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La Jolla’s own Kashi promoting healthy vegetarian living

During its 22-year history, La Jolla-headquartered Kashi cereals has grown and evolved without compromising its mission: to help people live healthier lifestyles by providing great-tasting, all-natural, innovative foods.

“We are really focused on how to take health and wellness to as many people as we can so they can live their best lives,” said Greg Fleishman, spokesman for the pioneering health food brand founded in 1984 by Philip and Gayle Tauber.

The Taubers created a patented seven whole grains and sesame blend of breakfast cereal. All Kashi products are natural, minimally processed and free of highly refined sugars, artificial additives and preservatives.

The name Kashi is a synthesis of kashruth, or kosher, and Kushi, the last name of the founders of macrobiotics, a whole foods lifestyle.

Kashi has many meanings around the world. In Russian, the name means porridge. In Hebrew, it signifies simple or pure food. In Japanese, it implies energy food. In Chinese, it means happy food. To its originators, it translates into purity and healthy nutrition.

Whatever it means, the Taubers’ strategy is that all its products embrace a nutritional vegetarian diet.

“Kashi is the original vegetarian way to get a complete protein,” said Fleishman, adding that the Taubers were on the cutting edge of the fitness craze in the late 1970s and early 1980s with its emphasis on bodybuilding and healthy diet.

Fleishman said the old notion with bodybuilding was that you needed protein from animal sources like steak and eggs to build muscle. The Taubers championed the idea that physiques could be developed just as well, in a much healthier way, by substituting vegetarian sources of protein. Their challenge was to unlock the dietary secret to doing this in a way that was pleasing to the palate.

Kashi has since expanded well beyond cereal.

“We’ve figured out a way to make healthy foods taste good,” said Fleishman.

“We’ve taken the seven whole grains and sesame to many different levels, not only cereals but nutrition and granola bars, crackers and hot cereal.”

The Kashi line of natural foods includes: Golean cold and hot cereal, waffles, bars and shakes; the Heart to Heart line of cereal, oatmeal and waffles; Organic Promise cereals; Good Friends cereals; 7 Whole Grain Foods; the TLC line of all-natural granola bars and crackers; and Mighty Bites, nutritional snacks for kids.

In March 2006, Kashi added TLC Crunchy Granola Bars to its snacks line.

Fleishman said Kashi cereals are from $3.20 to $3.79 for a box providing eight to 12 servings.

Kashi cereal products move well at Whole Foods Market at 8825 Villa La Jolla Drive.

“It’s one of our top sellers,” said Whole Foods buyer Maria Barron, “if not the top seller. We order a few cases per week.”

Kashi has introduced a Day of Change, which will launch April 23. The seven-month, cross-country campaign is designed to help inspire people to make healthy dietary and exercise choices in their lives. The campaign, to be kicked off at Balboa Park’s annual Earth Fair, will visit 14 major cities nationwide during 125 events, employing interactive exhibits, natural food cooking demonstrations, a tasting tent and hands-on yoga training.

Fleishman said it’s one thing for the public to hear the message that proper diet and exercise lead to a healthier lifestyle, and another for them to embrace it.

“Baby Boomers are living longer,” he said, “and they want to live their best