Arnie Koss of Kula and his twin brother, Ron Koss, were recently celebrated as innovators for creating baby food grown without herbicides and pesticides. The Koss brothers were honored as natural foods industry pioneers in a Mar. 9 ceremony inducting them into the 2018 Hall of Legends at New Hope Media’s Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California.
The siblings became pioneers in the organic foods movement in the 1980s when they created the nation’s first organic baby food product in Vermont, Earth’s Best Baby Foods. The baby food was the first organic consumer product to cross into the mainstream food products world and be sold on the shelves of supermarkets nationwide.
“We started on a shoestring, with an idea that seemed right to us because babies needed healthy organic food that was grown without herbicides and pesticides,” said Arnie Koss in a Mar. 9 news release. “Passionate about the environment, we were horrified at the chemicals being sprayed on farm fields when we visited California, and felt compelled to create a way to bring more farmers into organic farming; creating a product using organic produce was a way to change the world for farmers as well as babies and their parents.”
At the time, there were only the Big Three brands: Heinz, Gerber and Beech-Nut. Koss said no one was even talking about organic baby food. “Ron and I were pioneers who participated in the lengthy process to establish certification standards for organic and advocate for the official USDA designation of organic food that’s in use today,” he said.
The brothers spent three years toiling on their idea, working in a tiny one-room attic office in Burlington, Vermont and eventually raising the capital to build a state-of-the-art baby food factory. “The road to getting their product into the marketplace was not an easy one, but Earth’s Best Baby Foods became a national brand, which was acquired first by Heinz Foods and then by Hain-Celestial Group, who owns it today,” said Koss. Today, Earth’s Best Baby Food can be found in all supermarkets and most natural food stores in Hawaii and across the United States.
During the 1990s, both brothers moved to Maui with their wives and children, but Ron and his family returned to Vermont, where he lives today. The brothers detailed their experiences and challenges in starting Earth’s Best Baby Food in their 2010 book, The Earth’s Best Story, available on Amazon.
The brothers have since worked together on a variety of projects, including sustainably sourced wood and a healthy ice cream made with organic milk, probiotics, protein and antioxidants. Arnie Koss is a regular guest speaker at the Maui Food Innovations Center at University of Hawaii Maui College.
“The organic and natural products industry was built on dreamers; it still needs dreamers who have the drive to innovate,” said Koss in his remarks at the Hall of Legends Ceremony. “Who could have guessed back in the 1980s that organic and natural foods would become such a huge part of the food industry? Ron and I are proud to be part of the launch of something that helped to change the world in a positive way.”
Photo: Anne Rillero