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While clean, packaged foods and sustainability-minded products are becoming more common today, they aren’t exactly lining every shelf of your go-to grocery store. We still have quite a ways to go before delicious flavors, recyclable or no-waste packaging and wholly clean ingredients come together and go mainstream. But that clean, eco-minded dream might not be so far off thanks to west~bourne.
Created by Camilla Marcus, west~bourne is an innovative brand that’s bringing together tasty pantry staples (including can’t-miss snack foods and incredible seasonings) and sustainability, taking both mainstream. Marcus, a chef, sustainability pro and advocate for independent restaurants, is changing everything from the way pantry products are packaged to their healthfulness.
I interviewed Marcus, a Los Angeles native who’s as dedicated to creating delicious food as she is doing good for the world at large. Not only are her pantry staples totally delicious, but they’re also mindfully designed with waste, the environment and transparency (and even at-home composting!) in mind.
How did you come up with the idea for west~bourne?
Camilla Marcus: west~bourne was inspired by my California upbringing, which was defined by fresh produce, global flavors and sustainable living. Growing up in LA, I frequented farmers markets, used food seed to stem, and experienced the role food plays throughout so many cultures and communities. All of this led to west~bourne, which began as the first mission-driven, zero-waste neighborhood restaurant in NYC – dedicated to piloting conscious capitalism in the food industry. Now, we’ve shifted to bringing our plant and planet positive pantry line into your home. Allowing you to eat well, do better and gather often.
What was the transition like to go from a zero-waste restaurant to packaged food products?
CM: A pantry line was always part of my plan for west~bourne, and we were actually in the initial stages for it when the restaurant closed in 2020. I wanted to bring guest favorites from the cafe into people’s homes and inspire them to create new dishes using our delicious, waste free products, all while caring for our planet and the generations to come.
Finding packaged foods that are both clean and eco-friendly is a challenge – how did you manage to achieve both?
CM: Transparency in our climate-imperative supply chain is paramount to our mission. Our team has spent countless hours sourcing ingredients and building a brand that is zero~waste in every aspect. We work with regenerative farmers, family-run small businesses and makers whose mission aligns with ours. Because of this we’re able to create products that are made up of clean (and sourceable) ingredients that provide the least impact on the environment, all while supporting local communities. Brands don’t love to talk about the exact town they source from or farmers they’re working with, but to us, the people behind these commodities are what drive our ability to trust their practices and know our impact.
For example, our Togarashi Crunch is made with smoked almonds grown with drip irrigation from a solar-powered well, eliminating the flood irrigation that’s known to make California-grown almonds unsustainable. With dramatically less water usage and regenerative farming techniques, including bee-cultivating plants and partnerships, this farm is low-impact on multiple fronts. Also, the popcorn for our Maple Pop & Sun Pop is produced by Preferred Popcorn, a farmer-owned, multi-generational business that is vertically integrated; growing, popping, and packaging popcorn all within their facilities. Their regenerative farming techniques prioritize soil quality, water use reduction, and bee-friendly farming to positively impact the environment and the communities in which they operate. Lastly, our House Porridge Grains are made with winter wheats and heritage grains cultivated by the organic and regenerative farming experts at Wild Hive Farms, all grown within a tight radius in the Northeast. And of course, all of this is chosen with a plant-based outlook that allows us to celebrate the supernatural power of plants.
Where did the idea of reducing waste and your strong focus on sustainability come from? Was that always at the forefront of your mind?
CM: Protecting the planet has always been a priority for me. I grew up cooking and eating in a way that minimized waste, valued ingredients and kept the health of our planet in mind. All of this led me to my ongoing mission: everything I learned while growing up, I wanted to bring to others. My first restaurant job was at Dell’anima in the West Village, where I worked diligently to create a composting system for the restaurant, and also initiated an energy-efficient lighting system. Once I opened west~bourne in SoHo, our neighbors saw we were composting and asked us to set up a local compost for our community which we felt lucky to be able to offer. It truly was a privilege to be such an instrumental part of our community’s sustainability efforts.
I notice there’s a lot of familiar LA inspiration in your story, your packaging and even the flavors of the products. What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration as you come up with new foods and products?
CM: That’s spot on. Everything the team and I produce is LA-inspired, from branding and packaging to ingredients and recipes. Every step of our process – seed to snack, ingredients to packaging, shipping and climate credit – is executed mindfully to minimize our footprint at every level. All of which is inspired by how I grew up. California is a distinct convergence of cultures and their unique flavors. It’s also where wellness is prioritized and a part of everyday life. Our products are a direct reflection of this, a true celebration of the multitude of flavors that make up my homeplace and its priority to eat well and do better. When ideating a new product, our goal is to surprise and delight with a twist of the unexpected. We want our products to bring you the comfort of home, the ease of transparency, all while being unique, versatile and exciting, at the same time.
Can you tell me a little more about west~bourne’s connection to The Garcia River Project? We love a product that gives back!
CM: The Garcia River Forest Project works to protect California’s Redwood Forest, a place close to my heart and crucial to providing a healthy, stable climate to the communities of California. Local Redwood trees are an ally to changing climate; they capture more CO2 from our cars, trucks, and power plants than any other tree on Earth. They are essential to fighting climate change. If and when these redwoods are cut down, degraded or fall victim to human actions, they release much of their CO2 back into the atmosphere. At west~bourne, we offset the carbon footprint of all orders by purchasing climate credits through The Garcia River Forest Project, a redwood forest preservation and management project in Northern California that protects carbon reservoirs, preserves wildlife habitats, reduces risk of wildfires, and safeguards the California watershed. Now, our customers also have the option to match our donation at checkout, making their orders carbon negative.
What are some of your favorite ways to use west~bourne’s products, both seasonings and snacks?
CM: Our entire west~bourne product line was created with versatility in mind, allowing our customers to create magic dishes and meals. For example, our Pistachio Dukkah offers endless possibilities, because it’s good on just about anything. I love adding it to salads and roasted vegetables for an added bit of spice and crunch, on yogurt, or combining it with avocado oil for the perfect dip to perfectly crusty bread. I love using our Chili Oil to add a hint of heat to easy weeknight meals for the whole family; I’ve recently been adding it to local honey for the best hot honey around. Our seasonings are the perfect blend of everyday spices, perfect for just about any recipe – morning, noon, and night. One of my favorite ways to use them right now is in vegetable tacos – the whole family loves them. As for snacks, I love the Maple Pop over ice cream and the House Granola, whether it’s with plant-based milk or soaked overnight in a repurposed west~bourne jar, for the perfect on-the-go breakfast.
What do you have planned for west~bourne next? Any big launches or cool new products our readers should keep an eye out for?
CM: We’re very excited for what’s to come. With the goal of being a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to reset their pantry, eat well and do better, and explore what it means to be more zero~waste, we’re constantly innovating to bring our customers everything they’d need to make everyday dishes and celebratory meals. With several launches on the horizon, you can expect a dynamic range of plant-based cooking and baking essentials that are responsibly sourced, mindfully made and thoughtfully packaged.
To learn more about west~bourne and give these delicious pantry staples and sustainable kitchen essentials a try, visit westbourne.com.