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About Brad and Those Kale Chips

by Bill Giebler

The founder of Brad’s Raw Foods shares his success story in a new book.

In 2007, Brad Gruno lost his fiber-optics business and found himself fat, unemployed and alone at 48. He moved home to Pennsylvania, found a book on a plant-based diet and embarked on an adventure: adopting a 100 percent raw food diet cold turkey, losing 40 pounds in three months and feeling fantastic. He never looked back.

While content without junk food, Brad did miss the satisfying crunch of snack foods. He began to make dehydrated Kale Chips, first for himself and friends, then to sell at farmers’ markets. Just four years later, Brad’s Raw Foods is a $20 million per year natural foods brand available in tens of thousands of stores across North America.

His first book, Brad’s Raw Made Easy, prescribes a transition gentler than what he put himself through—complete with weekly diet plans and dozens of recipes. We caught up with the raw foods evangelist to talk about business, book and diet.

When you made the change, did you go straight from fatty, caffeinated, wine-loving omnivore to raw foodist?
Brad Gruno: I did. I probably wouldn’t recommend that, but I went right into it, through the detox, and seriously, within a month I was just feeling amazing. I was losing a pound to a couple pounds a day by eating everything alive, and green smoothies and salads. Three months later I’d lost 40-odd pounds. I ended up staying 100 percent raw for a full year.

What was the hardest adjustment for you?
BG: Hot temperature food was an adjustment, being 100 percent raw. And I don’t even suggest anybody go 100 percent raw. I’m more like 80/20. To me it’s all about adding more raw foods to your diet. I’m not going to say, “I’m never going to eat steak anymore.” That just leads to binge eating.

BG: Oh yeah! But I’m more conscious of it. Now it’s all good grass-fed beef. Smaller portions. And I might have a steak every month or every couple months.

What was the easiest part?
BG: Waking up in the morning and throwing some stuff together in a blender and drinking a whole blender-full of green smoothies. Once in that routine, I saved lots of time because I didn’t have to sit and prepare breakfast and do dishes.

What do you recommend to folks tentative about the change?
BG: Being 100 percent raw is not easy. So just do the green smoothies. Get a blender and drink green smoothies and make them taste good. Everyone feels so much better and loses weight.

How did you turn passion into career?
BG: When I took my kale chips to farmers’ markets, people were coming up to me and saying, “Wow, can I invest in this business?” I was so new at the time I wasn’t even ready, but when you’re starting a business you need that pat on the back all the time. You’re thinking, “Am I crazy?” Here I am in the down-turning economy and I’m trying to sell a bag of chips for eight bucks. That encouragement really kept me going. I went from one farmers’ market to doing four farmers’ markets a week to getting into my first Whole Foods.

Why the book?
BG: When I started the book, I was raw and feeling amazing and just wanted other people to see that. When I wasn’t working I had time to see what this raw community was all about. Not everyone has time for that. With my expertise I can get it out there in a bigger way. People just don’t know how much better they could feel.

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