Careers rarely go according to plan. In Job Hacks, we shake down experts for the insights they cultivated on their way to the top of their field. This week we spoke to Chris Running, CEO of Caveman Foods.
**Name: Chris Running
Original Hometown: Castro Valley, California
Job: Running is the CEO of Caveman Foods, a paleo-inspired nutrition company.
Where did the idea for Caveman Foods come from?
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started a number of companies and I really enjoy doing it. The most important reason, though, was I went on the paleo diet and the experience I had personally was so profound that it just inspired me to learn more about it and then build a company around a line of healthy snacking based on the principles of the paleo diet.
Had you been interested in nutrition beforehand?
I’ve been interested in nutrition and fitness for most of my life. I’ve been a competitive swimmer since sixth grade. And I’ve just always been involved with taking good care of myself and working out and eating well. I’ve always had an immense amount of interest in not only how we should be eating and what I should be eating particularly and what my family should be eating, but also just supplementation. I was involved with Muscle Milk and I got a good dose of the supplementation and sport nutrition business working with that company. So, it’s always been an interest of mine and Caveman Foods just allows me to take it to another level with a broad-based super healthy snacking concept for a broader audience.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your job, day-to-day?
I think the most challenging part of my job day-to-day is just remaining aware of what’s going on in the marketplace and how do we fit in the ever-changing landscape of the food business. Because it is so unbelievably dynamic today versus ten years ago. It changes fast, trends come and go, categories emerge out of nowhere, competition is moving faster than it’s ever moved. So, the most challenging and probably most important part of my job is, how do we stay relevant every single day?
What makes the paleo diet stand out from other trend diets?
When I think about the paleo diet, I don’t really think about it in terms of a diet as much as I do a lifestyle. And what really resonated with me, aside from the fact that it just works so unbelievably well — I lost over 30 pounds in 90 days when I wasn’t really looking to lose weight. So it just completely transformed my physique at age 56, which I thought was pretty remarkable. When you look at the concept, it’s how we were meant to eat, which is our tagline. And we’ve been around for 50 to 100,000 years. For most of that period of time, until really the last 50 years, we’ve generally eaten the same way until we became a highly agriculturally-driven society, until we started consuming lots of processed grains and carbohydrate-heavy diets and much of that ties back to the food pyramid in the late-60’s, early 70’s. And if you track the rise of obesity and type II diabetes and what we call the “diseases of civilization,” a lot of that correlates to the way we started eating in our not-too-recent past. And so I think the paleo philosophy is really bullet-proof, because you can’t argue with evolution and you can’t argue that we ate a certain way for a long, long period of time.
What have you learned in your career?
Much of my success has come from working hard to reach out to people regularly and really cultivate meaningful relationships and surrounding myself with smart, people who are better at what they do than I am at what they do. And I think being willing to learn every single day, not letting your ego get in the way of learning how to be better at what you do and being a good listener and being humble and deflecting credit.
And what are you most anticipating in the immediate future? Is there anything you’re excited about?
What I’m really excited about more is the process of building Caveman Foods into an iconic brand and a sustainable company. That’s what I look forward to — what can we do every single day to further the mission to continue to develop a really cool brand and great products that are relevant to consumers every single day. That is what really drives me.