Since 1984, Kashi has sold plant-based foods made primarily from whole grains and seeds. The company is best known for its cereal products (such as the various GOLEAN flavors), but Kashi also makes crackers, snack bars and bites, cookies, waffles, and frozen entrees.
Kashi was founded by Philip and Gayle Tauber.
In the early 1980s, Philip and Gayle Tauber were living in Southern California. They had worked together in business ventures devoted to bodybuilding, and indoor foliage, but wanted to start a company to help people eat more healthfully. They thought about naming their company “Gold'n Grains” and “Graino” before settling on Kashi. Bankers didn't exactly love their natural foods business concept, though, so the couple invested their life savings of $25,000 to get the business off the ground.
The name Kashi is actually a portmanteau ...
Kashi is named after a fusion of the words Kashruth and Kushi. Kashruth refers to Jewish religious dietary laws, or the state of being kosher. Kushi refers to the last name of Michio Kushi, a Japanese teacher who shared his knowledge about the macrobiotic diet with Americans starting back in the 1960s.
Kashi owes a little of its success to the Olympics.
In October 1983, the company launched its first product, Kashi Pilaf, a breakfast blend of seven whole grains and sesame seeds. But the pilaf had to be cooked for more than 25 minutes before eating—longer than most consumers had the patience for—and initial sales were disappointing. However, Kashi helped turned their fortunes around when they became one of the first companies to offer product samples at sporting events during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The samples helped the company develop a small, but loyal, following among athletes and other health-conscious types.
In 2000, the Kellogg company bought Kashi, surprising some food purists.
The cereal behemoth Kellogg’s purchased Kashi in 2000 for $32 million, an acquisition that some people criticized because Kellogg’s food products sometimes contain artificial ingredients and refined grains (Pop-Tarts, anyone?). With the acquisition came a move to Kellogg's headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, although Kashi later moved back to California, a spot seemingly more in keeping with its brand ethos.
Kashi's use of the term natural has attracted controversy …
Because the FDA does not regulate use of the term natural, food companies can use the term without actually defining what that means. In 2012, a grocery store owner in Rhode Island decided to stop selling Kashi products after he learned that Kashi used genetically modified soybeans and non-organic ingredients. He posted a note in his store explaining his decision, and photos of the note went viral on social media. According to USAToday, some consumers believed that the word natural on Kashi packaging implied the cereal was organic and GMO-free. The company later agreed to pay several million dollars in class action lawsuits to consumers who felt their use of the term natural was misleading, and agreed to remove the phrases "all natural" and "nothing artificial" from their products. (Today, all Kashi products are Non-GMO Project Verified.)
Kashi has created a new protocol to support organic farmers.
In 2016, Kashi announced a collaborative effort to support farmers who are in the (time-consuming and expensive) process of transitioning their fields from conventional to organic agriculture. Working with the organic certifier Quality Assurance International (QAI), Kashi developed a new protocol called Certified Transitional, and then purchased the first crop of Certified Transitional ingredients—a hard red winter wheat. The result was their Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits cereal [PDF]. After a successful launch, the company's portfolio now includes eight other Certified Transitional products, and farmers have received more than $1 million to support transitioning their fields as of February 2018 [PDF].