Israeli businessman, Oded Brenner, “The Bald Man,” has been creating chocolate confectionary wonders for the past two decades. His first venture was Max Brenner, the world famous chocolate bar, which now has over 100 locations worldwide. There he got to play a modern day Willy Wonka creating chocolate pizzas, creamy fondues, and thick milkshakes.
After selling that business, he began focusing on cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made. The cacao fruit is a true superfood, loaded with nutrients like Theobromine, Antioxidants, Electrolytes and Vitamin B Complex. Most people don’t realize how healthy and delicious it is or that it’s under used. In the chocolate making process, 70% of the cacao fruit is typically discarded. The beans are kept, but the rest, with elements known to aid in digestion, increase serotonin, and promote heart health, is not. With the culinary world heading in a direction of sustainability and health, Oded launched Blue Stripes Cacao with the goal of harnessing the whole cacao; shell, fruit, and beans.
Then Came Covid…
He set his sights on opening stores all over the country, but the pandemic forced those plans to change. “Suddenly all of our partners and franchises rightly decided that they couldn’t open so we had to recalculate our route.” For a gregarious people person like Brenner, the news was bittersweet.
“As I look outside my window at the New York City streets, they are empty. Coffee shops are at the heart of our culture. I love watching people come in to a hustling bustling cafe filled with the smell of fresh pastries at 7:30 in the morning. Just saying hello, sitting down and catching up with a cup of coffee or cacao. I am an optimist and I hope that someday the world will go back to the way it was, but it is concerning.”
With brick and mortar out of the picture, Brenner took his business online. “I’m old school retail, but I took this as an opportunity to learn and I’m still learning a lot.”
We spoke with Oded about cacao, his ability to adapt, and his plans for the future.
Q&A With “The Bald Man” Oded Brenner
What are you able to make from the whole cacao?
“From the usually discarded fruit we make granola bowls, smoothies, snack bars, water and juices. We even grind the shell to make gluten free flour for pastries, bread, pancakes and cookies. We have chocolate, but there is also so much more.”
Are your products only available online?
“Our cacao water, which is our leading product, will soon be available in Whole Foods and we hope to expand our wholesale options from there. We also plan to open our stores when things improve.”
What advice do you have for business owners who may be struggling right now?
“Think outside of the box, be strong and remember that every complicated situation is also a gateway for a new opportunity. The people who are successful are the ones who don’t stop. When you feel defeated, go eat some good food, take a shower, watch a movie and find your positive energy so you can keep going.”
Do you have a favorite dessert?
There’s so much out there. Lava cake, chocolate mousse, but for me, nothing beats a really high quality chocolate bar. Everyone has their favorite kind so you can’t go wrong.
Founder & CEO of Blue Stripes Urban Cacao, a revolutionary product line of wholesome and innovative cacao fruit offerings for purchase online and at select retailers. Original founder of international chocolate company Max Brenner.