Bernat Añaños is Heura’s co-founder and Chief Social Movement Officer. A passionate food activist, he and Marc Coloma founded Heura in April 2017 as “just two millennials trying to change the world”. Before co-founding Heura, Bernat had an international career that ranged from institutional communications at the European Parliament to launching start-ups in China. His clear priority is to devote his energy to projects with a positive impact. Bernat met Marc Coloma at an entrepreneurship program in Barcelona and they decided to launch Heura together. Founded in April 2017, Heura is currently present in 13 countries around the world. Bernat currently leads the Social Movement department of the start-up.
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy. It’s the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States, and maybe, even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. A very special edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m so honored and lucky to have with us today, direct from Barcelona Spain, Bernat Añaños. Thank you for being with us, Bernat.
Bernat Añaños: Thank you for having me and having Heura because I’m representing the whole company like the forty people that we have behind. So, thanks a lot.
John: It’s an honor and I think this might be our first podcast in thirteen years. We’re reconnecting Fresno, California, and Barcelona Spain. So, thank you for staying up late tonight to do this interview. It’s truly an honor. Before we get going into your wonderful brand and all the impacts that you’re making with these important products that you have, can you share a little bit about your journey and something about yourself so our listeners can learn about you and how you even got here?
Bernat: Cool. How can I do that? I would say I’m a very sensitive person and I think these came with me the whole life in all the decisions I made throughout my life. As you said, I’m from Barcelona so I have this heat inside. I always want to do more and to try to change things. Throughout my life, I tried so many different things and I was not finding my spot. I was always frustrated. I don’t have the impact I want to see in the world. I’m spending a lot of time working on projects that don’t have a positive impact. I’m learning a lot. I’m meeting great people. They are not bad products, but I’m not exactly doing what I wanted to do. Since I was a kid, I always imagined myself being the president. I always played Lego and doing these elections and stuff because I thought that you can change things from politics, but then, I learned not just from politics. You can change a lot of things from the corporate. You can actually change more things from the corporate and I learned that when I was doing six months traineeship at the European Parliament. I have seen how slow things are there, how difficult it is to change regulations, and how a lot of steps have to happen to actually see the progress. So then, I said, “I need to create something. I need to create something that has this impact I want to see.” And then, it’s where I met the other co-founder and we actually matched perfectly because he was at the same position like, “We need to create something. A tool that helps a lot of people to transition to a plant-based protein.
John: Are you already a vegetarian or vegan before you founded this company, or that because that was part of the journey and process?
Bernat: I was. I was vegan before, and Marc as well. Marc, for many years, was smaller than me. Since we were seventeen, I think? I was a vegetarian for many years as well. But it came, actually, very connected in time. I was in the process that I became vegan, but I had some troubles becoming vegan. I miss some of the products, and then, I said, “Giving tools through food that are delicious, nutritious, and sustainable, obviously, we can change so many people because my transition was very long.” I spent six years when you think about the amount of animal proteins.
John: Right. So, it was a process and a journey. Yours was a process and a journey.
Bernat: It was a journey. Yes. I thought that we have to make products that help a lot of people that want to do this transition without losing anything, but having the impact they want to see in the world.
John: When did you and Marc get together and have your ‘aha’ moment to create this amazing brand? For our listeners, our viewers, and our followers that want to find your amazing brand and all the products you’re making that look so delicious, I can’t wait to try them myself, please go to www.heurafoods.com. I am on the site now. The food looks amazing. When did you and Marc come together and have your ‘aha’ moment? Your joint ‘aha’ moment.
Bernat: It was in 2015 that we met in an entrepreneurial course. He had this idea of making plant-based meat, but he did not have the tool on how to make happen, how to communicate it, or how to deliver it to the world. I was a bit lost after these other jobs I had and I was, “Yes, actually, it makes a lot of sense.” Just as a friend, I was trying to help him. And very naturally, we said, “We’re doing it together. You are helping me every day.” That’s actually doing something together. And then, from 2015 to 2017, we worked on, obviously, RND. We spent a lot of time there on communications, branding, and everything to make it happen in 2017. We launched in April.
John: April of 2017?
John: So, now we’re four years into it. It’s almost April of 2021. Talk a little bit about the products you have now. I was telling you this off the air or not. I was so excited preparing for this interview today with you because I had the same buzz and the same spiritual feeling way back in 2010 when I was preparing to interview a young man named Ethan Brown. I have that same feeling about you. Ethan was just starting Beyond Meat then and he came back on the show in 2013. I just knew Ethan was going to go to the moon, and now, look at Beyond Meat. Their market cap is in the multi-billions, and Beyond Meat is becoming ubiquitous around the United States and around the world. I have that same buzz about you. I look at all the beautiful food you’ve made on your website. So, tell me, four years in, what’s your products, what’s become the most popular, and where are you selling them?
Bernat: Before going to the products, you mentioned Ethan. For us, Ethan was an inspiration. When we were looking at how we can change the world, we’ve seen people that were already changing the world. But they were very far. They were in California, most of them, and we were like, “We have to do something from Barcelona. We have to do something from the Mediterranean so we have more alliance.” I would never see, and it’s something that we are very clear about in the office, we never use competitors. When we look at Beyond or any other plant-based around in the world, where we say, alliance. Yes, we have different provinces, and obviously, consumers will make decisions. In the end, they are alliance because they have the exact same mission. After that, I will go to the products. In 2017, we started with chicken because chickens are the most numerous animal groups to go to livestock, and obviously then, to all the process of making food. We wanted to put out as many animals as we could from the equation of meat production. So, we started with chicken also because it’s a very versatile product, and it goes everywhere. Now, we also have meatballs and beef. We are almost planting now sausages, nuggets, and minced meat. So, we really want to put all the favorite meat products in a successful way. We use ‘successful’ because we don’t want to be a substitute. We want to be a success because this means we are better in every single vertical. So, we are far more sustainable when it comes to plant-based. It is very easy. We are the same delicious. So, people enjoy the texture, people enjoy while cooking, people enjoy the flavor, and people enjoy everything. And also, we are much healthier. Anyone in the world can look at our label and say, “Oh, God. I cannot complain about this. I’m looking at this nutritional profile and I cannot make any myths that, “Plant-based meat is bad.” Because there’s this like surrounding bashing that goes into plant-based.” So, we put a lot of effort there.
John: That’s incredible. My listeners and the people that have followed my story on this podcast for the last fourteen years or so know I’ve been a vegetarian for about forty-one years and a vegan for about twelve years. I’ll tell you what. It’s not political. It’s not ideological. It’s just personal. I just feel better when I eat clean. I just feel better. I sleep better. I work better. Life is just better on a plant-based diet. I’m so excited and looking forward to one day being vaccinated, I told you, and coming to Spain again. I love your country. Sharing a plant-based meal with you and your partner, I know it’s going to be just mind-blowing because I see all these great products and talk a little bit about what countries you are in. Where did you launch? I assume you launched in your home country, Bernat, in Spain. And then, where did you go from there?
Bernat: We started in Spain because we thought it was a very good way to show and to prove that if we can conquer the mouths of Spaniards, which are hard meat lovers, we could go anywhere in the world. First, we focused a lot on Spain, but now, we are also in Portugal. We are starting next month in France, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Chile. In the following month, we will also enter Mexico and Poland. We are placing a lot of effort on expanding and being a global player as Beyond. We always think that without options, there is no freedom. We have to deliver options. People have to find Beyond, they have to find Heura, they have to find many other brands, and try good labels. I don’t care. Options.
John: There is such a huge void in the marketplace for great products like yours and Beyond that there’s going to be so many winners here because the market desires it. As you said, it’s not a zero-sum game. Together, you’re the changing world. Together.
John: I’ve so many entrepreneurs that watch and listen to the show. Was it hard for you and Marc to go raise money initially and how difficult is it now? Explain some of that journey on the fundraising side of it.
Bernat: In terms of fundraising, I think it’s not something that’s difficult to start with very few money. Just family, friends, and us to do everything. So, we are kind of surrounded by people that wanted to change the world the same as us, and they’ve seen, “These guys want to change it. I can put help here. I can put my knowledge and my know-how.” We’ve done it like that. We also collaborated a lot with universities where they had students in it that wanted to change the world. We didn’t use a lot of money at the beginning. The good thing about Heura is that we sold products from the very first day. We started from vegan shops, and then, supermarkets, restaurants, and food truck. We kind of got revenue from the very first day. Last month, we did not fundraise money. We have done it through banks and sales. Obviously, banks helped here. It’s a fact. But now, we are in a moment, also, like plant-based movement and the whole scope of what’s going on in the world. It’s in the moment that we are so honored to be contacted by so many people that actually want to change the world. Not just get money, but give money for something that changes the things they want to change in the world. This is like finding partners in mission. It’s not just getting money from a bank. It’s getting money but, in the end, this person is going to be a partner that will help this to be everywhere in the world in a more accessible way, more democratic, making all the big steps we need to do.
John: For our listeners and our viewers that have just joined us, we’ve got Bernat Añaños with us. He’s the co-founder and chief social movement officer of Heura Foods. To find Heura, you go to www.heurafoods.com. It’s in Spanish. It’s in Espanol and English Hey, listen. What I love about your website is that you call people who want to change the world. This is something I’ve learned from your website, but I’m going to use it and I’m going to give you the credit. A Good Rebel. That’s awesome. That’s an awesome term.
Bernat: Yes. We were looking for these words for this concept that puts a lot of people together. I think good rebels don’t have to be the ones that buy Heura. They are the ones that fight for the mission. Beyond Meat eaters or whatever plant-based meat eaters, I don’t care. We are all good rebels, and the good news here is that every day, we are more. The start of school is starting to get a bit nervous because there are still millions and millions of people that want to change the world and they’re not just Hippy Dippy Green stores now, it is everywhere in the world. Athletes like Lewis Hamilton and, also, Joaquin Phoenix, all these people that have a voice, when they raise it, they change things faster.
John: Hundred percent. People of my generation, Boomers, and young people like you, your generation.
Bernat: Everyone. My grandma.
John: Right. What people don’t understand, and you tell me if you’re finding the same thing, is you don’t have to eat plant-based seven days a week or twenty-four seven if you just want to change a little bit of your diet. I have some friends who eat plant-based all day and at night. If they go out with others, they eat whatever they want and they still feel much better. Much better. It’s great.
Bernat: I always say step by step. You don’t have to be perfect. I would like to see a lot of imperfect people but not very few perfect people. So, something that we have to learn as well that people that we are trying to push this movement is to not point people when they commit mistakes. If you can understand? We don’t have to point people. We have to be happy and applaud, right? You’re making a step further. It’s a good thing.
John: Right. Now that you’re so successful, you and Marc, I’m sure you’re being approached by so many. How do you change the world and do it on your own terms? Do you go public one day like Ethan did so you can make your brand everywhere from New York City to Fresno, California to Barcelona and Singapore? Or, do you stay private and you can still change the world on your own terms? How are you being approached? What’s your vision on that?
Bernat: In the end, we are at a very early stage. We are almost four years. I think we will go public. I think this will happen. Now, it’s going to be the first round this year, and I think this will boost the plans of being in so many countries, delivering a lot of new products, and improving the ones that we already have in the market. Plus, we have plant-based meat products, but we have a second product and that is consciousness. We put the same resources, the same effort, and the same team on consciousness. Consciousness means democratizing information because we know something. We are very disconnected from food. We don’t know the impact that food has on the planet, animals, and in our house so we have to democratize this information. There we are trying to make it.
John: How many employees do you have now? In the beginning, it was in April 2017, and it was just you and Marc. How many employees does Heura have now?
Bernat: In April 2017, we were in a library. It was our office launching the product because we didn’t want to spend any money in an office because we’re like, “It’s just the two of us. Why are we spending money in an office?
John: Right. Smart.
Bernat: But now we are thirty-nine, I think, today. I would say thirty-nine or forty because every week we are growing. At the end of this year, we have to be more than eighty. So, we have to double this. Big plans there, and we have the challenge of creating a culture that brings the people that enjoy this culture. This culture has to be freedom and responsibility. People like little entrepreneurs inside an entrepreneurial company, because this is the way that we understand that we can change things faster.
John: So, talk a little bit about this tragedy that we’ve all been living through, Bernat. We’re all living through called the tragic COVID-19 period in world history. This is not American history or Spanish history. This is world history. How has that affected you and Marc as entrepreneurs? How has that affected your brand? What changes have you made in your corporate culture and in your messaging, if any? I’d love just to hear what lessons have you learned from this whole tragic unique period that, hopefully, we never have to live through again in our lifetimes.
Bernat: Yes, hopefully, not. I would like to start, for me, when COVID came, obviously, it was very bad news. Everything. The consequences that have had in the household of so many people. It’s the bad news. But for me, at that moment, the body was claiming for like, “Stop a bit. You are at a fast pace. You have to stop.” So, for me, it was like a week of, “Okay. This is too much for me now and I need to relax.” This, personally, was a moment to stop, to listen to myself, and to reconnect with the mission because sometimes when you are in the loop, you are just working and doing tasks anyways like, “Yes. I’m in the place I want to be. I got the power and I’ll continue it.” In terms of business, forty-three percent of our business that day was coming from food service, so, from restaurants. We are very strong in restaurants because we believe that through restaurants, we can deliver great experiences that will show people that plant-based meat means enjoying the same as traditional meat. Obviously, we have had to change a little bit of the team and try to put some people more in retail and trying to restructure. Also, be a help to restaurants because they were suffering. Trying to get the best out of it. I have a positive mindset. I think something that has happened is that we connected the dots. We’ve seen that the health of humans connects with the health of animals and with the health of the planets. When one is missing, we are all interconnected, so, the other one is affected. So, we have to take care of the animals. We have to take care of our health. We have to take care of the health of the planet because if not, the consequences, in the end, affect your ego as a person because it will come to you. In these terms, I think people kind of like stopped and seen the consequences of the current system. It’s obvious that we have to change the current system. It’s broken.
John: Do you know Bernat? I tell my company that I don’t like the term ‘new normal’. When we’re all vaccinated and going back to our lives again, God willing, science is winning, six or eight months from now, things are going to go back to some sort of normalcy. But I don’t like the terminology ‘new normal’. I really think that’s a white flag and that’s a surrender. I love the terminology ‘new better’. I use ‘new better’ as a leader here at our company, but also, just in my conversations with great people like you. And so, I feel that good leaders have gotten better during this period, and also, good companies have gotten better in terms of working together, becoming more resilient, and coming up with more opportunities than they ever dreamed of before. Do you feel the same with your company?
Bernat: Now that you are saying these, I was thinking about how many things have happened that would not have happened without this actually.
Bernat: We actually created alliances with so many project NGOs. We created something great. The first plant-based lobby at the European Parliament that pushes for plant-based and, actually, stopped one big regulation that wanted to call plant-based burgers ‘veggie discs’. So, we stopped that.
John: Oh my gosh.
Bernat: That was very awkward. Actually, a lot of alliances started from this period and I am very hopeful that we’ll stay in this ‘new better’ that you say. Hopefully, it’s a ‘new better’ and not the ‘new normal’ because the normal wasn’t working.
John: It wasn’t working. You have to go to a new better to make the world a better place. I bet your team is even closer than ever before. I bet you your thirty-nine people today are closer than they were on March 1st of last year.
Bernat: It’s crazy because I am a very people person, and I was very worried. The thing that worried me the most when we closed the office was, “We will lose this. We will lose this vibe that we are here to change the world together.” We did not, actually. We are there and we have so many new people. They came and we met online but we are there working.
John: The vibe is still there even though you’re not sitting next to them.
John: I feel the vibe from you so that’s why. You put the vibe out there. I feel the vibe from you and we’re sitting in Fresno and Barcelona right now.
Bernat: Thanks. Hopefully, I have some good vibes.
John: You have some great vibes. For our listeners who want to learn more about Bernat and his great vibes, go to www.heurafoods.com. You got to love a brand that has a smiley face in its logo. You got to love that kind of brand. I mean, there’s no not having a good vibe. Just looking at your logo makes me smile. Eating the food is going to make me so smiley and happy. Have you learned out of this COVID-19 tragic period or not? Do you think people now have taken more self-reflection and are realizing they need to live some form of healthier lifestyle which is, ultimately, going to benefit Heura and other great brands like yours? Because they’re going to just eat better, live better, and want to be healthier in general. Is that something that’s going to come out of this tragic period?
Bernat: I think it is for sure. I’ve seen it in my group of friends and my family. I’ve seen how they’re changing, and it’s crazy. Changes that you would not have imagined in the past are happening now, and it’s happening because, also, supermarkets and restaurants now have a delivery option. I think this is very important because Marc comes from activism like animal activism, recording farms, and seeing what is happening behind the wall of the farms and all the vibes that’s going on there. At some point, he came with, “Yes. People are getting more conscious. People are getting more information, but people, when they go to a supermarket, they find a white block of tofu with no attractive communication. How are we going to change the world like that?” We need tools. We need to deliver attractive products. because, in the end, we have to be honest. When I think about my past and the favorite moments in my life, a lot of those moments have meat on the table, have meat on the barbecue, or, “Is my grandma cooking meat?”
Bernat: This is very cultural. It’s so difficult to replace those moments. So, that’s why we do plant-based meat. We think that through plant-based meat we can change the world faster than through legumes or through lentils. Lentils are great and, hopefully, lentils could change the world, right? They’ve been there, and they did not. So, we have to find those tools to accelerate these things.
John: I never heard of it that way, but you’re so right. You and I are both ethnic. You’re Spanish and I’m Armenian. All the great events in our lives, both happy and sad and celebrations and parties and family events, are all around meat-based products so that’s such a brilliant point. I’ve never heard anybody say that but you’re so right. Makes so much sense.
Bernat: It’s so cultural I think everywhere in the world. Talking about my Mediterranean culture, we like to share with people who enjoy cooking to talk about food and meat is always there. We just need to provide better meat because the meat is great. I love almost everything about the meat my grandma used to make for me. I just don’t like the consequences of it. Now, my grandma cooks the same dish with Heura, and it’s great. It’s the same. It tastes the same.
John: How proud is she to use your products? How proud is your grandmother to cook with your product?
Bernat: I would love to show you her Facebook profile. She is very nerdy and she always shares the recipes and cooks for these eighty years old neighbors. They talk about plant-based meat and how to reduce the amount of meat they eat. It’s like eighty years old grandmas talking about this and I’m so hopeful the change will come.
John: That’s so great. Next time we do an interview, I want you to bring your grandma with you and I want to talk about it. Come on. We have to do that. That will be really special because it’s going to show generational acceptance about what you’re doing. It’s amazing.
Bernat: It’s great. I’m very proud of her as well because I think someone that is her age can stop making changes all the time.
John: How old is she?
John: And what’s her name?
John: So beautiful. You just showed that even at eighty-one, after a lifetime of doing something, they could change their mindset to make an improvement.
John: People think we just get fixed in our ways and there’s no changing. You just proved that that’s not true at all.
Bernat: Yes. You can always have a step forward.
John: Okay, we’re going to bring her on next time. Listen. Any other places you want our listeners to be able to find you on social media or anything else, please use this time to give a shout-out before we have to say good night for today.
Bernat: Cool. We use, mostly, Instagram. You can go to @heurafood. We are in all of the rest of Twitter, Facebook, TikTok.
John: But you focus on Instagram. So, our listeners and viewers who want to follow your messaging and the democratization of information that you’re putting out there on good plant-based eating, or if they just want to join your movement to be a good rebel, they go to the Instagram page.
Bernat: Hope to see you there.
John: Well, this is great. Bernat, you’re just a joy. I got such positive vibes from you. I’m now joining the Heura Foods movement. I’m going to be a good rebel now and I’m going to use good rebel. We’re going to all become good rebels in this planet. Make the world a better place. You for sure are making major impacts, you and Marc. You for sure are making the world a better place and I’m so grateful. I wish you a continued successful journey, and I can’t wait to have you and your grandma back on with us again. I can’t wait to share a meal with you and Marc in Spain eating your delicious plant-based food. Thank you again for your time today. Continued success.
Bernat: Thank you. We made a success, as you said, but without the platform of yours, it would not happen. We did not have a lot of resources and we had the help of so many people that wanted to together to share the Heura voice around the world. So, thank you very much because, without this, Heura will go much slower than it is going.
John: It’s an honor. It’s an honor, Bernat. Till we meet again, which will be soon.
Bernat: Yes. Thank you.
John: Thank you.
John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by the Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit themarketingmasters.com.