Home Business Boulder, Colorado Fosters a New Generation of Wellness Entrepreneurs

Boulder, Colorado Fosters a New Generation of Wellness Entrepreneurs

by SuperiorInvest

This story is part of CNBC's quarterly Cities of Success series, which explores cities that have transformed themselves into business centers with an entrepreneurial spirit that has attracted capital, companies and employees.

Located against the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, Colorado, has become a thriving center for the natural products and wellness industry. Here, companies generate billions in revenue, all stemming from a deep appreciation for entrepreneurship, the outdoors, and healthy living.

The roots of the industry date back to local hikers who, in 1969, hand-picked wild herbs in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, inspiring the creation of the Celestial Seasonings tea company, a pioneer of the natural foods movement, according to a local industrial group. The tea company was later acquired by Hain Food Group (now Hain Celestial Group – in 2000 for 390 million dollars.

“This [region] is the epicenter of natural and organic,” Hain Celestial Group President and CEO Wendy Davidson told CNBC in a recent interview for the upcoming primetime special “Cities of Success,” airing on November 11. April at 10 pm EDT. “If you want to drive growth “If you want to be in the industry in an authentic way, Boulder is the place to be.”

Hain Celestial Group CEO Wendy Davidson (left) and CNBC's Andrea Day (right) tour the historic trails where the founders of Celestial Seasonings gathered wild herbs in 1969.


Today, Celestial Seasonings, still headquartered in Boulder, brews more than 1.6 billion cups of tea annually and has sales of more than $150 million. His success story serves as inspiration for countless entrepreneurs in the area.

“It's the people. It's the environment – the business environment and the focus on natural and organic and wellness has allowed us to scale and grow one of our largest and most profitable brands in the company,” Davidson said.

The Boulder region's emphasis on healthy living has fueled a booming industry, generating a whopping $2.1 billion annually for Colorado's economy, according to an October 2020 study by the University of Leeds School of Business. from Colorado Boulder. According to the study, that contribution translates into more than 22,000 jobs and a significant impact on production, supply chains and consumer spending.

Turn peanut butter into gold

The Boulder County Farmers Market, a vibrant incubator since 1987, exemplifies the region's thriving ecosystem.

A sign for the Boulder Farmers Market, which runs from April to November and serves as an incubator for numerous small food businesses.


From April to November, the market transforms into a testing ground for aspiring food entrepreneurs. More than 100 small businesses showcase their products annually to a hungry crowd of 100,000 shoppers. Sales on the market have soared 400% since 2013, reaching a whopping $5.7 million in 2023, according to the nonprofit Behind the Markets.

This is also where a simple jar of nut butter can turn into pure gold.

In 2004, Justin Gold, armed with his homemade peanut and almond butter, began “tossing jars” to the local Boulder community at the farmers market.

In this historic photo, Justin Gold, founder of Justin's Nut Butter, fills jars of peanut butter during the early days of selling his product at a local farmers market.


What started as free samples quickly became a successful product. The unique, all-natural flavors resonated with health-conscious consumers, and Justin's jars, as branded, became a familiar sight in the market.

But this was not enough for Gold: he eventually leveraged his popularity to convince local retailers to stock his brand on their shelves. Slowly but surely, the business grew, eventually culminating in a landmark deal with Whole Foods. Justin's products can now be found in health food stores and coffee shops nationwide.

“What we accomplished just destroyed my wildest dreams,” Gold told CNBC.

The journey from a single farmers market stand to a $281 million sale to Hormel Foods in 2016 is a testament to both Gold's vision and the unique environment Boulder fosters.

Packages of Justin brand peanut butter cups are arranged for a photo in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Monday, August 15, 2016.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | fake images

Gold said the city's vibrant business community, its focus on health and wellness and beautiful natural surroundings are key ingredients to its success story.

“Everyone here is up to something really interesting,” he said. “You don't have to be in an office environment to be creative, you can be outdoors. And I think the confluence of all these great things creates really extraordinary results.”

Inspired by the success of Gold, Juan Stewart launched his Latin American sparkling fruit drink, Frescos Naturales, at the Boulder County Farmers Market in 2021.

Stewart quickly recognized the power of the market, calling it “the center of the natural foods industry,” where many brands have achieved national success.

Frescos Naturales founder Juan Stewart maneuvers a cart loaded with cases of his sparkling fruit drinks into a warehouse.


His bet paid off. During its first year, Frescos grossed more than $40,000 in sales and landed a distribution deal with a supermarket chain. kroger.

“I was very lucky to be in Boulder when I launched this brand,” Stewart reflected.

Moving cross country

Naturally Boulder, a group founded in 2005, is proving to be a breeding ground for success in the natural and organic foods industry. By supporting entrepreneurs and connecting startups with local investors, the group has fostered a powerful business cluster that is attracting businesses from across the country.

“Companies that started here, like Celestial [Seasonings] they were successful. Then other people started coming here,” said Kristine Carey, CEO of Naturally Boulder. “Businesses are still moving here…there's a resurgence of energy.”

This energy is evident in the story of Kristy Lewis, founder of Quinn Snacks.

Quinn Snacks founder Kristy Lewis showing off her snacks in a supermarket aisle.

Kristy Lewis

In 2010, Lewis built his business with $2 million in sales outside of Boston, but to reach the next level, he knew he needed to make a big move.

“I had a feeling that if we were going to be truly successful, we had to be in Boulder,” Lewis said.

After that move 10 years ago, Lewis saw his brand explode. Quinn Snacks' annual sales, he says, now exceed $30 million.

“I definitely don't think we would have been successful without the support of this group of people,” Lewis said, referring to the Boulder community. “We knew it was exactly where we needed to be.”

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the final purchase price of Justin's Nut Butter from Hormel Foods. It was 281 million dollars.

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