PAIA, HAWAII — Buckwheat flour, spirulina and mushrooms are among the ingredients in plant-based, grain-free, organic pancake and waffle mixes developed by functional food startup Living Prana. Co-founders Brian Murphy and Ryan Seaman debuted the brand earlier this year, motivated to “reboot traditionally unhealthy foods” by incorporating beneficial botanicals and herbs linked to stress reduction, immunity support and brain health.
The pair met at a meditation retreat in Hawaii last year and bonded over the transformational role nutrition has played in overcoming personal health challenges. Mr. Murphy, a former investment banker and strategic growth leader, credits dietary changes including his adoption of functional foods for significant weight loss, and Mr. Seaman, a television actor turned holistic health practitioner, relied on combinations of adaptogens, medicinal mushrooms and nootropics to heal from mold intoxication.
“The opportunity to bring together the superfoods and clean ingredients that have made such a difference in our lives is a yes-brainer for us,” said Mr. Murphy, chief executive officer of Living Prana.
The just-add-water mixes are available to purchase online at livingprana.co and in a handful of natural grocery stores in Hawaii. The PranaCakes mix, formulated to boost vitality, reduce stress and balance immunity, features such ingredients as sacha inchi, spirulina, maca, cordyceps and ashwagandha. The BrainCakes mix, developed to boost cognition, reduce stress and enhance focus, contains cordyceps, lion’s mane, gotu kola, bacopa monnieri, Siberian ginseng and rhodiola.
“Buckwheat is the anchor; it’s the nutritional rockstar,” Mr. Murphy said of the formulations. “It’s grain-free, high in fiber and really high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. It’s a really great value-added flour as opposed to some of the other healthier-for-you flours like cassava or almond. Buckwheat packs so much bigger of a punch than what we’ve seen out there.”
Coconut sugar, cinnamon and cacao add sweetness, flavor and functional benefits.
“On the taste and recipe side, it was really important to us to have meaningful doses of these mushrooms and superfoods and adaptogens, and so many of them have sharp tastes about them,” Mr. Murphy said, noting the prepared pancakes have a green or brown hue and a “cookie-doughy, spongey texture rather than airy, light and fluffy.”
“I eat these plain or mix fresh fruit in the batter — no syrup or toppings,” he said. “Not only does the flavor stand alone, but they deliver the complete nutrition I need to thrive throughout my day.”
The founders are collaborating with experts in functional medicine and Ayurveda to develop additional blends to add to pancake mixes as well as other product applications. Jill de Jong, a celebrity trainer, cookbook author and influencer, recently joined the company as director of social media and partnerships.
“The exciting thing is we are really early in this functional food movement, and so being on that cutting edge gives us the flexibility and opportunity to establish the conversation in a way that puts us in a place to be thought leaders and leaders within this category of the food business,” Mr. Murphy said.
The startup sponsors health and fitness events and partners with gyms, yoga studios and well-being clinics to build brand awareness among core consumers. Additionally, the brand’s pancakes are served on movie production sets and eventually may roll out to restaurants, cafes and resorts, Mr. Murphy said.
Sustainability is central to Living Prana’s mission. The company is a member of the 1% for the Planet program and uses packaging made from post-consumer recycled material.
“For our same size packaging, there may be brands that put 8 or 10 oz of product, and we’re putting 12 oz,” Mr. Murphy said. “Our goal was to minimize excess air and emptiness within the package to be more efficient with the resources we’re using.”
The founders also aspire to expand access to nutritious ingredients for consumers in underserved communities with a focus on school meal programs, Mr. Murphy said.
“We are currently seeking strategic partnership with like-minded brands built upon similar core pillars of food as medicine, body as temple and earth as essential,” he added. “This includes co-branding and other unique alliances to elevate functional foods, as well as the benefits of mushrooms and adaptogens.”