Meet our Founder: Gregory Struck

Meet our Founder: Gregory Struck

At noops we strive for full transparency and clarity not only with being the best plant based pudding snack, but also with our business practices and who we are at our core. So we got down and personal with noops founder Gregory Struck to ask the important questions about our favorite protein-packed pudding, how it is made, and what impact it has on the planet. It’s not just about the end product - the manufacturing process and full supply chain that matter too! We believe it’s always good to know who and what has influenced our food!

  • Hello, Gregory, can you please tell us a bit about who you are and what matters to you?

  • Hello! Yes, I am a father and a husband, and I care about the wellbeing of my family, my children, my wife, and the people on this planet. All of these things culminate in what we eat. We cannot care about somebody if we do not care about what they eat and how they live. We are human beings. We’re never going to stop wanting to indulge, so the idea here is to really recognize that and create nutritious wonderful and delicious food that people will love, eat, and return to, and it’s something that doesn’t harm them. 

  • Have you always been involved with food production? 

  • Yes, I’ve always found comfort in being in the kitchen. It’s been very therapeutic for me, and it’s been something I’ve quite enjoyed in terms of being at peace there. So it was a natural gravitos for me to move into a business that had synergy with the kitchen. That was really where I hung my hat and I’ve stayed in that space ever since. 

  • What got you interested in food production?

  • Moving to this country from South Africa in the early 90’s, I was really enjoying my time here very early on, and I was living the proverbial American dream. It was a wonderful change in life, and about eight months into my tenure, I was notified in health class that heart disease was the number one killer of our people. As somebody who had two grandfathers, maternal and paternal, that both passed prematurely of coronary artery disease, there was such a dislocation for me on how we could as a country be so phenomenal on so many aspects, yet what we were feeding to our people was killing them. 

    So then and there, as an impressionable 13 year old, I decided to go into the food business, and I wanted to be a restaurateur. I graduated business school and went to the French Culinary Institute. After, I went to work for a wonderful restaurant, a Michelin Star restaurant, in New York City.  After a few years, I decided I wanted to open up my own restaurant, but my risk aversion set in because the cost of real estate in New York City is so expensive. So I had an opportunity to pivot into CPG (consumer packaged goods) manufacturing and CPG products, and I’ve stayed there ever since. 

    The idea for noops was a simple one. Take everyday food that people love, and reimagine it in a better format that is more nutritious and better for them from a consumption perspective. This led me to start my first company with my brother, Long Island Brand beverages. The investment thesis there was that we were going to be the Vitamin Water of ready to drink ice tea using reverse osmosis water and organic certified ingredients. 

    After I sold that company to a private equity firm, I joined forces with a buddy of mine, Ben McKane, and we started The Hungry Root ethos is very similar. We wanted to do a QSR (quick service restaurant) concept that morphed into a DTC (direct to consumer) concept where we would aggregate better for you groceries and provide them to people across the country. 

    noops is my third enterprise, and that’s something that is nearest and dearest to my heart. It came about when I was battling cancer and a rare genetic disease and started consuming a plant-based diet.  I thought to myself there was an opening to make a better pudding. 

  • We must ask, why pudding?

  • Pudding is a quintessential American comfort food. It has been around for 150 years with zero innovation in the space, and it has not changed since Jello was patented in the 1800s. And in going through my illness and fighting my disease, I realized that I absolutely wanted to create a product that we could feel good about and that needed innovation. The current pudding on the market is laden with sugar, chemicals, fillers, animal by-products, and I knew there was a better way to do this. (I wanted) something I could feed myself during my treatments and as well as something that as a father I could feel good about giving my children. 

  • So is this why you chose your specific ingredients?

  • There was always an emphasis on ensuring that we make a product that not only delivered on taste and texture, all the organoleptic properties that people and consumers really cared about, but something that really hit home in terms of the ingredients. The product is USDA organic, it’s Fair Trade certified, it’s gluten free, non-gmo, project verified, and we’re the only pudding on the market with no added sugar that is also top 9 allergen friendly. Above everything that we have, something that I’m really proud of, is that we taste better than anything on the market, best in class dairy or non dairy. And I say that without having an entrepreneur's bias. It’s something that we spent about a year and half developing, a proprietary production process, and in that, we have developed a wonderful product that I am really, really proud of. 

  • How do you source your ingredients?

  • We work with US and Canadian based companies, and we have an amazing supply chain that we are very proud of filled with clean label ingredients. Everything from our sunflower protein to our dates to our oats is carefully sourced by our supply chain team. We were really tested in terms of opening up in the middle of COVID, but we ensured that we sourced all our ingredients from our supplier partners in North America, and the majority of the ingredients we use are home grown in the US or Canada. 

    We went out to the market looking at the supply chain to find partners who share the same ethos we do about planetary constraints, about ensuring that the environmental practices are good, ensuring that what the consumer is ingesting is nutritious and healthy for them, and we never stop trying to improve. We continuously work with our ingredient purveyors to ensure that the products we are getting are best in class from a quality perspective. 

    We also go to great lengths with our manufacturing and processing partners to ensure that the product that is leaving the facilities with a cold chain supply continue to maintain their integrity, and that when the consumer has our product for the first time, they are eating a delicious, wholesome product that they can feel really proud about giving to themselves and their loved ones. 

  • How do you come up with your flavors?

  • We have wonderful formulation and R&D capabilities. The way we come up with flavors are two fold. First, we look at consumption data from Spins and IRI, and we see what the top flavors are in the category. We use one of those data validations to ensure we are making products that people are going to want from a historical perspective. We also get a little crazy on the R&D side, and we test products that we are very excited about that could be seasonal releases and push the envelope of innovation. We are always working on new flavors and ideas. 

    One of the things we pride ourselves on as a company is our ability to innovate so quickly. We have a 150 day proprietary innovation cycle that allows us to take a product from theoretical conversation through R&D into full scale commercial trial, and then plant trial, and a production run within five months which is unheard of. It allows us to work with our retail partners and innovate very quickly and try new skus and release seasonal skews. 

  • Do you plan on expanding with other products?

  • Yes! The goal is absolutely to continue to deliver cleaner, plant-powered versions of existing snack foods so that Americans have the option to snack healthier and be well. My plan and end goal is to utilize noops as a platform for plant based disruption across conventional snacking categories. 

    We are starting with something that was a really sleepy multi billion dollar category in pudding, and we are very quickly moving into the next phase and crafting up products that expand into ancillary opportunities. You’ll be seeing some of those innovations coming to market in 2022.

  • How does noops support the planet?

  • We are always looking at ways we can help people and the planet. In terms of the planet, we use recyclable and reusable packaging. Most importantly for us, we recognize that plant based diets reduce the dependency on meat production which is a major contributor to global warming. The more we eat plant-based foods, the better off as a planet we will be. 

    The by-product of just existing as a plant based company is we hope to really influence people to eat better. We also recognize we have an opportunity to change people’s opinion on what they can and cannot be eating and while also contributing positively to the planet. We take that really seriously. It’s a big responsibility for us. 

    We also work with wonderful charitable organizations across the United States, No Kid Hungry, Feeding America, Wellfare, just to name a few, Whole Kids Foundation. We have a really big mandate to empower people with the power of pudding and to give nutritious product to people that can’t afford it. And ensure they realize that they can eat (and enjoy) plant based food, and it can be impactful to them and their loved ones. 

  • Have you aligned with other companies or organizations who share the same message or goals?

  • We speak with other like-minded founders and CEOs often in an effort to learn from those that have come before us and help those that are just starting out. When it comes to helping the world eat better to feel better, in my opinion, a rising tide lifts all boats. We are in this together.  

    If you follow us in Instagram, you’ll notice that we are often partnering with like-minded brands to spread the love and raise awareness around other brands we love and that are doing things to improve our personal and planetary health.

  • What do you hope to see in the future of food production and distribution?

  • Really and truly, with the proliferation of technology, I think there's an amazing awareness that’s being created right now on traditional, or I should say conventional, big food practices and how they are absolutely obliterating the planet. There’s a big emphasis on changing the way people eat and changing the way food is made. And in doing so, as this movement continues to grow, one person at a time, day after day, my hope is that the incumbents that do control most of the supply chain and most of the manufacturing have standards and processes that are going to change too. 

    We can already see the infusion of plant based adoption in the marketplace, and I believe it’s not if, it’s when, a lot of these practices that are bad for the planet and bad for human consumption are going to be completely turned around. Make no mistake about it, people are keen to put good food into their bodies while also having a brand and product that can do better for the planet. 

  • What is your biggest goal with noops?

  • Ultimately, it’s to use the power of our pudding to help everyone get access to nutritious foods. We firmly believe that nutrition is a right not a privilege. That regardless of race, place, or class people from all walks of life can have access to and can benefit from the power of food. It’s something that we keep at the forefront of our business everyday. It’s a mandate for each of us to wake up everyday and see how we can help people. From our senior team volunteering their time to help fellow entrepreneurs and people in disadvantaged communities, to us donating pallets of product to different homeless shelters. It’s something we really get behind. We don’t just talk about it. 

    Thank you Gregory Struck!

    Well, now you know. Doesn’t it just feel a little bit sweeter digging into your noops!

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