A candid question and answer with Scott Grzybek, co-owner of Zukay Live Foods based here locally in the Pennsylvania area. Zukay was named after the word 'Tsuke', which in Japanese means pickled.
How did Zukay live foods start?
I was in marketing in our conventional food industry, and I was getting more and more disillusioned with what I was selling. At the same time, my wife and I had been going “back to the land” in our own lives, raising as much of our food on our own and buying the rest from small local farmers. The two sides basically collided, and I decided to roll the dice and start a food business based on how we lived, and based on what we felt was healthy – especially concerning our (then) newborn son. I wanted to add something back into the food system that I felt proud of, and would happily give to anyone.
What peaked your interest to become passionate about fermented foods and turn it into a business?
In our journey, we did a lot of research into traditional foods, and we fell in love with the simplicity and health of lacto-fermentation. It’s such a simple process, completely natural, and ancient – it dates at least back to the start of civilization, and perhaps even before that. It’s certainly older than recorded history, and it gave us a connection with our healthy past. Also, I loved the health benefits – it’s a win-win-win-win situation. The fermentation preserves the products raw, so they have all their natural life, enzymes, and vitamins. Also, the process actually CREATES vitamins and antioxidants that didn’t exist before, so they have more nutrients. In addition, the process breaks down the raw foods in a way that makes the existing vitamins and minerals easier for your body to absorb. And finally, they’re all naturally probiotic, so they’re great for your digestive system. So simple, and so healthy, and so based from nature. The beauty of it just floored me.
For the business, I was looking at doing something anyway. I just didn’t see my future being as an employee, so I was always thinking, and it was honestly a “eureka” moment, when it hit me (we were literally on the road, travelling to a party) that if we could ferment condiments, we could have a food that both was so tremendously healthier than anything that existed AND have it be valuable to everyone, not just the few of us who understood the benefits of fermentation. Once we got that basic premise down, forming the business was pretty easy. Not that running it has been, but the mission came from the heart and has been a pleasure to push forward.
What makes Zukay different from the other fermented foods out there?
A lot, and very little. The main difference is that they’re made for everyday living the way that Americans are used to. That’s why we’re doing condiments like salsas and salad dressings, and not traditional foods like sauerkraut. I wanted to increase the options available to people, not duplicate them. In addition, unlike fermented milk products, we’re completely dairy free. But what’s important is that we make the product in the same ancient, authentic way that traditional foods like sauerkraut and kim chee are made. That part is very, very important.
Now, we do differ considerably from other “probiotic” foods that have recently hit the market. These products are filled with sugars, are not raw, and don’t have any of the other benefits of fermented foods. They’re still, in my estimation, highly processed foods that are only slightly better for you because they have good bacteria in them. This doesn’t include kombucha or whole food supplements like New Chapter or Garden of Life, which are good pure products and are also raw and fermented.
Where is your company located, website, blog, email address, contact info to learn more?
We’re located in the beautiful little town of Elverson, PA, right next to Lancaster County. Our website is www.zukay.com, my blog is www.getyourfermenton.blogspot.com, e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, and our phone number is 610-286-3077
Can people buy your products online? What places in the Philadelphia area carry your products?
Our products can all be found at most of the natural food stores in the Philly area, including: Essene, Martindale’s, Kimberton Whole Foods, Harvest Market in Hockessin, DE, Newark Co-op in Newark, DE, Earth Foods in Buckingham, Big Bear in Lambertville, NJ, Basil Bandwagon in Flemington, NJ, Nature’s Harvest in Willow Grove, Grapevine Grocery in Newtown, and the salsas and relishes can be found in Whole Foods. And if that doesn’t cover you, they’re also available online at www.zukay.com.
How has eating fermented and or raw foods helped your diet in anyway? If so please fill us in.
In many, many ways. We’re not completely raw, but we’ve found a great increase in energy from eating as much raw as we can. It’s usually more of a time issue than anything else when we don’t eat raw. Also, it’s helped us tremendously eliminate processed ingredients from our diets, as you’re pretty much assured of eating a whole food if you go raw. We eat the majority of our raw veggies fermented, since I don’t do well with plain raw vegetables. From a health standpoint, we’ve always had strong constitutions so we weren’t unhealthy, but I’ve taken 20 pounds of fat off my frame and feel great. The probiotics keep me very regular, and my immune system (and my wife and son’s as well) are magnificent. We rarely get sick (even though Jacob is in daycare, which is a germ factory), and when we do, it’s minor. I rarely feel sluggish, and I have a more positive attitude and less anger than at any other point in my life. Perhaps I’m just growing up, but I really think the rawness, liveness and purity of my diet has had a huge part in that.
The other thing is that despite my basic rules and home cooking/non-cooking, I don’t stress about my food outside of the home. I do live by the 80/20 rule, and try to make the best decisions possible. But I’m on the road a lot, and have a lot of friends and family who are still firmly attached to the Standard American Diet. I don’t like offending people, so I generally just roll with the punches when I have no other options. Stressing is no way to stay healthy either, and that’s what it’s all about. The one thing I really won’t do is eat sugar, sugar substitutes, or do carb loading. I’m pretty strict about that, as I feel those are the #1 killers in our diet.
Is there any additional information you would like to include?
I’m just trying to do my part to end the Standard American Diet and bring our diets back to the life-giving ways our ancestors used to keep themselves healthier and stronger than most of us could imagine. It’s our birthright and it’s been taken away from us. The crisis in our diets is my central focus in my life, and it’s the one controllable thing we all can change to make everything better – most people just don’t know how.
For more info: Zukay Live Foods, Elverson, P.a. 610-286-3077