Meet the Founding Mother of the Wellness Movement

WHY YOU WANT TO WATCH (OR LISTEN!):

Check the Apple Cider Vinegar label in your pantry and you will find an illustration of Patricia Bragg, positively beaming and wearing a large white cowboy hat with a circle of pink flowers. Patricia grew Bragg Live Foods into an iconic global brand —  turning health food store specialty products into grocery store staples. Patricia is now 91 (“I am ageless,” she likes to say) and sharing her wisdom @patriciabragg on Instagram.

Her business partner for the last 20 years and Co-CEO, Lesley Tippitt, joins us to recount the saga of an enduring brand that has remained true to its mission for more than 100 years.

 

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Nancy:
This episode began with this bottle, apple cider vinegar that we have in our pantry and the picture up here of Patricia Bragg, Paul C Bragg and Patricia Bragg is why we're here today, who is a force of nature as we'll soon find out. And it's not just this bottle, this bottle is just the beginning of the story and really what the whole product is about. It's about so much more. Okay. So we're welcoming Leslie Tippett and Leslie has been Patricia's pal, co-CEO, co -everything for what'd you say over 20 years,
Lesley:
21 years. This year.
Nancy:
21 years. Wow. Okay. So how did you get into the Bragg universe? How did you, you met Patricia? What happened?
Lesley:
Well, it's kind of a funny story. I, uh, I moved to Santa Barbara with my now husband, who was my fiance back then. And I had my own business in advertising as an agent and a producer for 20 years before that. But when I got to Santa Barbara, I thought I might change gears for a little while and just start a new life. So I was looking at back then, when you went to a coffee shop and looked in the newspaper to see if there's any kind of positions available, we found an ad that just said, part-time help wanted. No description, nothing about the job. So I thought I'd come and see what it was about. So I came to interview with Patricia. She was 70 sitting in the backyard of her home in a bathing suit, looking spectacular with that lick of makeup on just sitting there with a phone on the phone call.
Lesley:
So I waited for a while and she was still on the phone and on the phone and finally I started to get antsy because I had run my own business for years. And I was looking for a way to escape the yard and maybe forget about that interview. And all of a sudden this beautiful black cat strolled across the yard and jumped up my knee and I love cats. So I immediately instinctively started to pet it. And she, she just caught me out of the corner of her eye and turned around and said, Bigfoot likes you. And I said, Oh, I love cats. And she said, good, can you start tomorrow? Be here at nine. That was the interview.
Nancy:
She never talked to you. She didn't ask a question.
Lesley:
She didn't even know who I was, what I was about, but I liked the cat. So that was good enough. So we started there and then as I started working with her, she found out that I worked in advertising and marketing and she got really excited about that. So I started helping her to bring back old products to expand the product line, um, get her into trade shows again. I created a small marketing division within the company and we went from there.
Nancy:
Fabulous. Well, let's go back to the beginning because Patricia took over the company from her dad who started the company in what is it, 1912. When did he begin?
Lesley:
So it was founded in 1912. Yes. And he passed away in 1976. So she started to run the company in 1976 on her own, but she had been running it with Paul for many, many years since, you know, probably in her early twenties. So they had a history of building the company together and then she was really shaken up when Paul passed away and didn't quite know what to do with it. So she'd sort of let it sit in limbo and reduced all the products down to just vinegar, aminos, and she was now carrying olive oil as well when I met her.
Nancy:
Because we need to add here that at one time famously, there were 365 products a product for every day of the year. And that Paul Bragg is credited with inventing the health food store. Is that correct?
Lesley:
He did start the first health food store. I don't know if it would be an invented situation, but there first I brought some of the historical. We did a book for their a hundred year anniversary of the history of Bragg, which is fascinating. It's just photographs of everyone who was anyone in Hollywood that followed Paul's teachings and later Patricia's teachings, but they, um, they started their first health food store out of, uh, he was a naturopath. So he had a naturopathic business, client-based and he carried some of the products in there and it got, so the business was growing so quickly that he moved the products out of his practice and into the next door that was empty. There was a store next door and they called it a health food store because they didn't know what else to call it. So it was the Bragg health food store. And people started coming there to buy the products. And from that point, every time they went on a lecture in any city, they, he would stand up at the end of the lecture and say, who wants to be the first health food store in Chicago or wherever it was. And people would put their hands up and then he'd go and visit their stores and see if they were appropriate. And if they were, he would stock them with products. Yes, because that was the first health food products out there at the time. And that's why,
Nancy:
Which included vitamins, verbal keys he was doing back then.
Lesley:
This, this, these are product boxes that Patricia fortunately saved. So they had the first tees. They had, um, comfrey leaf powder. I mean, they did things that nobody even knew what they were back then. They introduced kelp as a salt substitute before anyone at seaweed. Are you kidding eating seaweed? This is the original sprinkle, which is still one of their best selling spices today. And Mrs Dash actually fashioned hers after that. And then they had vitamins like galore. They had so many vitamins and they just kept adding to it as the needs arose until they had a monster line of products.
Nancy:
And when Patricia took over the company, she then winnowed that down. Is that correct? Took the products and said, well, that's a lot of products to keep going. Maybe we should edit.
Lesley:
You know, they had started sizing down long before that cause Paul was getting elderly and they had also been responsible for starting so many other health companies up. His goal was never to be the only health food company. He wanted other companies to start. And that's how he would go into another town and say who wants to be the first health food store. He was, um, in contact with people that later became massive health food companies like GNC. He wanted other companies to produce products and as more and more products came on the market, he scaled down what they were doing because really what they wanted to do was lecture and teach people how to be healthy. The products from a byproduct. You can't teach someone how to take a vitamin if you can't give them a vitamin. You can't get them to eat health foods if they don't know what it is because they can't find it. It's not made yet. So they really kind of began the movement with creating and introducing products that people enjoy taking and love the taste of… all the foods. And then they went from there and expanded out. So it was a quite a long process.
Nancy:
And talk about the, when you talk about the teaching, that education was so much a part of it that I began by, uh, very much like an episode we had earlier on the concept where we talked about Mme. Walker, whose product was to grow your hair. So that was her product, but that really wasn't what she was about. Either. She went out and rented spaces, went to churches all over the country and evangelize that this was just one element in creating self-confidence and self power. So it was the product wasn't really it. And that seems to be the story winding through the Bragg company.
Lesley:
Yes. Yep. It was never about the products. That’s what's interesting. Paul is a brilliant marketer and so was Patricia, but in the essence of what they were doing, they weren't marketing products for sale. They were trying to get people to understand that… that's when pesticides were first coming in and everybody was spraying their crops and fluoridating water and doing things that they had never been exposed to before. And their mission was to teach people the difference and why you should eat organic food. And he didn't really preach vegetarianism as a way of life. He always said in his books that many people have different ways of eating, different cultures of eating. And as long as you're doing it in a healthy way, it's okay. If you have meat, make sure it's range fed meat, and it hasn't been fed antibiotics. And, you know, it was just really a culture of understanding that what you put in your body walks and talks tomorrow, it's what you feed it is what you become. And that was really their philosophy.
Nancy:
Could you talk about the core product that really put them on the map and keeps them on the map? This apple cider vinegar, which as Paul and Patricia both say in their — what are there 10 books in the Bragg health library? — they often say, well, this has been around a long time. They said Hippocrates was using it 2000 years ago. How did they make it? So us normal folks started thinking it had to be part of our daily diet.
Lesley:
You know, Paul and Patricia were so invested in the benefits of vinegar, being something that anyone could take. And it does everything from lower cholesterol to, you know, it can reverse type two diabetes. They've been doing studies on it more and more. Now it was a, an antiviral antibacterial. It helped with weight normalization. It just had so many attributes to it and anybody can take it. So they started to talk about, this is a way that people who don't have any money to go out and buy vitamins and supplements can still stay healthy. And that was proven through centuries of use of it by many, many cultures that used vinegar as a cure-all for everything. So that's how they positioned it. And time has told the truth that it really is a cure-all. If you take it faithfully, it will help with so many things. Of course, you're not allowed to say which things except for a few, but it really is pretty miraculous.
Nancy:
Yes and if you go onto the Bragg website or look at the books. There's enough testimonials, which is a big part of your business. So smart from marketing, there's testimonials from famous people, but also just day-to-day people saying, it fixed this. It helped, you know, my metabolism. So they're bringing the proof to the pudding. When we talk, use the word health crusades, which is what the Braggs always said, that they were health crusaders. I wanted to read a quote that's in one of the books and it's leading into Patricia's angel gift of a pocket angel, which I want you to talk about. And I think is so dear, but this will give, um, a sense of what she really means in her mission. When you begin to believe, you can be what your inner vision tells you that you can become. That's when you're inspired, when you no longer see your weaknesses, but your strengths, then you discover the power and ability to do things you never dreamed of doing before. That is a lot bigger in this bottle.
Lesley:
Yes. I mean, and she
Nancy:
Talk about Patricia's angel gift. That's the way it's described in this book. And then it says, carry this pocket angel with you, which is really this thought and carry it with you every day. And miraculous things will happen.
Lesley:
And I think metaphorically, she means that inner spirit, like I actually have a pocket angel that I have in my purse and I never go anywhere without it. And I think if you believe enough that you have that strength and power with you, you manifest it. And that was her whole teaching. Since she took over the company has been to reach into people and bring out what's good. Not just about health, but believe in yourself, go out and whatever your vision is, go out and make it happen. You know, take, take that with you.
Nancy:
Yeah. A real spirituality, like need to tell everybody what the reason I'm wearing this wild pink shirt is because Patricia really, again — smart marketer — she loved pink. She made it her signature color. She always wears it. I mean, every picture you see her. And she also is always wearing, which I would have worn, except my, my earphones prevent it — a hat. She wears big cowboy hats, usually pink with flowers all over them. And so it's her signature look. So I tried to find out where did the hat come from? And she's very, she's petite. She’s under five feet. Um, and this is a description from an article from 2008. And it says, Patricia Bragg blows into a room, more like a tent revival preacher spreading the gospel of good health than the chief executive of a multimillion dollar wellness company, famous for its celebrity clientele and worldwide health crusades. Within minutes of arriving in the conference room, she announces that her favorite color is pink and that she always wears a hat because actor Jack Lord, you know, she says, from Hawaii, Five-O — the famous TV show — once told her, “Patricia, you may be only five feet tall, but if you wear a hat, you'll be six feet tall.”
Lesley:
And that indeed is her philosophy. It makes her feel tall. She always tells a cute story that her dad used to say, the longer you know Patricia, the taller she gets. I love that one.
Nancy:
Terrific. And now can you tell me about her relationship with a Katy Perry? I saw a video online and it was Patricia's 90th birthday, perhaps. And Katy Perry is there with Patricia, the two of them having a great time together. And could you talk about that relationship? How it started and where it's led…
Lesley:
Katie's parents, Mary and Keith Hudson were pastors and Patricia ended up probably 35 or more years ago, meeting them and starting to go to their church. So she became friends with Katie's mom and dad still is friends with Katie's mom and dad. And when Katie was just a little girl, um, they didn't have much of a relationship as far as a child in it and say a grandparent age relationship, but she was around Katie's parents so much that she took a liking to her and started to want to support her singing career. So when Katie was about 13 or 14, Patricia bought her her first guitar and said that she wanted her to bring music to the world and she was just starting to sing then. And she also bought her a pink pillow that said rockstar, which Katie still has today. It was prophetic. It was pink. It was, but that was prophetic as far as the relationship beginning between Katie and Patricia on a separate level than just the parents. So that day that you saw that the video was the 90th birthday, which is pretty momentous. And it was also the year that Katie and Orlando bought into the company as investors so that they
Nancy:
Let's identify Orlando… actor, Orlando Bloom, and there, they still engage. They're married, they're married now. And they have a baby,
Lesley:
The new baby, but they had planned to get married in Japan. Um, when the cherry blossoms were out, you know, the Japan is famous for the cherry blossom period of time and they want it to be there and get married in that and COVID hit and it was supposed to be a spring wedding this year and it just didn't happen. So they are mom and dad. Now they're still planning to get married. It may not be in Japan depending on how long COVID goes, but they're very, very happy. They're wonderful people. They're so supportive of so many causes and charities. And Katie is a great spokesperson for Bragg. And Orlando's when using vinegar for the last 22 years.
Nancy:
So he was doing it before he met Katie. Yeah. That's interesting.
Lesley:
Yeah. He's a huge health food. No, I wouldn't say nut, but he takes care of himself implicitly. So he does,
Nancy:
But that's why he's so cute. So to segue back to that, what happened is that Katie and Orlando, along with an investment group recently, um, bought Bragg so that it can continue and grow in the 21st century, which is remarkable. We must underline this to have a brand that began in 1912 and still is holding iconic status.
Lesley:
Yes. There's not that a hundred years later. Yeah. There's not that many of those beautiful old companies left, like Bob's Red Mill, you know, Bragg. They started way back and they're still as strong if not stronger than their original beginnings, which is pretty amazing. And I think Katie and Orlando and the investment group that bought it will do a fantastic job. They're adding new products there. They're enthused about what break started and they, they want to continue with that growth and, and spreading the word
Nancy:
And part of that heritage, which I just need to remark upon and hope you'll expand upon the books. The books have a look and feel that hearkens back to like Ben Franklin's poor Richard's Almanac. It's got quotes from great thinkers, from the Bible, aphorisms from Paul and Patricia, um, pictures, little illustrations, different type faces. It's a very American way of messaging information. They're like, they're like the good old fashioned pamphlets, which began in this country to spread the word about whether it was spreading the word about, um, creating this country and democracy and later spreading the word about, you know, um, miracle cures. It's so rooted in that tradition.
Lesley:
Yes. I would liken it to the old age social media. That's how they spread their word. They wrote a book. And if you read the book, you got the information. There was no internet. There wasn't any other way to do it except lectures and physical written word. I was actually going to show you this. They used to put out a publication called Health Builder and it was, they did this faithfully. They had a following that followed this mail-out and they, their, their whole thing always was getting information out, which now we do on the internet, but their marketing techniques were brilliant because nothing went untouched. Everything was out there either in the book or in the pamphlet or out there, they had a TV show called Health and Happiness.
Nancy:
And their packaging. I mean, there are books being sold on this. I mean, I can send in right now and get a book. I mean, which is again, Ben Franklin, by the way, did per Richard's Almanac to advertise his printing business. I mean, he, he didn't do anything without marketing. So again, it's very, very Bragg-esque. Um, and one thing that I love that, that Patricia says in which you mentioned earlier, is that what you eat and drink today walks and talks tomorrow. I mean, ever since I've read that I've been mindful, which is the point of course, of what I'm putting into my mouth.
Lesley:
Yes. Well, it makes sense. I mean, if you look at the obesity rate in America right now, it's astronomical. It's more than 45% of people are considered obese, not just overweight, but obese. And that's directly related to the fast food industry. What they eat. People are so busy, not everyone has time to run home at night and make a healthy dinner. So you put something in the microwave or you order out or you get a pizza or you go to a drive through and eat a burger. That's the way people have become conditioned to eat due to lifestyle stress. And it's also addictive that kind of food, especially high carbohydrates, sugar, salt food… is addictive. Not, not just like it tastes goo, I want it. It becomes an addiction and then healthy food doesn't taste good. So, you know, the struggle that people have is most people just do not have time to make a fresh meal from scratch every day.
Lesley:
And so processed food has become the mode of eating and processed food is full of GMOs and oils that are not good for you… with trans fats, canola oils, all kinds of things that, and soybean oil is one of the worst things because 95%, if not more soybean oil and soy product is GMO. So people are just struggling with this. They don't understand why they can't lose weight. They don't understand why they don't feel good or they're not healthy. There's more and more young people dying of heart attacks. And it's directly related to food. And people are finally starting to get the old, the old adage, let food be thy medicine. I mean, food really is. That's why you go back and look at an old movie or the Lawrence Welk show. You know, all the people that were dancing and singing.. there wasn't an overweight person among them. They were all pencil thin and I'm sure they didn't diet. It, it was just the way they ate food was simple. You ate what came from the garden, the ocean, or whatever meats were available. There wasn't antibiotics and additives and pesticides and all of that going into food. So you didn't have to think much about what you ate. It's not that way anymore. Unfortunately.
Nancy:
And that's really where, when you read any of the Bragg books and here's Paul Bragg back at the beginning of the 20th century, he was just really furious about how we were abusing our bodies. Um, with this horrible new process food and said, your body is your temple. Your health is your wealth. And he was on a, as we said, a real mission to stop that too. I mean, he way back then, he was on to what would happen if we got addicted as we did. Um, can you tell us a little bit about Patricia and what characteristics of hers that — our audience is full of women who are starting companies and want to move mountains. What Patricia has that has allowed her to carry on this movement and this message and to never tire of it. I mean, she was out there every day as well, you know, better than anyone
Lesley:
Every day. She, she always says, I live it, breathe it and do it. And that's, that really is her. I used to travel a lot with Patricia when we were going down to the natural product expo every year. So we shared a room and honestly there were nights where I would wake up at two in the morning and I see a little light on, on her side of the room and I'd hear like fizzling shuffling papers and I'd sit up and look at her. And at two in the morning, she would be putting together stuffers to give out of the show the next day. She just never stopped. We called her the hummingbird because she was just nonstop. And she loved her business. She did, she, it was seven days a week. It was never a job for her. And it was hard for her to retire out of it.
Lesley:
But when she became 88, 89 and started thinking about she'd wanted to be back out there instead of handling the food business, being back out there with people, which is really what her love is to be with people and share her message. And we said, well, you better do it now because people need this message more than ever. Now they're confused. There's keto diets, Mediterranean diets, Atkins diet, paleo diets. Everybody's trying to get healthy, but the glut of information out there is so overwhelming that people are now — even millennials — are now coming back to the simplicity of what the Bragg teachings were. It's not complex, get some exercise, make sure you're mindful of what you put in your body, do it organic at all possible times and make sure you don't eat processed junk and fill yourself with sugar and salt. That was really the basics of the whole empire of Bragg was that simple.
Lesley:
And people are just starting to get back to that now. And what's really interesting is with redoing the book company now and re establishing that… Paul's books… way back when these books, some of them are from the sixties. Some are from the fifties and then Patricia and Paul started later working on them together. Um, this one is going to be a particularly mindful and really relevant one right now. But the Nerve Force book is about how you, how your mind, body connection reacts to stress and what stress can do to your physical health, as well as your mental health, these books, if you go through them now, even though they're 50, 60 years old — are still exactly what the current teachings are like, people are just getting it. We'll have a new book out that'll say, cruciferous vegetables can help stop cancer. Paul has that in a book in the 1960s
Nancy :
And are you reprinting them or updating them? What are you doing?
Lesley:
Yes we’re updating the information. And because Bragg live foods and Bragg books are now separate entities. And Patricia was a brilliant marketer. Every book is full of sheets in the back you can order products from, and you know, information about the products, which was the way they, they connected like Siamese twins. Products sold books, books sell products. It connected people to a healthy pattern of, of living, but we need to separate that out now. Let Patricia be her own platform because she's no longer involved in the product part. So we're redoing the books with some fresh information, with a nice freshly re-done covers and keeping the contents basically exactly the same because those teachings haven't changed.
Nancy:
And what about your foundation? You're starting a foundation. Anything to tell us about that?
Lesley:
We have already started the foundation that kicked in this year. Um, Patricia put a large portion of Bragg sales into a foundation, which we intend to keep going with people's health, the mission of health, you know, how do we help the earth, the environment, animals, people, you know, how do we support… the situation with COVID-19 has so many causes now that used to just people would donate money to, and they would exist like our local unity shop here that feeds families that are out of work or families that are having a hard time. They almost went under last year because of lack of donations because the economy is upside down. So our mission going forward is to keep the word alive that the Braggs always taught live simple, live healthy, but also to help the things that were closest to Patricia and Paul, you know, keep the environment clean. Don't litter the oceans with plastic bottles. Don't, you know, don't waste the resources that we have take care of earth and take care of yourself, people, and animals. So it's going to be a really, really fun and heartfelt outreach. And we're looking forward to starting that in the first quarter, we'll be doing our first grants.
Nancy:
Congratulations, and I'm gonna keep wearing this tank for a while now to get my spirit going and, and keep me focused on kinds of things. I printed out a whole list of like 10 things I can do from one of the books at which also included get enough sleep and sunshine, get, go out and get some sunshine, which is free. It's free, free and basic. Well, thank you, Leslie so much for joining us today and congratulations to you and Patricia for keeping the flame alive and now on your new ventures
Lesley:
And even more important to keep it alive when people, so many people have lost hope, you know, where do you start again after an economic collapse like we've had, and that's, that's where we're going with the foundation. We're trying to give that hope back.
Nancy:
Yes. Thank you.
Lesley: You’re welcome.

ABOUT OUR GUESTS:

Patricia Bragg and Lesley Tippitt
Website: https://patriciabraggbooks.com/
Instagram: @patriciabragg

 

Patricia Bragg is a world-renowned health authority, spreading the word of health through lectures, radio shows and magazine interviews throughout her career.  Patricia and her father, Paul C. Bragg, co-authored The Bragg Health Library to promote a healthier lifestyle, for a long, vital, happy life. Patricia herself is the symbol of health, perpetual youth and radiant, feminine energy. At 91 years young, she is a living and sparkling example of her and her father’s healthy lifestyle.

Patricia’s message is of world-wide appeal to people of all ages, nationalities and walks-of-life. Many famous Hollywood people credit their youthfulness and good health to following the lifestyle taught by Paul and Patricia Bragg.

Confab guest Lesley Tippitt was Patricia’s business partner for over 20 years and is now the Director of the Patricia and Paul Bragg Foundation and also runs Patricia Bragg Books, where she is updating the legendary library of Bragg health books for a new generation of millennial readers.

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