The Next Brand, Episode #4

Continuous glucose monitors, veggie oils and launching new stuff

Hi there, and welcome to The Next Brand - my take on health, wellness and building the next generation of brands. 

(Cool - but who are you)?

In the last 4 years I’ve founded 2 health brands (Kettle & Fire and Perfect Keto), which did nearly $100mm in revenue in 2019. I’ve raised ~$20mm to build Kette & Fire, gotten into 9k+ retail stores, bootstrapped Perfect Keto, launched 80+ SKUs… and have a small portfolio of Shopify apps I’ve bought + operate with another business partner. Previously, I worked in tech and had no experience in CPG, DTC or any other 3 letter acronym industries.

If you missed past episodes, you can catch up here (Episode 01, 02, 03). Otherwise, let’s dive in.

🆕 What’s new

I recently got a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) implanted in my left arm like a psychopath. This device measures my how body responds to eating different foods. Eat a sugary donut or high-carb meal? Your blood sugar will likely spike like crazy. Stay low carb / keto, and you’ll see really consistent blood glucose readings. 

That nice lil spike was me working out - crazy! I fasted this day so no blood glucose spikes here. 

I installed this to see how my body reacted to different foods and determine if I was a hyper-responder to any foods I had on the reg. It’s also a great way to figure out what restaurants may be sneaking more sugars into their products, as I’ll see it any extra sugars or syrups reflected in the meter readings.  

So far, nothing major to report. I installed the CGM two days before I began a three day fast (I’m writing this on day 3… hello hunger pangs!) and my blood sugar has been remarkably consistent on fasting days, hovering in the 50-60 range. 

I also tried something new for day 1 of this fast - dry fasting (aka not eating AND not drinking any fluids). By the end of day 1 I was pretty darn thirsty, but not as much as I would have thought. 

I suspect dry fasting the 1st day of the fast quickly got me into ketosis. Normally after 24-30 hours of fasting my blood ketones will be in the 1.5-1.9 range. This time, I measured after 34 hours of fasting and my blood ketones were 3.0 - crazy! 

With my blood sugar at 48 mg/dL, it meant that I was under the targeted 1.0 glucose-ketone index where Dr Thomas Seyfried has researched a lot of anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits arise. 

I’m a huge proponent of fasting. Though challenging, it’s an incredible way to re-evaluate your relationship with food. Not having any water for a day (or food for 3) has helped me appreciate just how many times during the day I will eat or drink something to distract myself. Distract myself from emotions I don’t want to feel, a hard lift, or work I’ve been avoiding (like writing this newsletter 😬). Not having this distraction has forced me to be more conscious of my urges and tendencies to use food as a distraction, not something I always consciously enjoy. 

Not only that, but the benefits are pretty well established as far as decreasing inflammation, improving blood sugar regulation and resetting your microbiome. I’d encourage you to give it a try, at least for a day. 

💪 Health stuff

I’m seeing a LOT of consumer products go heavy on the vegetable oils. Which are extremely bad for human health. 

I didn’t realize this until about a year ago, when in a chat with Jeff Nobbs and Anthony Gustin (my Perfect Keto co-founder) they brought up a lot of good points on vegetable oils - many of which they covered on their podcast about this topic. 

Basically, these oils (canola, soy, corn, etc) are toxic for human health: 

  1. This study found that reheating vegetable oils commonly used in restaurants for cooking drove an increased effect on inflammation. Most kitchens (with shockingly few exceptions) use vegetable oils in cooking, and will reheat + reuse them multiple times to save on cost.

    1. If you don’t know if your favorite local haunt uses vegetable oil, ask! Or ask that they use olive oil instead, as you have a “soy allergy”. If you’re in SF, Kitava uses good oils, as does Picnik in Austin. 

  2. Another study on the effects of soybean oil found that regular consumption led to “excessive weight gain, higher levels of fasting blood glucose” - none of which are great. 

  3. One of the major dangers of vegetable oils is their high ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids. This study covers some of the issues that arise from having an imbalanced Omega 3:6 ratio - mainly, that it drives a lot of inflammation in the body.  

  4. Chris Kresser also has a great writeup on the dangers of vegetable oils that I’d recommend.

Shoutout to Nat Eliason and his excellent Monday Medley where I got the above links from.

Why is this important? Because this shit is in everything. Oat milk? Check.Kind bars? Yes. Olive oil mayo!?!? Yup.

This stuff is used in almost every fried food you’ll order at restaurants, in most sorts of spreads and sauces (ranch, most salad dressings, etc) and often is the main cooking oil in restaurants. 

Given vegetable oils are often 8x cheaper than other oils humans have eaten for thousands of years (olive, coconut, avocado, etc), I don’t see vegetable oil utilization going down anytime soon. That is, unless consumers start holding food brands and restaurants to a higher, vegetable-oil-free standard. 

🤑 Brand stuff

As always, there have been a spate of new DTC brands launching. The latest hot category seems to be cookware, with Pattern Brands (the product arm of Gin Lane), East Fork, Our Place, Year & Day all getting into the cookware and plates game. Along with Made In, Potluck, Material, Misen, Abbio, Milo, Great Jones, Caraway…….. 

Lately, I’ve started to think more about the purpose behind all these DTC brands (okay, after reading Yvon Chouinard’s excellent Let My People Go Surfing). Not to sound too angry-old-man here, but - isn’t the purpose of launching a new startup to disrupt something? To create something better than what existed before?

I hope so. But in DTC land today, I’m just not seeing it. 

Truly, new brands have an INCREDIBLE opportunity to re-invent the way people buy, interact with and use consumer products over the next 20 years. However, I’m not sure that being the 9th DTC entrant in an existing category is all that useful or even exciting. 

Not only is it not exciting, but it sucks to compete with 3 other brands doing roughly the same thing! Each brand is advertising on Facebook using the same landing page tools, the same video ad creatives, and the same value prop - how is that a way to stand out? 

With so many possibilities for new, different consumer products to solve real problems (for starters: most food in the US makes consumers sicker, rather than healthier), I wish there were more founders taking on big challenges and creating new and differentiated brands. 

If you’re one of those founders, let me know - I’d love to support you. 

Dope stuff on the internet

Some of my favorite things since the last newsletter (note: I don’t get paid to recommend anything here):

  • 📰 Article - This article on network effects made me think a lot about past decisions I’ve made. Reading the article, I realized I’ve rarely had the luxury of doubling down on network effects: I moved after high school, went to college in Pittsburgh (and promptly left for San Francisco after graduating), and then after 6 years in SF moved to Austin. Though fun, I definitely have missed out on some of the benefits that come from having deep roots in a place… something I’m working to change over the next 5 years. 

  • 📚Book rec - Let My People Go Surfing came highly recommended by my business partner, and did not disappoint. It’s an overview of the very contrarian approach to business the founder of Patagonia has taken since starting the company in the 60s. And man was it inspiring - it’s made me want to dig far further into our supply chain and figure out how we can use our brands as a lever to do good in the world. I also loved his reasoning for never buying ads: he wants to grow naturally and sustainably, at a rate that doesn't overly pressure the business, and allows him and his employees to have a life outside of work. Highly recommend for an alternative perspective on work. 

  • Cool product - It’s only available in Austin, but I’ve been LOVING the local decaf cold brew by Levercraft. I’ve been trying to go easy on my caffeine consumption, and this has allowed me to love my cold brew while not also making me feel like a crack addict when I down a whole one. Huge fan. 

  • 🎵Music - This is a dope mix from 2016 that I’ve been jamming out to lately. The more recent Christmas In Bed years are also tremendous. 

  • 🔗Link - I found this paper pretty interesting - effectively an assertion that the positions we sleep in are doing our joints and bodies no help when it comes to injuries or musculoskeletal pain. I’ll probably give some of these stranger sleeping positions a try over the coming weeks, though no guarantees that I’ll stick with it. Though it does fit my prior of “there are lots of negative health outcomes we now see as a result of civilization”. This might just be another one of them. 

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That’s all for this episode! If you enjoyed this, I’d love if you would forward this email to a friend, or have them sign up free here. Reply back with questions, thoughts or other interesting stuff - otherwise, enjoy the week 🙏

Justin

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