Episode #47 – Geoff Palmer: Shaking Up The Vegan Protein Market
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“Go set some precedent. Do things that were never done before”
33 years ago, Geoff Palmer had gone through two suicide attempts and saw very little reason for carrying on with his life. Then, in what was literally an overnight transformation, he realized that he had a purpose. And a major part oft hat purpose was not hurting animals.
He went vegan. He turned his life around. And after years in bodybuilding and the supplements industry, multiple awards from competitions (which he still does, at 55), and looking for a way to turn his passion and experience into a business, he came across a source of plant protein that was beyond anything else on the market – and yet completely unknown.
So unknown, in fact, that the aquatic plant which is now the source of their signature Clean Machine protein blend, had no commercial use at all – and was being eradicated as a weed, until a forward thinking company (now Geoff’s business partner) thought it might serve as biofuel, ran a nutrient analysis on it, and did a double take.
In a market as saturated as sports nutrition, with the growing plant-based part of it being no exception, Clean Machine does a very good job of carving out a niche all of its own.
Main things discussed in this episode
- How a chance encounter turned Geoff from depressed and suicidal, to vegan and full of joy.
- The amazing qualities of lentein, Clean Machine’s (not so) secret ingredient.
- Using your body and positive attitude to start conversations around veganism.
- Starting and growing a business with no external funding or loans.
- The shifting of sales from retail to online.
- The all-vegan bodybuilding event coming in 2018.
Geoff Palmer - Clean Machine
Jerry Sever [00:36] To kick off 2018 I’m talking today to Geoff Palmer. Geoff is a vegan of 32 years, a two-time bodybuilding champion in natural bodybuilding master class competitions, an expert in natural nutrition, an entrepreneur, inventor, and founder of Clean Machine Vegan Supplements. So that’s right, we’ll be exploring the plant-based supplements industry today as well as what sets Clean Machine apart from other products in this space. Geoff, welcome to the show.
Geoff Palmer: [01:57] Thank you for having me. It’s an honor and privilege to be here. I really love what you’re doing in bringing to light some very creative and entrepreneurial companies that are out there promoting the vegan lifestyle. I love what you’re doing for the community.
Jerry Sever: [02:13] Well, the feeling is mutual because I’ve been hearing good things about Clean Machine and I’m really excited to learn more about it. But before we into that, do you mind if we spend some time just talking about you. Because, first of all, anyone who’s been vegan for 32 years definitely deserves respect for that long, and I would really like to know more about what made you do this, and what set you on this path.
Geoff Palmer: [02:43] Absolutely, and I think you’ll better understand where my business comes from and why I chose the business I did by understanding where I came from. It was a very personal experience for me.
Jerry Sever: [02:56] Cool. How far back do we need to go actually? Like where and how did you grow up?
Geoff Palmer: [03:07] I grew up in a family of six. My father was an English professor and my mother was a psychologist, so I grew up in academia. My specialty was biology, I have always been amazed by science and nature. Jacque Cousteau was my hero growing up as a child. I loved the undersea world. I thought I was going to grow up to be a marine biologist, but when I started getting into biology one of the most amazing animals that we studied was the human being. The incredible ways the brain works, the physiology. Then I started getting into, well, what makes all of that work and it really boiled down to exercise and nutrition.
In high school, I got onto the swim team, just like my two brothers before me, and went on to win the district records. I really understood at that point how important nutrition was to exercise and performance. But I also watched my body go through a lot of changes at that point. It’s when I picked up weightlifting and working out. I saw what was happening and I felt what was happening to my body. In my studies in college too, I also learned how important that was to our mood and health.
But, coming from a very compassionate upbringing, and a very peaceful family, I struggled getting into the real world so to speak. Finding out how much we were takers in the world – people who were willing to cheat, and lie, and benefit at the cost of others. I just really struggled with it. I did not see how a compassionate caring person would fit in this world that seemed to be all about taking and greed. I saw what we were doing to the planet and the animals and it just … I was like do I really want to be a part of this? It was a deeply personal struggle for me and it sent me into very dark places. Both of my parents passed at an early stage and that added to my depression, to the point where I was ready to step out of life and attempted twice to take my own life. The depression was so deep. I knew after the second attempt failed and I was revived, I really asked myself do I want to stay, and if I do I’ve got to find a way to be able to live life functionally and be happy in life.
I was in a bar, drinking myself bored again, as usual, and a woman walked in. She was exceedingly happy, so I just walked up to her and I said what have you got, how do I get like you, I want to be happy! She said let me introduce you to someone, and of course, being brought up by a father who was an existentialist and a mother that was a psychologist I was very skeptical, and being very depressed I was bitter and untrusting of anything being real happiness.
When we got to his place he opened the door, and I looked at him and he looked right back and me and said ‘oh you came here to prove me wrong’. I was so taken aback by that comment. I felt literally naked standing in front of him. He could see things in me that I wasn’t even speaking about. So I said ok, let’s go, I’m open, I’m ready to check out anyway, so why not give this a try. He got me to use a simple phrase of how I created the separation between myself and others through my own actions. At that time I was fighting it, and I kept … he said, just say this one phrase back to me. I had created a separation between my father and myself because my father had just passed away and it had really taken a toll on me. My father died of alcoholism and I was really angry at him for leaving me, and for leaving me without a father, especially in my formative years when I was stepping out into the world and I really need some feedback, some guidance. I kept talking about the things that he did to me, and he goes no, no, no, how did you create that separation? I kept talking myself back and it seemed like the world had disappeared and I was left with my responsibility for that emotion. When I finally accepted it, I just burst out into tears. So much pain poured out of me at that moment. I realized it was my judgment of my father and basically my judgment of everyone else around me that was keeping me from loving. It was keeping me from loving my father, which I needed to do. I was stifling my own love, my own compassion. It was me.
When I left that house, oh my god, I felt so high, I felt so much joy just pouring out of me. I couldn’t sleep I was flying high, I was buzzing. I felt like I did every drug in the book all at once that could make you happy. I’d never experienced anything like that before. I sat at home and I meditated all night. I meditated on one thing. I felt so eternally grateful for being released from my own pain. Through my meditation that night, all the weights of the mourning, I said how can I give this gift back. My voice said to me, stop hurting others, and stop harming animals. It was just like how come I never saw that before. I’m sure a lot of vegans, in first becoming vegan, when that light bulb turns on, that’s a lot of what I hear is how come I didn’t see this before. It seems so obvious, it seems just like, god that’s such a beautiful thing, why did I not get that before! The answer for me, at least in my case, was that I wasn’t letting that type of love out. I was blocking my own love. When I opened that door, I was like wow. I felt so connected to everything, including animals.
I went vegan that day, and I’ve never looked back. I committed the rest of my life to doing whatever I could to help others turn that lightbulb on too.
Jerry Sever: [09:55] Was there any foundation for that? Because the way you describe it, it’s almost like you had this life-changing epiphany of a sort. I wanted to ask, was there any foundation for vegetarianism before? Were you looking into it? I mean I know that you were interested in nutrition before, but were you actually considering veganism, or was this all … [cross talk] … one single night of meditation.
Geoff Palmer: [10:21] Yes, there’s lots and lots of reasons to go vegetarian and lots of different ways that people become vegetarian for different reasons. This was mine. Right or wrong. I’m not suggesting that anybody else does it, but yes, I searched for my experience.
It was so profoundly life changing and so instantaneous. I found this word, it’s a great word, called metanoia. Meta meaning change, and noia meaning life, and that’s what it really was for me. It was a change of life. What happened was my whole worldview just shifted on an axis. I went from feeling alone and not wanting to be in this world, to realizing I didn’t come here to get anything, I came here to give, and I have something to give, and now I had purpose. I had a reason to be here. It wasn’t to see what I could get out of this world, or what other people could do, or what other experiences. I came here because I have a gift that was given me and I wanted to pass that forward because it gave me a lot of joy. That just changed the whole way I felt like I was in this world, a complete worldview shift.
Jerry Sever: [11:44] Yes, it definitely sounds like you went zero to vegan just overnight! I really like talking to people who’ve been vegan for so long because, for you, this was in the early 80s, so how did that decision to stop harming animals affect your everyday life? Like after that one night of meditation when you stepped out the house… what did it mean in practical terms?
Geoff Palmer: [12:17] It threw everything upside down! Remember I was coming from a depressed life so I was surrounded, my friends were drinkers and drug users and people who were also depressed because we were like-minded, and we commiserated. I realized I had to change everything. I went home and my refrigerator was full of animal products and crap I was using to, you know, dull my feelings, and kill myself basically. It was dietary suicide. It fell away, I didn’t want any of that anymore. I didn’t want to surround myself, so I had to find new friends. I had to find new things to read, new ways to learn. It was just like starting over from scratch, it really was. But I knew I wasn’t going to let that change me, you know, I wasn’t going to fall back into habits just because they were familiar. I knew that this was much more important. Yes, it was painful and lonely at times when I didn’t have anybody to talk to about veganism.
When I turned vegan 32 years ago, remember there was no internet back then. There were no cell phones, there were no movies or documentaries. I felt very alone. It was like, ok, I came to this greatest thing that makes me feel so good about what I’m doing, but everybody’s looking at me like I’m from another planet! So it was difficult, but I was 100 percent committed, no matter what. I took the time and I learned, and I studied, and I asked people questions. I did whatever it took to find out, ok, how do I do this? Remember, there were tofu, grains, and beans, and that was the extent of vegetarian options back then. There were no vegetarian restaurants that I knew of at least, not least on purpose.
So it was very challenging back then. But I was 100 percent committed, so it was a challenge in making it happen, but there was no challenge internally for me. I was 100 percent sold on this is the life I’m going to live for the rest of my life.
Jerry Sever: [14:26] Yes, when you have that kind of driving force within you, I don’t think there’s anything in the world that could stop you.
Ok, so you said you started bodybuilding in college. Were you doing that when you made this transition to veganism? How does bodybuilding tie into all of that?
Geoff Palmer: [14:53] It’s kind of amazing. Through swimming, of course, I started working out and lifting weights to strengthen my swimming times. But after college, when I realized ok, the difference between me and the top swimmers out there was significant and I wasn’t going to get there, that it was just a matter of genetics, I said ok, but I still like exercise. I still like the way it feels and I like the way it looks on me, I like feeling fit and healthy. So I stayed with working out for probably 20 years and I kept hearing comments, like wow, are you using steroids or something? I was like, I haven’t touched a single drug, not even a pharmaceutical drug in 20 years. They were like how do you get like that? Then when I tell them my diet, they’re like no way!
It kind of quickly dawned on me, like wait a minute, I have a gift here, you know. I have a way of initiating conversation with people, to show people you can look like that on a vegan diet and a long-term vegan diet. I think that’s a great conversation starter. So I really said, well alright, that’s my thing. I was an activist at times. Some people write books. Some people make movies. Whatever it is that is your thing, do it, but you find your thing, and embrace it in a way that can help you propel the movement forward.
I realized that I wanted to keep exercising regardless, and I was achieving levels of fitness with veganism that I wasn’t able to do. Here I am now at almost 55 years old, I’m turning 55 next month, and I’m still competing at my age and winning shows and that’s exciting. I just walk through the grocery store, like before coming out to this interview, and people stop me and ask how do you get like that. I’m wearing a wearing a vegan shirt and it’s an instant conversation starter. I let my body be that conversation piece that gets people to ask how do you get like that. Because that’s how my journey started. I saw somebody who was happy and I said how did you get like that, I want that.
I think a lot of people want health and fitness and don’t understand, or buy into the old myth that you have to eat meat or do protein in order to get physically strong and healthy. I’m living proof that that’s not the case after almost 33 years of veganism and still competing at 55 years of age when many of my friends and people my age are suffering from disease states. I’m in peak fitness and I’m completely disease free, and pharmaceutical medicine free too as well.
Jerry Sever: [17:45] Yes, that’s the way, and the meat use, that’s one of the myths that just refuses to die.
What was it like for plant-based nutrition and bodybuilding when you were starting out? Because obviously these days we have tons of information. We have you and other athletes who are showing that this is very much possible. But back then, what were some of the things that you were hearing when you were at the gym working out and talking to people who knew that you only ate plants?
Geoff Palmer: [18:26] Yes, you know times have changed a lot since then. Veganism is far more accepted and there’s a lot more awareness about veganism. There are a lot more athletes that are now vegan. There’s even a whole lot of celebrities out there and top athletes in almost every major sport from the Olympics to football, baseball, to vegan boxing and fighting. Veganism is popping up everywhere, so it’s much more accepted and commonplace that these things can be achieved.
But back then, you know when I said I was vegan, people would just … they were convinced I was lying, that it was impossible. I was like what do you mean, I’m living this life, I have no reason to lie to you, what does it serve me. Many people would even get angry with me as if I was threatening their lifestyle. Like saying simply that I got this fitness level because I’m eating nothing but plants, that somehow they were wrong in what they were doing. It was rough back then. I know some people still experience those types of experiences today, but we’ve come quite a long way in the social invasion of veganism.
The awareness of it, as well as the acceptance of it, has come a long way, but I still see on social media the comments of but bacon though. Really ignorant comments that are just nothing but an emotional kneejerk response and defensiveness. It’s pure defensiveness. It’s psychology 101 defensiveness.
Jerry Sever: [20:02] I think that’s the thing that the acceptance of veganism, and simply the acceptance of the fact that you can be vegan and still perform at extremely high levels, have really gone up. So in everyday life or in sports, of course, you’re less likely to run into such people. But on the other hand, social media has opened up the communication space, so even though those kinds of people are rare now, they can get their platform on Instagram or Facebook and still make their thoughts heard, but I think there’s a lot fewer of them now.
Geoff Palmer: [20:42] I give lectures all over the country right now to really explain, and obviously the most common question asked about any vegan, is where do you get your protein. I’m like, is that made of protein, it’s got to come from someplace if I’m vegan for 33 years, the simple questions. When I get into these lecture places, and of course there’s a lot of non-vegans or vegans that have spouses with them that are not vegan and they’re listening to this. Then I say well ok, let’s answer that question, where do we get our protein.
There’s only one accurate answer because all protein, all essential amino acids on this planet, come from one place and only one place and that is plants. Plants are the only beings on this planet that can make essential amino acids. They make it out of sun, glucose, and photosynthesis. Animals cannot make protein, they have to consume it. That’s why we call them essential amino acids because we have to get them from outside sources outside our bodies. Humans and all animals cannot make protein, it’s an impossibility.
All protein originates from plants. So think about it. Any animal that you are eating got its protein from plants. That’s like you killing that animal to get its plant protein. It’s like me killing you to steal the money that you made. That’s exactly what we’re doing to the animals. They’re getting their protein from plants and then we’re killing them to steal their plant protein from their body. We don’t need to do that. You don’t need to run plant protein through an animal. You can get it directly from the source and not harm the animal at all. There’s absolutely no reason to get the protein or essential fatty acids, which are also made by plants, not fish. Hard to believe I know, fish don’t make fatty acids either, they get it from algae.
All these things come from plants, most of the micronutrients, where do we get them from – plants. Vitamins and minerals – plants. Antioxidants – plants. This is the source of all nutrition. How about the air you’re breathing right now – plants. That’s right. Animals produce carbon dioxide, plants produce the oxygen. Everything that we breathe, every nutrient that makes up our body, every protein, all of our essential fatty acids, all come from plants.
Why are we not getting them directly from the source? It’s so incredibly inefficient to cycle them through an animal, then kill the animal and steal those plant nutrients from the animal. Why do that, it does not make sense.
Jerry Sever: [23:46] Yes, that’s one statement I totally agree with. If we look at just the energy conversion of how many calories we need to supply to an animal to get one calorie of meat, or eggs, or milk, it’s just ridiculous.
Geoff Palmer: [24:04] It’s horrible.
If you are a businessperson, and you should be as an entrepreneur, every businessperson knows that there’s higher profitability in efficiency. So you can be much more profitable, and your body can profit, from all the nutrients directly from the source. How many businesses have you seen out there saying directly from the vendor, direct from the source, direct from the manufacturer? That saves you money because there’s no middleman. Well take out the meat middle man and get it direct from the source, just like businesses have figured they are more efficient and more profitable, it’s the same for our environment.
Jerry Sever: [24:47] Yes, I’m glad you’re bringing up business because I think it’s about time that we start talking about that. I know that right now you’re speaking from years, decades, of experience in the industry, but how did you actually get involved with that, with nutrition?
Geoff Palmer: [25:04] Originally, back then the only place to get vegetarian foods and vegan options were from health food stores, and mostly back then it was mom and pop health food stores. So I started out there, and then I found it was a place I could get discounts so that I could get cheaper food. But I also put myself on work hub of things that I really cared about. Remember I was a bio/psych major in college, so I was looking at how physiology, our body’s nutrition, exercise, and physiology affected our moods and behavior. I found the same experience. When we improve the health of our bodies our mood and our brain function changes because we’re a whole organism.
So it just made sense to me from a business aspect, well why not just make a business out of that. Why not do what I love, what I care about most. So I grew through the industry. As I grew I was obviously working with companies who weren’t vegan, because there weren’t a whole lot of vegan companies, especially back when I started. But through that work, I gained a lot of experience, almost 30 years in the nutrition industry.
As my goals in fitness became more and more a part of my life, so did fitness nutrition. I said there’s got to be a way to show people that there are good supplements, good nutrition out there that is completely vegan, that are natural and work in harmony with the systems in our body to get them the best results possible. So I really started researching that on my own and started to try to develop these products for other companies, but they were turned down. I said well, this is really what I want to do. I want to help people improve their health and do it without harming the environment, without harming the animals, and without harming their own body.
So I stood in Vitamin Shoppe, when I worked for them at the corporate office, I’m standing there, and I see half of the products in endocrinal health. The other half are these sports nutrition products that have pictures of steroid-using bodybuilders, are loaded with dangerous chemicals and artificial colors and flavors, and even things that were causing death in people, even methylamphetamines, and stuff.
I’m like when did fitness go off on this bizarre tangent, that’s not fitness. I said somebody’s got to bring fitness back together with health and nutrition. Those are the two parts of the whole. Our health requires nutrition and exercise. Our body functions best on those two, they work together in harmony. There’s got to be other people out there like me that really want something to help them reach their fitness goals easier, sooner and better, but doing it in a natural way that’s supportive of our body and health promoting for our bodies, and doing it without harming the environment or the animals.
I said, alright, well stop wishing for it, and go do it. My wife just said, let’s go for it. She got me to stop complaining and get up and form Clean Machine.
Jerry Sever: [28:28] So the original idea was an all-natural vegan …
Geoff Palmer: [28:34] Right from day one, yes. One hundred percent natural. One hundred percent vegan. All of our products are non-GMO gluten free, all natural, and third-party certified vegan. That’s my commitment to every single product we launch.
Jerry Sever: [28:46] When was the first product launched actually?
Geoff Palmer: [28:49] So that was five years ago in July.
Jerry Sever: [28:55] Five years ago July?
Geoff Palmer: [28:56] Yes, so four and a half years ago. We started out with just one product, we’ve grown it from there, and I’ve really seen the movement grow.
I had three big goals in forming this. One was to find a plant-based replacement for two of the most destructive categories in the nutrition categories, specifically sports nutrition, but nutrition overall. That was fish oil and whey protein. So I was I’ve got to find a replacement for these two.
We’ve wiped out almost 50 percent of all the life in the ocean already, just in the last 40 years. At this pace, we’re going to cause the sixth mass extinction of all life in the oceans. When we do that we run the potential of not only all of the fish and sea life being wiped out but when they go, since they eat the plant life, the plants could over bloom and wipe themselves out. If the plant life goes in the ocean, up to 80% of the oxygen that you and I are breathing right now comes from plant life in the ocean. If the fish go, the plants could go. If the plants go, we go. We’re talking 20-30 years, we could be wiping out life on this planet as we know it. It’s got to stop.
Jerry Sever: [30:25] Yes, I don’t think there are any ‘could’ around that. If we do that to the ocean, the chain reaction will be triggered, so that’s a certainty.
Geoff Palmer: [30:33] It will be unstoppable if we tip that balance too far, and we’re teetering. We’re within our lifetime of seeing that happen. If we don’t make some drastic changes now, and one of those has got to be we need a good solid land-based alternative of Omega 3s for human beings to consume.
I was fortunate to find a company who had an amazing breakthrough product. Actually, it won the Nexty Award, the top supplement award in the United States for the best supplement out of all supplements launched in 2016. It was for the plant called Ahiflower. The first published human study released showed it was 400% more effective than flax, beating chia and hemp and any other source of plant-based Omega on the planet. We now really had … with the latest study that just came out, it actually showed that Ahiflower is as anti-inflammatory and immune boosting as marine oils, as fish oil. That’s the first plant ever shown to do that in a published human study. That’s powerful. When you’ve got something that’s clinically proven four times more effective than any other plant and can be as comparable to fish oil, we now have a true solution and replacement for fish oil. I’m passionate about it, and that’s why I’m really spearheading. I was the very first sports nutrition company in the world to bring it to market.
The second product I found was even a bigger blessing to me because it has even greater potential, if there is such a thing, in saving all life on this planet. It’s a water plant called Lentein, or more commonly called water lentils. This water plant, it grows on the surface of the water. Some people locally call it duckweed, but it is the highest in essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids than any plant ever discovered in the world, even soy. Not only that, it is the highest in nutrient density – higher than kale or spinach, spirulina, chlorella, even moringa. It’s the most nutrient dense plant we know of right now. That’s a gift of nature. If that wasn’t cool enough, it supplies 40% of your Omega 3s in a single serving. This plant is so incredible.
It produces protein faster than any plant we’ve ever found, including bamboo. It grows from a spore to a full-grown plant in 48 hours, 2 days. You can harvest this plant 365 days a year. Do you realize how much less cropland that is? When you’re harvesting corn or oats or something for only part of the year you have to have huge amounts of land in order to survive. When you’re harvesting 365 days out of the year, you can reduce that land size. Ninety-eight percent of the water used in growing this actually is pressed and returned back to the tank. It’s a near zero carbon footprint. The World Health Organization said it’s the most environmentally friendly food crop ever grown, and the world’s most complete wholefood source. That’s just amazing that we can yield ten to one hundred times more protein per square foot than any other product on the market – plants or animal. This a huge breakthrough, especially for vegans looking to find that nutrition. It’s higher in branched chains, which stimulate muscle growth, higher in essential amino acids, which are the foundation of muscle growth, than any other plant.
Not only that, there’s amazing amounts of nutrition. It’s one of the highest sources of lutein, one of the vital chemicals, carotenoids that not only helps protect your eyes but also helps protect your brain. We now know that our brains actually suck up lutein and store it in the brain because it helps prevent against aging diseases like Alzheimer’s. It’s just an incredible plant. The antioxidants are off the chart, the polyphenols. This is the super plant of super plants. I feel so blessed to be the very first company in the world to introduce this plant.
Jerry Sever: [34:56] So what you’re saying is we’ve been sitting on this goldmine, literally. Has it been used for food anywhere else in any other cultures? Or is this something that we’re just now discovering?
Geoff Palmer: [35:14] You know when we put the video up we had over 100,000 views in just a very short period of time. Most of the comments were, how is this possible, if this was so great how come we didn’t know about it until now? To be honest, the discovery was accidental. It was a weed. We call it duckweed. We’ve been trying to kill it for the last 50 years! Until a company that was looking at it for a biofuel actually did some nutritional analysis on it, and they said whoa, forget the biofuel, this is fuel for humans. This is the most nutrient dense plant we’ve ever seen, and the ecological impacts are enormous. You could basically, on a small plot of land with enough water, or just a few inches of water to grow this, it self-spores so it never needs replanting. You can have a continuous source of nutrition with all your protein, 40% of your Omega 3s and almost all of your micronutrients and basically eat forever wherever you’re growing it.
Jerry Sever: [36:26] How calorie dense is this compared to … because the thing with greens is that they’re very nutrient dense but if you wanted to live on them you would have to really eat a lot of them. So how calorie dense is this one?
Geoff Palmer: [36:43] Yes, that’s a good point because it is zero sugar and only 10 carbohydrates to 20 grams of protein. So it is low in carbohydrates, and yes, like other greens, like spinach or kale or whatever, you can’t solely live on those because you definitely might want to look for more inclusive carbohydrates like beans and grains and things like that, or fruits, for sure, I’m a big advocate of fruits. So putting a scoop of a protein, of a clean green protein like Lentein in with a couple of bananas in a smoothie and you’ve got almost everything the body needs and one of the most detoxifying, cleansing, healing nutritive shakes you can possibly drink.
Jerry Sever: [37:33] You’re saying you’re actually the first company to be using this as a food source? Do you have your own farm and production as well? If that’s not a company secret of course, where does your Lentein come from?
Geoff Palmer: [37:47] So it’s bizarre that water lentils are growing on the surface of freshwater lakes and ponds all over the world. They’re almost on every continent, except Africa of course. It’s ubiquitous, they’re all over the place, but nobody has really figured out a way to make them 1) palatable and 2) make sure that they’re safe for human consumption because you have killed the bacteria in them obviously.
There was one company that has spearheaded this project, a company called Parabel, and thankyou Parabel for partnering with us and allowing us to be the first company to offer to this to the world. I feel very blessed for that opportunity.
It has been eaten by some indigenous peoples. You can actually lift it right out the pot and eat it as a salad. You can dry it and sprinkle it over foods for nutrient addition. But you do have to be concerned about the water that it’s growing on, which is why specifically these are grown on man-made ponds. So what’s in the water that they’re growing on is very carefully monitored to make sure there’s no contaminants or pollutants in the water. So that you’re getting a clean healthy product grown on fresh water with the proper nutrients to feed it instead of just some pond, in which there may be dumping, or sewerage, or whatever in it and you don’t know about.
For this reason, it’s grown on man-made ponds, but because it grows so quickly and self-spores, it can be continuously pulled off the pond. It goes from pond to powder within 40 minutes. That’s about as farm to table fresh as it gets. It’s the whole plant, so all they do is squeeze the water out of it. It’s flash steamed, so that kills the bad microbes and any bad bacteria that might be in it. Also in flash steaming it just for a few seconds it actually neutralizes most of the oxalic acid, which can be a problem for some people and definitely can be anti-nutrient that inhibits some of the nutrient absorption, much like you see in spinach or kale or some of the other dark greens.
This way you’re getting more of the nutrients available, you’re making sure it’s safe for human consumption. Then it’s cold pressed, a little heat dried and powdered, and that’s it. The whole plant. Most of the plant proteins that are out on the market are isolated proteins. They strip out just the protein, mostly about 80% or 50-80% protein and take out all the good stuff. This has 28% of your fiber, 40% of your Omega 3s, 35% of your calcium, and 38% of your iron. This thing is just loaded. It’s got almost everything you need besides some sunshine and B12 to really live a healthy lifestyle. It’s just a phenomenal plant.
Jerry Sever: [40:44] Yes, the way that you’re talking about this, it makes me wonder how much research do you do in-house as well? Are you the main R&D guy for Clean Machine as well?
Geoff Palmer: [40:56] Yes, so one of the toughest things about this was keeping a lid on this because I was in touch with this company back when it was just research. They hadn’t built any aquafarms yet. The first aquafarm was built right here in Florida, in Melbourne, Florida. It’s grown and they’re working on organic certification for it now. So soon we’ll hopefully have some organic certified products too as well, but it’s grown without any of the chemical fertilizers or pesticides or things like that. It really doesn’t need to, it’s such a hardy plant there’s no need for it anyway.
I worked with this company for almost a year and a half before getting this product to market. I watched as they developed it. I watched as they did bench samples. I worked with flavor houses. I worked with five different flavor houses to try to get this flavor system right so this would actually be a good tasting product. I’m one of those types of people that when I find out how nutritious this is, how good it is for the environment and the animals, I’m like, sold. I don’t care what it tastes like, I’ll drink it down. But I wanted more people to be able to drink this and say, I can give this to my kids it’s so good. I want this nutrition to be available to as many people as possible. So it took me over six months to get this flavor system right, and of course, I had the parameters that it had to be all natural, no chemical flavor systems. It had to be non-GMO, gluten-free, and of course, everything in our products is third-party certified vegan. So it was difficult using natural flavor systems. It’s much more difficult to reach what people’s expectations are because they’ve been downing chemical drinks that make everything taste wonderful. But I don’t want those chemicals in our products, and I know a lot of people don’t want those chemicals in their body.
So for a year and a half, I sat quiet knowing how incredible this invention was but couldn’t tell anybody. That was brutal for me. I so wanted to share the amazing secrets of this plant gift. But I’m so glad I can do it now, and here on your show. Since we’ve launched, a couple of months, you can’t stop me from talking about it!
Jerry Sever: [43:12] Yes, I can imagine that must have been tough knowing what you’ve got but having to stay quiet about it until you launched it.
What was the reception like? Because obviously the market for vegan protein, it’s also getting pretty saturated with not just soy, but hemp and rice and pea protein and all that. How did this completely unknown super plant go over when you brought it out?
Geoff Palmer: [43:39] Of course I’m sure our competition doesn’t like it because they’re all invested in pea and rice protein and isolated proteins and adding synthetic vitamins back to the protein because they’ve stripped it all out the plant. There are no vitamins added to our product. It is basically three ingredients besides the flavor system. Which is the majority is the protein, about 60% of the powder in our product is Lentein, the whole plant. Then we add PURISPea protein, which is the only pea protein grown here in the United States. It’s the cleanest most natural pea protein out there on the market, none of the cheap proteins that are grown in China and loaded with heavy metals and all that stuff. And then Prohydrolase. Prohydrolase is an amazing enzyme, it’s a vegan enzyme that actually breaks down the protein almost completely. What that does is make more of the protein, the amino acids, available so you can consume a lot less of our protein than you would of somebody else’s protein because you’re getting more of the amino acids out of the protein and into your bloodstream where you can actually build muscle from.
I know it’s strange to hear, but I actually encourage people to use less of our protein because you don’t need to. You’re getting it so much more efficiently with the Prohydrolase. The Prohydrolase is so good at breaking down our proteins into usable bioavailable forms. It actually breaks down the peptides that cause gas and bloating. For a lot of women out there that’s a big deal. For a lot of guys, if you’re bodybuilders or athletes, and you’re consuming a lot of protein that gas is not fun. If you want to step on stage you don’t want a bulged out belly that’s all full of gas and bloating. So we call ours, jokingly, the first fart-free protein on the market!
Jerry Sever: [45:41] Awesome. Now considering how natural it is and that you’re going for certifications, what did that do for your cost of production?
Geoff Palmer: [45:54] Yes, so our products are expensive. We’re a smaller company, we’re launching a product that takes a lot of education.
Remember when I first launched this product not only was no one aware of it, like lentils, oh that’s lentils, and I’m like no, no, this is a green plant that grows on the surface of the water, it’s nothing to do with it. They look like lentils if you took a green lentil and floated it on the surface of the water that’s what they look like, tiny little lily pads. But it has nothing to do with the lentil family, so it’s a little confusing to people, and a lot of people assume that.
So there’s a big education curve, but most of the marketing companies, most of the major companies, all they care about is the bottom line – profits, right. That’s not me. I care about people. I care about nutrition. I care about changing the way we gain our nutrition. They looked it and said, oh it’s going to take too much education, and we’ll have to spend too much marketing dollars to educate people. I love doing that. I take pride in doing that. We don’t have the money, but I go out and speak at any opportunity I can get, and thank you for giving me a platform to share this information as well because I just really want to get this information out to people. We’re not making a whole lot of money. It’s costing us a lot more than most of these other companies would ever spend on it. There are a lot of shareholders that say no way would we spend that much money on a product like that because it’s too expensive. That’s not where I come from. I’m going to put it out there.
Same with Ahiflower, it’s still only a handful of companies that have presented Ahiflower to the market. To me, that’s a shame that so many companies out there are driven so much by the bottom line and not caring about what goes into people’s bodies. I’m out here to heal people. I’m out here to bring the best of nature to the industry, even if it takes me four years, five years, ten years, to actually make a real living off of this I’m going to keep doing what’s right for the people, for the environment, for the animals, and for the nutrition. That’s who I am and that’s the way I get to do it. It’s my company, and I get to do it my way!
Jerry Sever: [48:08] That’s the thing, because from what I understand you actually grew the company completely from scratch. You didn’t have any investments, any funding, or any loans.
So as a lesson for others, what should you do or shouldn’t do when you’re bringing up a company like that?
Geoff Palmer: [48:27] Managed growth. I know it’s a used phrase, but it is so important. Especially to start up tight companies like we were, and have been for the last four years. We’re self-funded. Myself and one partner just put in cash out of our own pockets to start the company and we allowed the sales to pay for more products and we’re still doing that today. We’re 100% privately owned by myself and my good friend Robert Guidry. We founded the company and we’ve grown it. We’ve doubled in sales every year for the last three years straight. So we’re seeing the growth, but we’re doing it in a managed stage. We’re using our funds to increase our inventory and marketing appropriately so that we grow in a managed way.
Now, if we had proper investment from a proper partner out there, yes we could grow a lot faster and I would love to get this message out there to more people, get these products out there to more people sooner through marketing efforts and through being able to grow the company faster. But, I’m ok with growing the company the way we are. We’re doubling in size every year. That’s great for me, and it’s great in most people’s books. We’re doing it the right way. I think when a lot of companies get early investment 1) they give up the majority share of their companies, which can put them in a stressful place; and 2) they don’t get to make the decisions, the ethical decisions, the personal decisions that they’d like to see in the company. Then it becomes more about profits to pay the shareholders, to pay people who own the majority share in the company. It’s rightful for them to expect a return on their investment, and everybody wants a return on their investment.
That’s my little bit of advice for others, is grow first, and then be able to go, when you’re ready to seek investment if you want to seek investment. Some companies grow all the way and never take investment. Sometimes it can take a lot longer. But you can borrow money from banks, you can get friends and family. There’s other ways of supporting. There’s fundraising sites out there too that can help you grow your business. I’d strongly suggest that so that you can keep the integrity of the company.
I really think there’s a lot of consumers out there that are resonating with what we’re doing. There’s other entrepreneurs out there who are taking the high road, who are saying, look I want to do things the right way and I’m not going to be all about the profits and the bottom line, I’m going to put out the best products I know how.
I love supporting vegan companies. Any vegan reseller that we sell to, we give our maximum discount to. If there’s anybody out there who sells nutritional supplements and would like to try us, we will give you our maximum discount in any quantity that you want to purchase so that you can make more money and more of the profits go to you to help your business. I want to support other vegan businesses out there too as well. So if you’re a vegan owned and operated business and sell vegan products, let me know because I’d love to help you and support your growth as well.
Jerry Sever: [51:54] That’s very, very generous of you Geoff. If anyone’s interested the contact details will be in the show notes.
I’m guessing that with this approach, you are in quite a few distributors. So what other things work for you in terms of marketing and sales? Apart from obviously going around and talking about the benefits of this product.
Geoff Palmer: [52:22] Digital marketing. So much of the sales are going to online. Four years ago when we started about 90-95% were in retail. Right now, about 20% of our sales are in retail. That’s quite a dramatic shift and the rest of those sales are coming from online. Amazon, obviously, is a big part of the business, and other e-commerce sites including our own. So there’s been quite a shift in the marketplace and with e-commerce you can reach a lot more people quickly and inexpensively through digital marketing campaigns.
To be honest, my strongest suggestion for any vegan companies, especially in startups or small phase growth, is to focus on digital marketing campaigns, Amazon strategy and direct to consumer through your own websites. Have those three channels strong before you even consider going into retail. That’s my best piece of advice. That’s what’s worked for us and helped us reach more people, increase our sales, double our sales every year, and do it in a much more profitable fashion. It allows us to grow and spend more on marketing too as well.
Jerry Sever: [53:41] That’s definitely one other thing that’s changed from a couple of decades ago. The way you can grow a business right now, almost single-handedly, just using these channels.
Speaking of that, how many people do you have on your team doing this right now?
Geoff Palmer: [54:03] We have five people on our team. I also suggest too, find key players who share your vision and are willing to grow with you and that have the expertise you need. Definitely finding someone good in finance is a base. Finding someone to manage your sales and marketing. Find someone who can handle your inner office stuff, accounts payable, bookkeeping, and stuff like that. When you can have those key bases played and develop good products yourself, outsource the manufacturing and outsource the shipping, then you really have little overhead as far as payroll. You can run clean and lean.
Jerry Sever: [54:50] Yes. So your manufacturing and production and the shipping, they’re outsourced, right?
Geoff Palmer: [54:57] Correct, yes. Absolutely. It saves on overhead. We’re not storing anything. It’s basically emails and phone calls and that’s it. You can do that from home, you can do it from any office anywhere. You can do it from your phone for goodness sake if you’re traveling. It makes business going anywhere accessible. If you’ve got a laptop and a cellphone, you’ve got all the tools you need to run a business really these days!
Jerry Sever: [55:30] Yes. On a more personal note, now that we’re getting towards the end of this. How do you, as an entrepreneur, manage all of this? I mean the professional side, and on the personal side, just finding balance with all that you do?
Geoff Palmer: [55:48] So my wife actually works in our business with me. My wife and I don’t have kids, so that simplifies things dramatically. For those of you who have a family, balancing family life with your job life, especially anybody who knows, most entrepreneurs are 24/7.
You’re always your business when you are your business. So finding ways to unload some of that workload by making hires that make the most sense, but also give you the trust that the work is going to be done with less on your plate. I know so many entrepreneurs who feel like, if I want it done right I have to do it myself. You’ve got to get out of that think in order to grow. One person cannot handle the growth of a business in exponential terms, it’s just not possible and you’ll run yourself into the ground and burn yourself out and you’ll lose your business.
Jerry Sever: [56:46] Yes, I wouldn’t even call it a trap. I think it’s one of the basic stepping stones that you need to get past on your way to becoming an entrepreneur, is this misguided idea that you need to take care of everything and do everything by yourself because it is your business.
Geoff Palmer: [57:11] You can expect perfection, but you’ve got to deal with the reality that sometimes good enough is ok to get you through the day and move on and keep going and keep your sanity!
Jerry Sever: [57:22] Yes, that’s true. How do you keep yours? That’s what I was also trying to get at because it’s just interesting to hear the answers to that question. What keeps you sane when things get rough?
Geoff Palmer: [57:37] My wife, god bless her. She is my rock, my foundation, my support. There were times when I was depressed and ready to quit and she got me back in the ring and she’s been by my side the whole way. I would not have this business without her. When you have a strong supporting relationship like I have with my wife. I’m a 33-year vegan, and she’s a 25-year vegan at least, and when you have so much in common, your goals in common, your passions in common. Even when they’re not quite in common because she’s an artist and a dancer and a performer, and an amazing one at that. She gave up some of that to help us achieve this dream. I’m forever grateful for that, for her sharing in my passion, our goal is to really help a lot of other people. We share in that. When you’ve got that in a partner, it’s so much more powerful to get you through the hard times. Doing it alone is very tough.
If you don’t have a soul mate or partner sharing the path with you, even a friend or somebody who understands your business so that you can bounce ideas off, or even a consultant who can be there for you. You pick up the phone and say, I’m stressed out, I’m not feeling this, I don’t know where to go, how do I solve this. Find those people, those key people, and keep them in your business life as well because them being there cannot only save your business but save your own sanity too, like you were talking about.
Jerry Sever: [59:20] Yes, I have to say that I completely relate to that because I’m lucky enough to be married to an amazing woman like that too. So I really like that answer.
So Geoff, to wrap this up, considering where you are and your experience, what new or upcoming products, or trends in not just the vegan bodybuilding space, but the entire vegan industry, make you excited about the future?
Geoff Palmer: [59:54] Well, you know, we have an incredible team of athletes and I really feel blessed to bring those athletes together as part of Team Clean Machine to be shining examples out there. I love what we’re doing in helping people get healthy and inspiring them to go out there and represent and inspire other people.
Whatever it is, whether it’s writing a book, or being a part of a movie, or whatever. It’s like do your passion and bring it to this movement because this movement needs leaders. It needs people who are going to inspire many more people. It needs people because there’s so many … it’s an interesting statistic that almost 80% of the vegans currently espousing themselves as vegan have become vegan within the last two years. That’s a huge explosion of this movement. There are a lot of people who are new to this and need guidance, need help. So for all the rest of you out there who have been longer-term vegans, or who are well read, share your information. Be there for support for these people coming new into the movement because there’s a lot of questions. Where do you get your protein, where do you get your Omegas, how do I do this, where do I shop, you know, is this really vegan?
There’s so many good sites out there like www.nutritonfacts.org and everything Dr Greger’s doing is incredible. PETA’s a great resource tool for education. Vegan Outreach is doing an amazing thing reaching people on campuses. There’s so many good groups out there right now. Help them out if you want to get started. Join some of these groups or volunteer, or whatever, but jump in and learn. Learn as you go and share and grow and keep the fire burning in this movement. It’s really building steam and I’m honored to be a part of it.
Jerry Sever: [1:01:47] Yes, it is building up steam. The growth has been exponential this year. I think even two years ago, I don’t think I, or anyone else for that matter, could have predicted how fast 2017 was going to move for us.
Speaking of the future, if we take a wider look at things, where do you see us headed? If we just take the utmost best-case scenario looking forward?
Geoff Palmer: [1:02:18] I think we’re getting close to the tipping point. The growth is accelerating at such a rate because of social media and all the great movies and books and things that are out there that are very accessible to people. The information is getting spread rapidly.
I think in our heart of hearts there’s no one out there that wants to cause animal suffering, that’s sadistic if you do. There’s no one that really wants that. Once you understand that there’s a choice where that doesn’t have to be part of your choices, it’s a quick easy and empowered decision to do that.
So I just want to keep setting good examples. I’m really excited to announce that we’re partnering with the national Veg Fest folks, Glen Brown over there, to bring the very first 100% completely vegan bodybuilding competition to Florida next year. Whatever it is out there, go set some precedence. Do things that have never been done before. Step over those boundaries where people say you can’t do that, or it’s not been done, or it’s not possible. Just break through those stereotypes and let’s keep making people go, wow, really?!
Jerry Sever: [1:03:33] Yes, just like you said at the beginning. Walking through the store and having people walk up to you and ask what are you doing, how come you’re so happy, why are you glowing. Nice.
Geoff Palmer: [1:03:47] Exactly. Let’s build an army of influencers out there. Wear the shirt. Talk to people and spread the word. It’s such an empowering thing to say, do you realize if you choose this food, instead of this food, you’re helping animals. You’re reducing suffering in this world. You’re improving your health and reducing your risk of cancer and heart attacks and strokes. All by a simple choice. How easy is that? The choices are so much better today – the burgers, the pizzas. It’s so easy to make the transition now compared to 32 years ago when it was tofu out of water buckets at the health food store around the corner!
Jerry Sever: [1:04:32] Can you imagine what’s going to happen in 20 years?
Geoff Palmer: [1:04:35] Oh my god, it’s accelerating. It’s amazing to see big companies. Even the meat producing is coming and buying up plant-based companies because they see that is the future. Not because they want to sell plants, it’s because they want to sell what people are buying. People are moving the industry. I love that. It used to be that big food industry told us what to eat – yeah, this is pretty, it’s green, and it tastes good, and it’s full of colors and artificial crap and chemicals, but so what, you’ll like it. They told us what to eat. They put wonder bread in our lunch packs. Now consumers are saying, no I don’t want that.
There are entrepreneurs out there that are giving people a different choice. One that’s animal free. One that promotes health. One that’s non-GMO. The big businesses are taking notice and saying wait, all the customers are moving over there, let’s go out, and get in front of the customers because that’s the future. That’s where the future dollars are going to go and they’re going to get in front of those dollars because they want to stay in business. I love that.
Jerry Sever: [1:05:44] Yes, so do I. I think that’s a pretty good point to wrap up on because the future is bright, and Geoff, thank you for doing your part in it. And thank you for sharing your story, because that was a really educational talk that we had right now.
Geoff Palmer: [1:06:03] Thank you and thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this with you guys. I love what your channel is doing, bringing attention to vegan entrepreneurs who are doing the right thing. Thank you for being that sounding board to bring that information to more and more people. I really appreciate it.
Jerry Sever: [1:06:21] Yes, well Geoff, thanks again for doing this.
I’m looking forward to the bodybuilding competition. I’d really like to share more info on that. Are you going to be competing too?
Geoff Palmer: [1:06:34] I think I’m done competing for a little bit. My wife wants me to spend a little bit more time at home, and I’m ok with that. I can still be the best example out there to hopefully inspire other people, and continue to sponsor vegan athletes so that more of them can participate and show the world what can be achieved on a natural vegan diet.
Jerry Sever: [1:06:54] Yes, for anyone wanting to get in touch regarding that, or any of your products, where should they go?
Geoff Palmer: [1:07:08] Yeah, absolutely! You can check us out at Clean Machine Online on Facebook and Instagram, and then you can check us out on www.cleanmachineonline.com/ For all the products and product information. We post all of the research. I’m a research geek so I wanted to make all of that completely transparent. You can take a look at the studies, see what was used in the studies, and compare it directly to our labels and understand that these products are researched and backed by science. We publish all of that. All of our labels are completely transparent so that you can see everything that’s in it.
I’d love to hear your feedback. And again, if there are any vegan businesses out there that are interested in reselling us, we’ll support you 100%. It’s all there.
You can also check us out at various Veg Fests. I’ll be going on tour to Veg Fests throughout the country with Fraser Bayley from Evolving Alpha and his wife Lauren Bayley, a great site too if you want to check that out. We’ll be doing talks all over the country at Veg Fests both here in Florida and States all across the country. So check us out, and come out and try some samples. Try some of that clean green protein, it’s amazing.
Jerry Sever: [1:08:17] Yes, definitely. I’m sure people are itching to try it now. I know I would like to give it a try.
Thanks again Geoff, it was really nice talking to you.
Geoff Palmer: [1:08:29] Thank you, Jerry, thank you for everything.
Jerry Sever: [1:08:30] Alright, have an awesome day.
Geoff Palmer: [1:08:33] You too.
Main website and online store: Clean Machine
The Greek term Geoff uses for describing his transformation: Metanoia
Clean Machine’s partner in producing lentein: Parabel
Geoff’s favorite resources for educating yourself about veganism and how to spread it:
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