Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Small-town female entrepreneur goes national with her fermented food brands

Must read

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Ten years ago, Cori Deans was told by doctors that she would likely need to be on medication for the rest of her life and that she would need to manage her Crohn’s disease through diet and lifestyle. Instead, she turned to food to improve her health and built a business that is expanding rapidly along the East Coast.

Cultures in small towns, which specializes in small-batch fermented foods, started with Deans learning about her own gut. “I was put on a diet low in fiber and a knotty cocktail of immunosuppressive drugs plus antibiotics and steroids. None of that helped or made sense for me.”

She began to examine her condition and found a book, Patient heal yourself, which offered an alternative approach. Within months of changing her diet to nutrient-dense whole foods and healthy fats, eating a variety of fermented foods (from containers of sauerkraut to bottles of kombucha), and eliminating as much stress from her lifestyle as possible, she saw improvement.

“I realized that many autoimmune diseases can be caused by eating dead food,” she says from her home in the Adirondacks. “In addition, our vegetables come from dead soils, which doesn’t help, because they lack the good bacteria. However, fermented foods are the opposite of that. They are full of life.”

Within months, Deans saw her symptoms disappear. Today, she can eat anything she wants, she says, and she continues to be a fan of fermented vegetables. When she heard about the bacteria-rich properties of foods like sauerkraut, she even started making it herself. “Many of the commercially available products are pasteurized, and that means you don’t get as many health benefits from them,” she explains.

So Deans started experimenting with her weekly vegetarian box, which came from a local CSA. The jars of fermented vegetables helped her; but it became too much for her to eat alone. That’s when she started giving it to family and friends. The positive feedback encouraged her to start a small side business in 2017, while continuing to work full-time as a massage therapist.

Soon, her fermented jars ended up in the hands of a local food distributor who was on his way to Cedar Run, a specialty store in her hometown of Keene, New York. He liked it, and within a few weeks she was in a dozen stores.

Deans who have never led a team or run a company say she learned on the job. “I have now started taking care of a team by doing everything myself.”

Plus, the tall clear jars of fermented green beans, purple cabbage, carrots, and more were added to more shelves, forcing her to find a new, larger production facility and rethink her offerings.

“I used to use ingredients that were harvested, and I couldn’t keep up with the quantities I needed. It would also not have been ethical to forage so much wild food.”

She turned to staples that usually grow on nearby farms in upstate New York; with the exception of lemons, all of its ingredients come from the local food ecosystem, which Deans says is important. If these foods haven’t traveled great distances or been treated in the process to keep them fresh, they probably still have healthy colonies of bacteria on them, which helps the gut, she says. Hydroponic vegetables, for example, don’t work for fermentation because they haven’t interacted with the soil and the microbes that live in it, she adds.

Small Town Cultures today employs 10 people and is located in approximately 400 stores. It will soon expand to 40 other Whole Foods locations. In the process, Deans has raised $1 million in angel money to steadily expand her business.

“My goal isn’t to just make more of the same fermented food that’s already on the market. I want to make them more attractive and affordable so that more people start using them on a daily basis. You only need a few bites to help your health. I suffered 7 years with symptoms that improved within months.”

Deans is passionate about supporting a food ecosystem that nourishes human health. Even if someone doesn’t live with a chronic condition or condition, it’s a simple addition to the diet, practiced by many cultures for centuries, that’s worth reviving, she says.

More articles

Latest article