The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: True Nopal

Sustainability Series: True Nopal


November 26, 2014

True Nopal produces all natural cactus water sourced from the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mohave deserts. The company is passionate about conservation efforts and doing things that are good for the environment, including packaging their product with Tetra Pak cartons. We talked to CEO Tom Zummo about the importance of increasing awareness of responsible brands to help preserve the ecosystem.

How does your business define sustainability? 

We’re living in a world where even the most confident consumers can fall prey to green-washing. Every brand that’s doing something to help make the earth a more livable place wants to be recognized for that, and rightfully so. We’re no exception, but it’s most important for us to utilize resources in such a way that genuinely and meaningfully leaves a minimal footprint on the environment, or even helps contribute to its development.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

Our business is rooted quite literally in sustainability. The Nopal Cactus, or “prickly pear,” is a highly sustainable crop that requires very little water to grow. It simply grows wild in the desert where deforestation and irrigation is not necessary in order to cultivate or produce our crop.   

We package True Nopal Cactus Water in Tetra Paks, which are made from recycled and sustainably harvested wood fibers and aluminum. The Tetra Pak also allows us to transport and store in ambient conditions, as opposed to refrigerated trucks. Refrigeration produces a good deal of fluorocarbons and can contribute to ozone depletion and global warming, which we’re able to avoid with the way our operation is designed. Tetra Paks also help preserve the integrity of the product naturally.

What are your short term and long term goals?

Currently True Nopal Cactus Water is available in natural and grocery stores across North America. In the long term, while we’re pleased with the way we’ve been rapidly expanding, we’d like to be a global brand… not only to provide a hydrating and delicious product to an international audience, but to educate as many people as possible on the product’s incredible benefits.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

The early adopters are always the heroes of cutting edge products that deliver on their promise. That, mixed with the luxury of our creating a new category, cactus water, gives us prime potential to stand out with the health- and fitness-oriented set.

How do you measure your progress?

Like any company, we keep records, books and spreadsheets, but the most telling aspect of how we’re doing comes from the incredible feedback we get from our customers. Touching and uplifting testimonials about the way our product helps invigorate people and makes them feel good come flooding in, and there’s no measure of the success we feel each time it happens.   

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

We have the privilege of working with retailers that attract a savvy consumer, and all parties involved are vocal about their interest in sustainable products and practices. Stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods and Fresh Markets do an amazing job of keeping their customers informed, which keeps brands on their toes and sets the bar higher and higher. We appreciate this requirement from the consumer and the fact that the retailers really listen to them.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

The food industry has a sizeable responsibility in the sustainability sphere. The mass production of coconut water, for example, which has become increasingly popular over the past few years, has led to environmental issues including deforestation in more planting, and subsequent loss of plant life and wildlife. It’s a food manufacturer’s duty to evolve along with their product’s demand and ensure environmental accountability as the category continues to grow.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

This is an age wherein consumers have realized that one voice, one choice, one smart decision can make an impact on the world and the environment. Gone are the days of widespread apathy and perceived inability to contribute to ecological improvement, and being able to use their dollars like votes when purchasing brands they believe in at their local market is a very empowering notion.