For decades, cancer researchers have looked for a relationship between the food we eat and our risk for the life-threatening disease. While cancer often finds a way of striking indiscriminately, regardless of diet, the science has shown that we can greatly reduce our risk by eating healthy foods. Unfortunately, the average American diet, which is loaded with sugars and inflammation-causing ingredients, does not pair with disease prevention.
A few beverage industry veterans are attempting to address the problem, with the launch of Gratitude Foods, a new food and drink company dedicated to using ingredients clinically-proven to help prevent cancer. The founding team includes Attitude Drinks CEO Roy Warren, Inko’s Tea founder Andy Schamisso, former Marvel Comics vice president Bill Jemas, early South Beach Beverage investor Mike Rosenbaum, and his son Dr. Eric Rosenbaum who serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Gourmet Daily.
Although the team just formed earlier this year, Schamisso told BevNET the project is at both “an early and advanced stage,” as members work on recruiting investors, developing formulas, labels, bottles, and a delivery system.
“These guys have a moral investment in this project,” Schamisso said. “They’ve been touched by cancer. There is minimal talk about growing the company so they can sell it to Coke or Pepsi and all talk about helping people.”
Warren, who first made his name in beverage as the head of Bravo Brands, told BevNET the idea for Gratitude came from Jemas, whose brother is currently battling cancer. New to the food and beverage industry, Jemas made his name in comic books as a writer and editor before serving as the executive vice president of Marvel Entertainment Group in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Jemas, who Warren and Schamisso called “the driving force” behind Gratitude, will bring a media focus to the company and he is developing a television component to help build the brand and raise funds.
Gratitude’s first products will include green and white teas infused with other cancer-battling ingredients. According to Eric Rosenbaum, there is a big list of science-backed foods and herbs on their radar, including turmeric, parsley, acai, green vegetables, mushrooms, and “bright red fruits.” In general, he said, the brand will avoid inflammatory and potentially carcinogenic ingredients like sugar and fructose. After launching with a line of beverages, the company will also produce various vegan-friendly meals, including TV dinners, as well as a meal replacement drink that contains as many ingredients as possible to give consumers “more bang for the buck.”
Warren himself is in recovery from leukemia and said he believes strongly in following a healthy diet as way to lower a person’s risk of cancer.
“Golly, I’m a classic Baby Boomer and the Baby Boomers are getting cancer left and right,” Warren said.
Having helmed several publicly traded companies himself, Warren said Gratitude will go public as soon as possible.
While the goal is to aid in the fight against cancer, the team also knows it will need to tread lightly with its health promises. Schamisso said the company plans to be cautious in its labelling to avoid running afoul of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but will be transparent by noting the ingredients scientifically-backed health benefits and including recipes. Dr. Rosenbaum said there are no plans to call the product “anti-cancer,” but preventing cancer will be a major part of the brand’s identity.
“We’re not trying to make some crazy claims,” Rosenbaum said.
Schamisso has been working as a beverage industry consultant since he sold Inko’s in 2014. He is currently writing a book about entrepreneurship and said he plans to reach out to old contacts to help build Gratitude. The company he said, will have a strong focus on helping people in need, and the products will be affordable. Gratitude will also put a focus on philanthropy and in addition to participating in cancer walks and other fundraisers will innovate in ways to reach consumers in need directly.
“Our hearts are open like that,” Schamisso said. “We’re really going after Coke and Pepsi. They might be turning the page a little but they’re slow; we don’t have time to wait around for them. We’re going to attack sugar-laden beverages.”