little bit more about what’s going on with animals, then they can just take a little trip over to Farm Sanctuary, and in a loving, nonjudgmental, beautiful way, they can learn about some of the terrible things that are going on in the world, and it might just change their lives.
And we had some really wonderful things in our gift bag, including coupons for Tofurky and Gardein—all these plant-based meat alternatives. MayWah gave some of their product; they were really very generous. They make all kinds of vegetarian meats. You can find them at MayWahNYC.com, and you don’t have to live in New York City to take advantage of them; they ship all over the place.
But one of the other goodies we had in our gift bag was something called alternaVites, and we are going to learn a little bit more about them right now because I have Hallie Rich on with us, who is the founder and CEO of alternaVites, the first quick-dissolving multivitamin for adults who can’t swallow pills. And after the success of alternaVites for adults, Hallie launched alternaVites Kids, the all-natural alternative to sugary gummy vitamins that stick to kids’ teeth. And she recently lobbied on Capitol Hill with the Natural Products Association and has a new book coming out in 2016 called, Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? Welcome to It’s All About Food, Hallie.
Hallie Rich: Hi. Thanks so much, Caryn. How are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good. I was really excited when I found your product alternaVites.
Hallie Rich: Thanks. We are so excited to be found by you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well I don’t have a personal problem swallowing vitamins, and when I went through a romp with advanced ovarian cancer eight years ago, one of the things that I did was take lots of nutraceuticals, and I was taking tons of pills every day.
Hallie Rich: I’m sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank goodness I could swallow them. But a lot of them, if I could, I opened them up and put them in a smoothie because that made it a lot easier.
Hallie Rich: Yeah, that’s one of the things with our vitamins. It’s actually a powder, so you can pour it in your mouth and take it like you would a Pixie Stick when you were younger, or you can also mix it into anything you want, so smoothies, puddings, applesauce, cereals. Anything, but obviously that doesn’t involve heat because that would ruin the integrity of the nutrients. So it is something for people who can’t swallow pills or just something who are looking for an easier way or more inclusive way of not having to pop more pills throughout their day.
Caryn Hartglass: And I’m surprised that there really aren’t any others out there for a multivitamin.
Hallie Rich: Yeah, there really aren’t that many. I mean, there are some gummies out there, which as you know, contain gelatin, so they’re not a great—most of them do anyway—not a great source for vegetarians or vegans. But a lot of these non-pill alternatives out there actually have some drawbacks to them. And when I set out to develop alternaVites, I thought it was really important to take all the positives and leave out all the negatives. So when it comes to animal products and by-products, artificial sweeteners, lots of sugar in there, lots of those different types of things that really prevent people from taking vitamins, I feel that the more people we can bring back into the category, the better, and that’s something that I hope that we accomplish with our vitamins.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so first I was pronouncing it wrong.
Hallie Rich: Everyone pronounces it wrong and my name wrong. I’m well used to it.
Caryn Hartglass: And how is your name pronounced?
Hallie Rich: Hallie.
Caryn Hartglass: Hallie, okay, I got that right. Or did I say Haley?
Hallie Rich: No, I think you said Hallie.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh my goodness, you say Haley, and I say Hallie.
Hallie Rich: Exactly. I get it all. As long as you are pointing in my direction, you got my attention.
Caryn Hartglass: Good. Now, there are all kinds of crazy ingredients that you can find in vitamins like GMO-based cornstarches and things that people don’t even think about, and then we’ve heard most recently some scary things about different vitamin suppliers where you’re not even getting the product you think you’re getting. And you might be getting something toxic or horrible.
Hallie Rich: Well, I guess let me address those two separately. When it comes to GMOs, I agree, but I think that’s not a problem that’s only inherent to vitamins. Unfortunately, you don’t know most of what you are taking because of the label laws, what’s from GMO and what’s not. We’re very proud that our vitamins have no GMO ingredients in them, and we label them appropriately so that people who are looking for non-GMO products know that ours fulfills that requirement. For people who aren’t too concerned with GMOs at this point, it’s neither here nor there for them.
In terms of the recent studies that came out, some of the testing methods were a bit questionable. Now I agree with you completely that if there are any supplements on the market that don’t have what they state to have, then they should absolutely be off the market. But that would be illegal. So it’s not that that’s common practice in the industry at all. And I don’t make herbal supplements, so I am definitely not an authority on that side of the business, but an example that was told to me was that if you took the coffee that you buy at a regular coffee shop and took that to a research lab and had them test it for coffee, that they would actually not be able to find any DNA of coffee in it because it’s an extract. And the same goes for some herbal supplements that are made from extracts. So while you’re looking for the DNA of it, it’s kind of ruined in the process because you’re dealing with something different—the part of it, just not the whole. So I thought that was a really interesting explanation of kind of the science behind the testing. And the FDA itself said that alone, they wouldn’t use this DNA bar-coding method in isolation for these things. So I do think it’s important to look at it through the right lens and to say if these are wrong, absolutely get them off the market, but let’s just use the right testing to go after it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now do you have a personal story why you started this company?
Hallie Rich: I do, actually. I am the third generation in my family to be in the vitamin industry, but up until I started my own company, I actually never took vitamins. Believe it or not, I can’t swallow pills, as you mentioned earlier, so I was kind of like the pill maker’s daughter who couldn’t take pills or the modern-day shoemaker’s daughter who didn’t have shoes. So I kind of set out to create this delivery form for people who can’t swallow pills or who don’t want to. Because I passionately believe in the power of proper supplementation, but I’ll tell you one time vitamins definitely won’t work is when you don’t take them. So I tried to answer my own need and found out that there were millions of Americans who were just like me who were looking for non-pill supplement alternatives.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now are there some things that have to be in a pill that can’t be loose in a powder?
Hallie Rich: I guess of my invention I would say that nothing has to be anything, but there are restrictions for what some things can come in, and a lot of it has to do with taste because basically what I did with my vitamins is, it’s kind of like eating the cookie dough before the cookie. You just take the recipe, you just don’t put it into the oven to make it. So it’s not that it’s so different, it’s just we’re using some coated vitamins so it doesn’t inherently taste bad on your tongue because anyone who’s ever taken half a pill or burped up a regular pill or capsule knows those things don’t generally taste so good. But a lot of things more have to do with taste than have to do with the format it comes in.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, and then, when I get vitamin C, for example, I like to get the powdered version, and I just scoop out a quarter teaspoon or something because I like the most inexpensive version and controlling it myself; is that possible with multivitamins, to have a big loose container of powder that you just scoop out, or do they have to be in individual doses, or that’s probably the way the most people like them?
Hallie Rich: Most people do like them in individual doses just because it’s premeasured, they don’t have to worry about, am I really getting, is it a heaping teaspoon, is it a regular teaspoon, where I am calling it off? Especially when it comes to something like a supplement or even if there was ever an OTC powder, most people want them premeasured, but yeah, absolutely, you can take the packets, open them up, and do anything you want with them.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. Now, I’m looking at your alternaVites website, and there’s so many things that are not in your vitamins.
Hallie Rich: Yeah, we’re proud for our vitamins just as much as what we do have as just as much what we don’t. We don’t have any GMOs, as you mentioned, we’re sugar-free, we’re gluten-free, there’s no animal products or animal by-products, there’s no high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame, we’re certified kosher, so we’re really proud of doing this in what we find to be a very clean way of making a vitamin. We don’t have any of those artificial fillers and binders and sweeteners and preservatives and colors and dyes, and the list can go on and on about what some of the other vitamins have out there, so we’re very proud of, like you said, not only these vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that we do have, but all of that long laundry list of stuff that we don’t.
Caryn Hartglass: Now are you planning more different types of multivitamins? We live in a world where we can’t have enough choice. There’s like a gazillion different versions of so many different things, but a lot of vitamin manufacturers today, they have a man’s formula, a woman’s formula, a child’s formula, and then a formula with extra this and that for people that want it, and I’m even thinking about—I don’t know if you are familiar with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who has his line of vitamins, but he always tells us to stay away from adding certain vitamins in the multivitamin, and so I wonder if you are considering any of those things for other variations?
Hallie Rich: Right now, our multivitamin is staying as is. Later this summer we’ll be introducing a vitamin C product, a vitamin D product, and a calcium product as stand-alone items, but as far as multis, we’re really happy with our product as it is now, and in the immediate future we have no plans for targeted multivitamin formulas. That’s something that, as the research continues, that we’ll keep taking a look at.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, really good. So what happened when you went to Capitol Hill?
Hallie Rich: It was really interesting to kind of walk into those offices of our senators and our congressmen and meet with their aides. It was really refreshing. You hear so many bad things about politics and politicians, and I must say, the aides of—I am from New York, so I met with the aides from some New York senators and congressmen—they were very engaged, very into healthy living and being proactive about their constituents’ health, and it was really interesting explaining to them where we are with the industry, where we want to take the industry, and it was really, I would say, a welcome surprise to see the interaction between us, and it was a wonderful experience.
Caryn Hartglass: That is nice for a change to hear something good about our government. I’m just finding your upcoming book title hysterical.
Hallie Rich: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Because I know so many people who have scooped out their bagels. What’s it about?
Hallie Rich: So a dear friend and colleague of mine is a registered dietician, and we were speaking one day over work about how we constantly are being asked the same questions over and over again by colleagues, by friends, by complete strangers who find out I’m in the vitamin industry, and she’s in the nutrition business, and how even with the wealth of information out there at our fingertips, it’s so contradictory, and you just don’t know what to believe and who has what agenda, and so we decided to take our top one hundred questions that were always asked and write a book and make a Q & A. It’s very tongue in cheek and very witty, and it’s not preachy at all, but we just lay out the facts. We want people to realize that life is fun and that it’s meant to be enjoyed, but there is a healthy way and a moderate way to do everything, and that’s really our approach to the book.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you eat bagels?
Hallie Rich: I do eat bagels, and I love bagels, but I do scoop my bagels.
Caryn Hartglass: You are a bagel scooper!
Hallie Rich: I am a scooper.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s funny. I rarely eat bagels these days. I do love them, though, but I just avoid them. I am part of the Food Revolution Summit this week, which is being put on by John and Ocean Robbins. It’s an all-week-long exhausting summit all about food, and there are experts on every day, and it’s three hours a day, and today they were talking about Flintstone vitamins, as a matter of fact, and how horrible they are.
Hallie Rich: Yeah, there’s a lot of bad information out there about some of what Flintstones does and doesn’t have, but I don’t like to speak bad about my competition, and I’d just like to say that I think ours are better, how about that?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well, okay, I just want to mention that they have artificial colors and aspartame and gluten and things that you think are safe for children but a lot of children react really negatively to these artificial things that we consider okay to put in our bodies.
Hallie Rich: Right, I mean, I like to say without knocking anybody, there was a time for vitamins from the Stone Age, but that time has passed.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good.
Hallie Rich: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really good. Now your vitamins are manufactured here in the United States?
Hallie Rich: Yes, we’re actually manufactured right here in New York. We are manufactured, packaged, distributed, and headquartered in New York.
Caryn Hartglass: Very nice, I love to hear that.
Hallie Rich: Yes. As do we. Like to keep things close to home.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, very good. Well, I want to really thank you for being a part of my fund-raiser last week by offering all of our attendees samples of your alternaVites. That was a really nice little unusual treat to have in our gift bags.
Hallie Rich: Well, thanks for letting us be a part it. We like to think that we are a company with a conscience, and it’s nice to partner with people who feel the same way.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we do. So thank you. And I do know some people close to me that can’t swallow vitamins, so I’m definitely going to let them know about this.
Hallie Rich: Fabulous, thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. It’s all about vitamins.
Hallie Rich: Have a great day. Thanks so much.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. That was Hallie Rich, and the website is alterVites.com. You can find out more about that if you have a hard time swallowing vitamins or know someone who does.
So we just have a few minutes left, right…that was funny—a few minutes left, right—okay, I amuse myself all the time. So I mentioned a number of times this Food Revolution Summit, and we’ve listened to people this week like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, and today we listened to Raj Patel. It’s really been a very inspiring thing to be—knowing that hundreds of thousands of people are listening at the same time you are, or at least will be within the day or so, and want this information—there is something about the power of numbers. But like I mentioned at the beginning of the program, I’m thrilled that people want this information, and it’s great to hear these food expert leaders talking, but it won’t go anywhere if it’s just talk and listening.
We have to act, and the real action—the real work—happens from you and me. It doesn’t happen from these celebrity, well-known, best-selling book-author people. It happens from all of us making a difference, so we do whatever we can, right? We eat plant foods; we try and get to know our local farmers. A lot of us who are vegan and vegetarian or plant-strong kind of people, we’re horrified about what’s going on with our non-human animal friends that we share this planet with, but horrible things are happening to humans too who make our food. And like we were talking about earlier with Joshua and the fashion, when you’re wearing a piece of clothing or when you’re eating a piece of food, do you take the time to think, how did this get here, and what were all the things that happened along the way? And unfortunately, with our food, with our fashion, there’s a lot of exploitation in every step. And the only way that we can change that is really being aware, not supporting the businesses and brands that we know are not doing nice things. Sometimes that means we have to go without. You may not be able to buy that cheap t-shirt if you realize whose hands touched it and what they had to go through to get that into a store near you. And money speaks louder than anything else; we just can’t support these things. So I’m excited to know that there are people out there doing their part, creating products that we can believe in, that we can support, and then we do the rest.
Now, I was talking to Jane Velez-Mitchell a couple of weeks ago, and I’m really excited to hear that people have been responding to some of the things she said and are contacting their local politicians about some of the things she spoke about, all kinds of horrible animal testing and things going on. And we all need to do that, and it’s hard. I know, we’re all busy, we’re all involved in our own lives, but we each have to do something.
So this is my call after Earth Day last week, and we can come up with a different excuse every day why we need to do more. I just hope I can inspire you a little bit to speak louder. And that may just mean inviting people over and making them delicious healthy food and letting them know—I do this all the time, and I know that some of the people I socialize with are just never going to get it, but there’s always hope that one day they will, and they will. It just takes time. So we just have to be joyful about it and generous and stay on the path, that’s my message. Stay on the path.
Yes, I want to mention also Go Organic NYC. I think I mentioned before, they were another sponsor for our event, and I’m so grateful for them, not just because they donated some gift certificates for my event, but they have made it a lot easier for me—especially in this last week when I have been extremely busy, busier than ever before, if that’s possible—because they deliver. I was able to get my kale and my collards and have healthy food to eat. And they do it really reasonably, so if you‘re in the New York metro area, I really recommend checking out Go Organic NYC.
And for any of you that are involved with the Engine 2 diet, Rip Esselstyn’s book and Engine 2. They have a website, engine2extra.com. I’ll be there tonight in their chat—I don’t know what it’s called, but they have some kind of chat room on the engine2extra.com site, and I’ll be there chatting away at 9pm Eastern time tonight, so join me there, that’ll be fun.
And that’s all for now. Have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Kris McCoy, 5/31/2015