It’s 10:15 in the morning on Saturday, March 11th, and every EPIC employee is sweating bullets. We’re out in Anaheim, California, for ExpoWest 2017, the largest natural foods convention in America. Within 15 minutes of opening, Hall E—one of five areas of the convention, each of which contains three large rooms the size of two football fields—is filled with attendees and product exhibitors. It’s an absolute madhouse. Standing alongside our taxidermied 1,100-pound American Bison (or “Bill, as we call him), we wait for the people to wash a sea of questions, comments, and sample requests over us. And although we’re flanked by competitors and imitators on either side of the aisle, there’s no doubt about it: EPIC Provisions is the bell of the ball.
Things weren’t always like this. When our founders, Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest, first arrived on the floor of ExpoWest in 2013 to debut EPIC’s products, they weren’t exactly popular. Back then, ‘natural’ and ‘meat’ were considered mutually exclusive. It showed, too: Taylor and Katie claim they were one of only two or three other meat companies at the entire convention. As expected, there were plenty of scornful and confused looks from passerbys. Meat bars? Grass-fed? Those terms didn’t appeal to the masses back then. That might have been a good thing, too—it turns out the EPIC founders didn’t have any actual products to sample at the time. But despite the doubters and naysayers, they emerged from the convention confident in their abilities and their mission. Nobody was making responsibly sourced and quality meat products yet, but they had a plan and one hell of a marketing pitch: “What if there was a whole food snack that was high in nutrients, low in sugar, 100% grass-fed, just like our ancestors ate?”
Since then, EPIC has grown from a little-known company to one of the most cutting-edge leaders in the food industry. We’re now one of the fastest-growing food companies in the country and are rapidly planning ahead for broader, expansive projects and partnerships. In addition to scaling the reach of our goods, we have vastly increased our product variety—thanks to our Whole Animal Project—from meat bars to bites, bone broth, cooking fats, and more.
As I walk down the endless rows of booths on Expo’s floors and analyze each company, I realize something beautiful: EPIC’s success isn’t due to its quality products or innovative branding. Not even close. It all starts with its mission of creating food that is sourced from humanely-raised animals that nourish our bodies and invigorate the lands we inhabit through regenerative agricultural practices. Fueled by this belief—that feedlots and climate change creation are not the fate of our precious, age-old animals—we’ve started a movement that’s sweeping the country and world around. We’ve got the people behind us.
There’s a difference between popularity and influence. Rather than simply being well-liked, EPIC has become a resource for knowledge—a company people trust and listen to. That didn’t happen overnight, though. It came from staying true to our word and fighting for food that is both healthy and responsibly-sourced. It came from listening, learning, and pivoting towards opportunities that would allow us to better serve both our consumers and producers. Most importantly, it came from being unwilling to compromise on our golden rule: feed others as you wish to be fed. By sticking to this mantra, we’ve stymied concerns about our company ‘selling out’ to General Mills, helping instead to incrementally change the strategies and philosophies of one of the world’s biggest food giants. If you’re true to yourself, others will follow.
The pinnacle of this year’s Expo West speaks to our company’s unfathomable evolution. Moderated by John Foraker of Annie’s, Inc., our co-founder participated in a climate change panel alongside Chris Kerston of The Savory Institute and Will Harris of White Oak Pastures. Together, they provided stimulating, well-rounded arguments explaining why regenerative agriculture is the key to thwarting the greatest threat to our planet’s future generations.
The panel was unprecedented. In a mere four years, EPIC had climbed the convention’s ranks from lowly outsiders to industry change-makers. This spoke to our impact on a national front, too. Thanks to the support of incredible and influential partners like The Savory Institute, Annie’s, and White Oak Pastures, we’ve leveraged our position within General Mills to show the world that regenerative agriculture and responsibly-sourced meats aren’t selling points or a marketing scheme—they’re a way of life that is fueling a worldwide movement. We’re proving that well-informed consumers are responsible consumers.
As we cleaned up our booth the next day and packed Bill into his crate, none of us could believe what we’d accomplished. Yet again, we raised the stakes for ourselves and our competition. Yet again, we proved we’re leading the charge for healthier food, more fertile lands, and more honest industry practices. It’s amazing what a difference a few years makes.