AIF Blog

Game Changer: Lauren Walters, Two Degrees Food

Jun 17, 2011
CATEGORY: Economy, Health, World

This year at Aspen Ideas, we’re introducing a new format called “Game Changers.” It features inventors and innovators who are driving change in a variety of fields and will introduce audiences to new approaches in these thoughtful, 15-minute presentations that are not to be missed.

Meet Game Changer Lauren Walters, co-founder and CEO of Two Degrees. He’s also a past Festival attendee and was inspired to start Two Degrees in part by a presentation he saw a few years ago at Aspen Ideas!

Often dubbed “the TOMS Shoes of food” Two Degrees is a one-for-one food company that makes all-natural nutrition bars. For every nutrition bar you buy, Two Degrees donates a nutrition pack to a hungry child in a developing country. The company’s mission is “to help feed 200 million hungry children — one child at a time.”

Launched in January, Two Degrees is already sold by more than 100 retailers around the US, including Whole Foods Market in Northern California. (Whole Foods will carry them nationwide starting in August.) Two Degrees bars are also sold on many college campuses and in corporate commissaries. If you’re coming to the Aspen Ideas Festival this year, watch for these delicious snacks stocked around our campus.

To date, Two Degrees has already donated more than 10,000 RUF packets in Malawi and Kibera, Kenya. They are gearing up for their next disbursement trip and anticipate distributing between 40,000 and 75,000 nutrition packs.

We caught up with Walters on the phone to ask him a few questions about Two Degrees.

How did your experience as an attendee at the Aspen Ideas Festival a few years ago affect what you’re doing now with Two Degrees?

WALTERS “When I’d heard Blake [Mycoskie, CEO of TOMS] speak at Aspen Ideas, I thought the one-for-one model was a really interesting idea and I sort of tucked it away. Later, I connected the dots with food and treating severe and chronic malnutrition. [Hearing Blake’s story] was an important trigger to set this whole process in motion. If I hadn’t heard that at the Festival, maybe I would have come upon it. But it really stuck as an interesting idea.

For us, the idea was not to make a bar company, but to find a way to give away these nutrition packs. We didn’t want to be a charity. We wanted to engage people in their daily routine.”

So if you didn’t set out to start a bar company, then how did you settle on nutrition bars as your product?

WALTERS “We chose an everyday food — nutrition bars. People buy billions of bars. I ask the question, 'If I gave you a bar that tasted as good as whatever bar you’re eating, and you could help another person every time you buy one, would you switch?' 99.9 percent of people say, ‘Well of course I would.’ Given the choice, people  choose to help someone. It’s really concrete: You buy a bar and we donate a medically formulated nutrition pack to a malnourished child.”

So how did you put your idea into action?

WALTERS “We did this trip to Malawi, Kenya, and Ethopia, in February…The idea of connectedness [came to fruition]. We see our company as the connector for farmers in Africa, consumers here in the US, and the workers in Malawi who are making the nutrition packs. It’s about the company being the connection between people here and other people 8,000 miles away.”

To learn more about Two Degrees and see videos from their trip, visit their blog. To read more about Walters, visit his AIF speaker page.

We can’t wait to hear Walters speak about this subject in “Game Changers” on Wednesday, June 29. Stay tuned for video of the session….