Q&A with Co-Founder Dr. Elma HawkinsDr. Elma Hawkins has more than 35 years of experience in biotechnology drug development, corporate development, fundraising and general management, with a focus on oncology. She holds multiple degrees including a Ph.D in Organic Chemistry and has served in a number of senior positions in corporate development, strategic planning, preclinical and clinical research. Tohi Ventures is her latest endeavor in supporting her commitment to understanding the impact of diet and nutrition on one’s overall personal health and well-being.
Q: How did the idea of Tohi beverages come about?
A: Shari and I had been tossing around some ideas for a healthy drink as we saw a bona fide gap in the market. There were plenty of drinks promoting energy, drinks for hydration, and vitamin-enhanced waters, but none of the drinks had the profile we wanted: something natural, no additives, and truly good for you. When Shari came across the Aronia Berry and its associated nutritional benefits, we immediately knew that this was the missing link. We started our research and Tohi was born.
Q: Had you ever heard of an Aronia Berry prior to creating Tohi?
A: Sadly, no! But once I started reading the scientific literature on it, I was immediately intrigued.
Q: Why are Aronia Berries the superist of all super berries?
A: We all know how important it is to eat our fruits and vegetables. Berries are particularly important because they are rich in functional molecules called polyphenols. These molecules have antioxidant properties, which help to protect the cells in our bodies against the harmful effects of free radicals.
According to numerous international scientific studies in both humans and animals, as well as laboratory experiments, Aronia Berries have been reported to have the highest antioxidant levels of consumable berries and a wide variety of associated beneficial health properties. For example, studies in patients with heart conditions showed beneficial effects on blood pressure and other cardio-protective properties. Another study described a reduction in glucose levels in patients with diabetes. There are also various scientific studies showing an increase in age-related cognitive function and immune function (including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral effects).
Q: What do you think is driving consumer preferences for clean label, healthier for you, functional foods and beverages?
A: Modern medicine is allowing us to live longer and so people want to have as good a quality of life as possible and for as long as possible. Many people have realized that the best way to treat a disease is to prevent it and for many diseases, it starts with a healthy diet.
Q: What differentiates Tohi from other healthy beverages?
A: Tohi is the real deal. The antioxidants in Tohi are from the Aronia juice itself and have not been added from extraneous sources as one finds in many other drinks. Aronia is indeed inside! It’s also naturally sweetened with monk fruit which is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, so only a very small amount is needed. In short, it’s both delicious and good for you.
Q: How is Tohi the perfect blend of nature and science?
A: I started my career as a scientist trying to tease apart all the molecules in medicinal plants that were used in African folk medicine. It turns out that no single molecule was as beneficial as the plant itself. The same applies to Aronia Berries: nature has given us a perfect composition of antioxidants in a berry that has been linked to significant health benefits.
Q: What has been the most rewarding or surprising aspect of launching a line of healthy beverages?
A: I have really been surprised by how many people are committed to leading healthier lives. In a world where obesity and chronic diseases such as adult-onset diabetes are becoming the norm, it is so uplifting to see so many individuals taking control of their lives by engaging in healthier lifestyles.
Q: How would you like to see Tohi Ventures evolve over the next few years?
A: Obviously I would like to see the product be hugely successful and well received in the marketplace, but I think that there is so much more we can discover scientifically and medically about this great berry. I would like Tohi to conduct meaningful clinical research on Aronia Berries that more fully elucidates their health benefits. It would also be great if we can use Tohi as a platform to create greater awareness of health amongst consumers.
Q: If you could describe Tohi as a brand in 5 words or less what would they be?
A: Tasty, Optimal, Healthy and Innovative.
Q: What is your favorite Tohi flavor?
A: Dragon Fruit!