Her parents immigrated to the United States from Punjab, India – settling in North Carolina. Vani was born in Charlotte on March 22, 1979. Her childhood was as normal as every other kid growing up in America in the 1980’s. That included what had become a typical American diet.
She ate what she wanted without a second thought. Candy, fast food and soda were staples – vegetables were not. The results of her diet were also typical. By the time she was in high school, she was overweight. She developed a number of health issues at an earlier age than one would expect. While none of them were debilitating, they certainly were the reflection of an unhealthy lifestyle.
After high school, she attended the University of Georgia before transferring to North Carolina University in Charlotte where she earned a degree in computer science. At the age of 22, she was hospitalized with an apparent appendicitis. It was then that she had a moment of clarity – an ‘aha’ moment. It occurred to her that it was up to her to take care of herself – to become proactive in getting healthier.
She began to take notice of her diet. Suddenly vegetables were a staple in her diet. Soda, fast food and candy fell out of favor. Changes in her diet led to changes in her health. Over time, she went from eight prescriptions to zero. The change in her diet became apparent physically as well. She dropped excess weight. She gained energy. She learned that a healthy diet made for a much more satisfying life.
Over the next several years, she pursued a career as a management consultant for Accenture. She would marry. Her interest in a healthy diet, nutrition and food continued to grow. She began to take note of ingredients and additives in foods, both at the market and at restaurants. What she discovered alarmed her to the point that in 2011, she started a food blog as an outlet for her observations and concerns.
The blog was begun essentially as a hobby – Vani titled it The Food Babe. The more she posted, the greater the number of followers and supporters. That response further fueled her interest in learning about food, additives and ingredients – especially chemical ingredients with names which couldn’t be pronounced. Her investigations revealed several disturbing things. Her efforts revealed that several ingredients approved in the U.S. were banned in other countries. Manufacturers continued to sell product in the States containing those ingredients.
To her, that didn’t seem to be in the consumer’s best interest. Vani realized that being a champion for healthy ingredients and transparency in labeling was her purpose. She left her consulting career and devoted all of her efforts to that purpose. Foodbabe.com was born.
Today she has millions of followers in what is known as the Food Babe Army. They take credit for changes to ingredients in General Mills cereals, Subway bread, Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte and most recently, Kraft Mac & Cheese. In 2015, Time Magazine named her as one of the 30 most influential people on the internet. Her recently published book is a national #1 best seller and has what may be the longest title ever – The Food Babe Way: Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days!
These achievements are the result of Vani Hari – The Food Babe – being a truly fearless brand
Fearless Brands are driven by their conviction
Vani Hari, The Food Babe has created waves in the food industry like few others. The results of her efforts have led to some significant changes in labeling and ingredients and that army of supporters. However, her efforts have also created a mountain of ridicule, criticism and an anti-FoodBabe army. She has been accused of pseudo-science, misinterpretation of research and simple profiteering. Ironically, many of those people have their own financial motives which bring a bias to the discussion. There is validity, at least to some degree, to both sides of the debate.
Regardless, Vani remains vigilant and committed to her purpose – her life’s mission. Her belief that the U.S. food industry has to make significant changes is shared by millions. Her belief that America’s obesity crisis and much of our health issues are the direct result of our diet. Whether you’re on the side of natural ingredients and transparent labeling or you’re part of the group that deems the Food Babe a quack – there is much to learn about building a fearless brand.
Discover your purpose…live your purpose – Realizing one’s purpose in life isn’t something that happens instantaneously. For some, it’s known at a very early age. For others, it takes a longer journey and several experiences to find clarity of purpose. The key is to be open to discovering that purpose – and then making a solid commitment to living it. That is exactly what Vani Hari has done – and is doing.
Be fearless – I’ve been told by dozens of people I’ve featured in my Friday’s Fearless Brand series that they are not fearless, that they have fear. Being fearless in this sense means something different than a lack of fear. A fearless brand has achieved a level of conviction which provides assurance that they are following their purpose and delivering value. That conviction remains strong even in the face of extreme opposition and difficult challenges. The Food Babe has that conviction. You can too.
Communicate openly and effectively – Vani Hari has built an open relationship with supporters and critics alike. She has done so by communicating openly and effectively. Her army of fans feel a connection with her and are invited to connect on a ‘first name basis’. Her opponents know that she is open to communicating and debating with them. Branding is about building emotional connections – hopefully more are positive than confrontational. 🙂
The Food Babe is attempting to change an industry and a culture’s habits. That is a massively ambitious purpose. Her efforts to force change have caused friction and raised the ire of many in the food industry. It takes conviction to face that challenge and maintain resolve. It’s that conviction which defines a fearless brand. Ask yourself if you’re acting on your true purpose. Ask yourself if you have the resolve to stay the course. Be a fearless brand.