In an impeccably clean commercial kitchen off of Salsipuedes Street, almost in the shadow of Highway 101, there’s a five-gallon container of something called “Longevity” stacked alongside buckets of bladder wrack, yacón, cordyceps, jiaogulan, tocotrienols, rockweed, and about two dozen other obscure ingredients that would stump even the most botanically aware Americans. This is the working heart of Mattole Valley Naturals, a steadily growing Santa Barbara company that creates multiple lines of über-healthy concoctions, from herbal blends to protein powders, all based on nearly four decades of nutritional alchemy by Dr. Barre Paul Lando.
After years of setting up his own patients with these special blends, Lando, who treated people with his mix of Western and Eastern medicine for years in Carpinteria, was convinced by his son Blaine to make the products available commercially. Raised in Hawai’i, Blaine came to the mainland to attend UCSB, and after a few years in the clothing industry, he saw that the “booming” natural-foods market would be a good fit for his dad’s formulations. “Although I’m new to the industry, I’ve lived the holistic lifestyle my whole life,” said Blaine, who’s been taking these mixes since childhood and is now putting branded spins on his father’s basic formulas. “I like to think of ourselves as mixologists,” he explained, “as bartenders for health powders.”
Aside from the exotic ingredients, the herbal mixtures are based on blue-green algae that’s harvested from Oregon’s Klamath Lake. “This is the most complete food on the planet,” said Blaine, explaining that the only reason their business is not certified organic is because they use “wild-crafted foods” like this algae. Of the six current herbal blends, there’s the workout-friendly Performance Blend (that’s where the codyceps and jiaogulan go), as well as the Full Spectrum, which mixes sea vegetables, chlorella, mature green papaya, aloe, antioxidant fruits, and reishi mycelium.
Two of the three lines of protein powders come from the whey of cow and goat, and the third is vegan, based on biofermented brown rice. “It’s almost like adult formula,” said Blaine, adding, “We are one of the only companies that specialize in goat protein formulations.” Thrown in the blender with some almond milk and frozen bananas, these ingredients come out tasting pretty delicious.
The blends, which are available online and in some health-food stores, are not cheap, ranging from about $30-$40 per batch — another indication that this isn’t your usual wheatgrass additive. “It’s frustrating for us when we get lumped into that category, because we are very different,” said Maressa Garner, Mattole Valley’s administrative director. “It’s for the discerning customer. We’re not loud or ostentatious.” And they’re careful not to make any claims of magical healing powers, either, instead focusing squarely on their ingredients.
Indeed, starting the company — which is named after the Northern California valley along the Lost Coast where Dr. Lando now lives because it’s the “epitome of clean, untouched, and unadulterated” — Blaine realized that locking in reliable sources would be key to the business. “The hardest part is finding vendors we trust,” he said, noting that they test for organic and non-GMO standards.
He believes such diligence is critical. “The best strategy in this industry, because it is so fast-paced and so booming, is to be as transparent as possible,” Blaine explained. But doesn’t he worry that a competitor might steal his formulas? “If this industry grows and we all get healthier in the process?” he asked. “That’s the most important thing.”