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Rob Hurlbut

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Organic Cereal Expert

Here, Attune Foods' CEO Rob Hurlbut explains the distinction between organic and non-organic cereals, highlights the health benefits organic cereals have to offer, and provides helpful tips on how to incorporate more organic cereal into your diet.

Rob HurlbutQ: What are some examples of organic cereal grains? Are they different from other kinds of grains?

A: Cereal grains are grasses cultivated for their seeds. They make up the biggest part of the world’s food crop.  The earliest grain production took place over 12,000 years ago in the “fertile crescent” (the region around the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers); today, the planet still relies on grain production as the foundation of food. Organic varieties can be the same as conventional cereal, or they can be selected for traits that are work well in a particular growing region. These include varieties of wheat, barley, corn, rice, millet, and oats, among others.

Q: How do organic cereals differ from their non-organic counterparts?

A: In addition to being grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides, organic cereals (as with all organic products) can be traced back to where they were grown.   This is important because we know the people who are collectively responsible for the quality of the product that we put in the box.  The farmer, the miller, the trucker and of course the plant where we cook and toast our whole grains.

Q: What is meant by the term “whole grain” as it applies to cereal?”

A: What we mean is just that – we use the whole grain.  In many other cases, grains are broken down into their component structures and then recombined to meet certain flavor, or functional profiles.  We believe that whole rice, whole wheat and whole flax seeds have a role in good digestion so we use the whole berry – the bran (outer husk) for fiber and carbs, the endosperm for carbs, and the germ for protein and iron.

Q: What are some of the key health benefits of organic cereal?

A: Knowing that your food is free of artificial or chemical inputs is essential to good health.   We don’t need pesticides or herbicides in our bodies, nor do we need any of the extraneous things commonly found in non-organic cereals like artificial colors or BHT (a synthetic form of vitamin E that is used to prevent spoilage and preserve foods). We also don’t need these things in the environment. While many consumers buy organic for their own health, they are also helping to diminish the use of potentially damaging chemicals in the environment.

Q: What steps must organic cereal manufacturers take to ensure that organic and non-organic cereal do not come into contact during the manufacturing process?

A: All of our manufacturing protocols insure that organic and non-organic ingredients are separated at all times and are carefully tracked in the production process.  Additionally, we fully clean out our manufacturing equipment after we process non-organic ingredients to prevent against cross-contamination.

Q: How long can organic cereal be kept on the shelf, and what is the best way to store it? Is this at all different from cereal grown using non-organic practices?

A: All of our cereals have a 12 month “best if used by” date, which is consistent with the industry norms.  We don’t use artificial preservatives in any of our cereals, but we do use BHA-free (BHA is a preservative used to prevent fat and oil from spoiling) packaging to insure that the cereal is kept as fresh as possible in the box before it is opened.

Q: What are some creative ways to integrate more organic cereal into one’s diet?

A: For years, cereal manufactures have been looking for ways to increase cereal use. Cereal makes a fantastic snack, or be used as a central ingredient in dozens of wonderful baked goods and recipes.  The classic crisp rice treat (with organic honey and peanut butter is great), and raisin bran muffins are a great place to start, or you can get creative and use our cereals as a coating for proteins (corn flake encrusted chicken or salmon).

About Rob Hurlbut
Rob Hurlbut is CEO and founder of Attune Foods, headquartered in San Francisco, California. Rob has over 20 years of experience in the food industry distinguished by his passion for innovation, value creation and team building.

In October 2006 Attune introduced the world’s first Probiotic chocolate bars - a delicious and effective way to support a healthy digestive system.  Attune expanded the product line by introducing a probiotic granola and adding two heritage brands firmly rooted in digestive health  to the company’s portfolio – Uncle Sam and Erewhon.  Today the company leads the natural digestive health category by focusing on a core belief – that what matters most is what’s inside.  Inside the box and inside your body.

Prior to launching Attune Foods, Rob was CEO of Niman Ranch, where he built the nation's leading brand of premium, natural meat. He created an innovative supply chain that allowed sustainable family farmers access to the burgeoning market for artisanal foods thereby adding value to both the consumer and producer experience. Rob's consumer branding skills and food industry expertise were honed at Nestlé where he excelled in a number of positions including purchasing, financial risk management and brand management. Rob launched is career in the financial side of the food world trading coffee futures, options and derivatives. Rob is a graduate of Harvard College and lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.