Jonah Goldman is the Co-founder and Director of Strategic Marketing at PLNT Burger, a plant-based restaurant that exclusively serves chef-crafted 100% IKC Kosher and Halal burgers. During his time in Israel, he learned about different innovative agricultural practices that sparked the idea of plant-based burgers that are affordable and safe for everyone. With a background in marketing and a passion for animal welfare, Jonah strives to bring a positive change to the industry and help people make more conscious decisions about food. He earned a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Colorado College.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Jonah shares his journey into food systems
- Sustainable agricultural practices outside the U.S.
- PLNT Burger’s healthy menu of the American Classics
- Jonah discusses the challenges of expanding the target audience and fighting to eliminate preconceptions about plant-based food
- Effective marketing strategies that provoke change in people
- The environmental impact of commodity crops and the current American food system
In this episode…
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen sits down with Jonah Goldman, Co-founder and Director of Strategic Marketing at PLNT Burger, to discuss sustainable agricultural practices outside the U.S., how to craft and promote a healthy menu of classic American burgers, and marketing strategies that drive positive change. Jonah shares his journey into food systems, eliminating peoples’ plant-based food preconceptions, and the environmental impact of the current American food system.
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Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here co-host for the show where we feature top restaurant tours investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combined marketing software and payments all in one they have. They’ve sorted everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot on.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partner through ships through done-for-you podcast. If you have a b2b, b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it and through podcasts and content marketing to learn more go to rise25.com or email us at email@example.com My guest today is Jonah Goldman. Jonah is the Co-founder and Director of Strategic Marketing of PLNT Burger that spelled P-L-N-T Burger. He is a marketing specialist, social entrepreneur and environmental activist with a background in the natural food industry, regenerative agriculture, compostable packaging and fighting food waste. Hey, Jonah, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Jonah Goldman 1:34
I’m doing well. Chad, thank you so much for hosting me. And for that wonderful, if not wordy and lengthy introduction.
Chad Franzen 1:41
Hey, it’s great to have you. Hey, so as I mentioned, you spell your restaurant. It’s called PLNT Burger, but you spell it P-L-N-T. Tell me a little bit about that, then why that is the case.
Jonah Goldman 1:51
Absolutely. So it has to do with our mission statement, which is to empower more people to enjoy delicious plant based alternatives, which in turn can create a more just and plentiful food system for all and a healthier planet for future generations. So in that mission statement, you’ve heard the words, plant planet plenty, and we seek to unite all of those in our name PLNT. Internally, those letters are also an acronym. And it stands for positivity, learning, nourishment, and togetherness, which is the culture that we want to embody for our team for our guests. And for everyone who comes into contact with our, with our brand.
Chad Franzen 2:31
Good for you. Hey, we I talked a little bit before we started recording about your background, give you an idea as to what your background is and tell everybody what your background is you. You’re a restaurant tour in the sense that you founded PLNT Burger, but your your, your background doesn’t totally go into restaurants. So tell us a little bit about your history.
Jonah Goldman 2:49
Yeah, absolutely. And I would be remiss if I took entire credit for starting PLNT Burger. I can’t do that. I, you know, am blessed to be part of a really phenomenal team of entrepreneurs who have more experience than I do in the restaurant industry. Social entrepreneurs, people like Margarita her Dosia Seth Goldman, Spike Mendelsohn, Mike Coletti, Ben Kaplan. Really, they were the ones who came together to make PLNT Burger a reality with me and I brought my marketing expertise and branding strategy to bear but it definitely would not have happened without those other amazing founders. So we’re really grateful to be working with them, and to continue to grow the business. As for my personal history, and and work experience. It really all began with an interest in food systems that was sparked by a trip to a sanctuary. As a 10-year-old, I visited a animal sanctuary called Poplar Spring. It’s located in Poolesville, Maryland. And I think as kids, you really are not desensitized at that point to a lot of issues. But for me, when I came into contact with animals like goats, pigs, cows, chickens, as a 10-year-old, you fall in love with these animals. We’re all born with that innate compassion for the other sentient creatures. You see it when kids are interacting with dogs or cats or bunnies. We love our pets. Naturally, we’re inclined towards towards love. And so, as a 10-year-old, I had a great experience with these animals. And then we went to dinner at this restaurant, our favorite rotisserie chicken place called El Porto Rico. And I noticed there was a similarity in the shape between the animal that we were eating and the animal that we’d spent all day having a great time with. And so I asked my parents, what is the difference between this animal we’re eating and the animals that we just got to know so well clearly had such character they had social lives, they had a desire to live. And in many ways were really similar to humans. So I was sort of confused when they told me there’s not really a difference. The one that we spent all day with was a rescue. And the one that we’re eating was not a rescue, or it was a victim. And at that point, I totally swore off eating animal products, or at least animal flesh. Any animal that I didn’t personally kill, I didn’t want to be a part of supporting a system that victimized those animals, because it’s not something that I would want to do to others. That was really what started my journey into food systems. And I learned at a very early age, in fact, directly after that experience, about how meat in America comes to consumers. And the sad reality is that the vast majority, over 90% of the meat products we consume in America come from CAFOs are confined animal feeding operations, and have a really disastrous impact on the planet. They they’re cruel systems towards the animals. And ultimately, they create products that are harmful for humans to consume as well. Part of that is because these animals are not being raised in their natural environment, they’re not able to exhibit natural behavior and instinct. And they are instead being caged. And given really awful conditions, foods that they’re not meant to process, and they’re in their digestive tracts, that results in excess fat and tumors and all sorts of other health problems. And those complications deliver and product that we know is directly linked to heart disease, to diet related issues, as well. And that’s part of why in America, we see such high rates of again, heart diseases, the number one killer of Americans, diabetes, and, and other issues really stem from our overconsumption of processed meats and red meats. And so this became an issue that I really wanted to learn more about. And the more I learned about the food system that exists in America and the global food system, the more I became passionate about changing it, and finding marketplace solutions that could replace those same foods, because as a 10-year-old, what’s your favorite food, everyone wants to go to Mickey D’s, right? We all wanted to go to McDonald’s. And that was a huge sacrifice for me. So I at a very early age was passionate about bringing a vegan or plant based alternative to fast food into the into the world. And it wasn’t until, you know later in life, that I was able to realize that that dream, and it came through, you know, a long career of working in food startups working in the natural food industry, working in plant based meat alternative startups at an early stage Beyond Meat. Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to intern there. And that definitely was a pivotal moment in my career, where I realized this is this has the potential to really positively impact the food system on a global level on an industrial level. And I just got so excited about that, that that really became the driving motive behind my work, and has led me to what it is that I’m doing today.
Chad Franzen 8:30
Good for you, you know, you develop strong kind of beliefs, convictions values, at the age of 10. And you stuck with him. I know I developed anything I developed at the age of 10. I quickly abandoned by the time I was 11. But that’s that’s a credit to you. I know you’ve spent some time outside of the US as well.
Jonah Goldman 8:48
That’s right. Yeah. So I had spent five years in Colorado studying food systems. And that was actually a really interesting time for me as well where I got to get outside of that plant-based space. And I actually worked on farms where I was raising chickens, I was raising sheep, and bring them to slaughter as well. And so I got to see what what that meat processing looks like both on a small scale and on a large scale. And from that experience was able to really answer some important questions around the environmental impact that that had and the impact that it has on people. And ultimately, from that, you know, I learned that human suffering, animal suffering and human suffering are linked, where animals are suffering, humans are suffering. And even in the best case scenario, I just don’t want to contribute to the unnecessary suffering of the other sentient creatures on the planet. And at that point, I’d spent a lot of time my entire career in the United States and I was really curious to get out of my comfort zone and experience, a new culture and a new way of looking at things and also to dive deeper into the world of sustainable agriculture. So I went to the hub, the global center of agricultural innovation, Israel. And, and I got to, to study those, those topics on a educational farm in Modine, which is in the center of Israel, the farm was called Cassava Dom. And I learned about regenerative agriculture there, I learned about polyculture, permaculture, and things like drip agriculture, conservation methods for growing food in a way that benefits all of the stakeholders as opposed to exploiting and depleting those stakeholders. So thinking of the air and the soil and the water as stakeholders as well. And the equation was was a really different lens that I hadn’t yet experienced, and one that I now firmly believe in supporting, and transitioning our industrial processes and practices to be more in line with ecology. And I became an Israeli citizen, I continued to teach courses on that farm for around two and a half years. And then I had the opportunity to work with this amazing nonprofit called Robin Food, which is in the north of Israel in Haifa. And what they do is amazing and inspirational. I’ll just share it with you briefly. But they rescue food from distributors from farms from retailers, and they transform that rescued food into delicious, healthy meals for the public. When they had a restaurant, it was available to the public on a pay as you can pay as you feel basis. And then what they’ve pivoted to now is developing resources for consumers to address their own food waste. Around 40% of food waste is on the consumer level. So it’s things that you and I may be missing. And, and waste that comes out of our own fridges or excess food that we put on our plates because our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. So developing inventory, something as simple as just like really thinking through your inventory and and turning your leftovers into a delicious, reimagined dish is really a great way to cut back on your personal food waste, which is ultimately a big part of our environmental footprint as well. If we’re able to let waste less food, not only are we going to be able to capitalize on all the resources that went in, that went into making that food but we’re also going to reduce the methane gas and emissions that come from landfilling, food that should other that would otherwise be consumed. And then at the end of my time in Israel, I had the opportunity to work with a startup called T PA, which is a industrial engineering firm designing and manufacturing, biodegradable and compostable solutions to single use plastics. So through the combination of conventional polymers and biopolymers, coming up with materials that imitate plastic, in every sense of the properties that plastic has, but have a solution for their end of life, they can return to the soil, and they can become fertilizers, which again goes back into strengthening soil, and ultimately building up those resources which we know to be so vital to the ecosystem services we need as humans to continue to survive. And so as I was working with them, I was doing PR and marketing, and started to have conversations with the world renowned chef Spike Mendelsohn about bringing this concept for a plant based plant at friendly Burger Joint. We started to think about how it would manifest and in July of 2019, I came back to the United States. And in September of 2019, we opened the first PLNT Burger in Silver Spring, Maryland, inside of the Whole Foods.