Our Story

Our Story

Jason Thomas, the founder of Pili Hunters, is on a mission to introduce the pili nut to the world. He stumbled upon this amazing nut while he was chasing waves in the Phillipines, and was so blown away by the rich, buttery flavor that he decided to start sharing it it with everyone he knew. Since Jason’s first days traveling the west coast selling pili nuts out of the back of his 1989 Toyota minitruck, his operation has refined a bit, but the spirit remains the same. In just two years, Jason’s old-fashioned, no-BS approach has brought the magic of the pili nut to thousands of people across North America and the world. We hope you’ll enjoy these unique nuts as much as we do and join us on our mission to spread their amazing taste and health benefits across the globe.

Everything Pili Hunters does is based on the same spirit of adventure that convinced Jason to bring a few delicious nuts home. Jason’s love for excitement began with his rambunctious upbringing in North America’s northernmost point of Barrow, Alaska, where he spent his time working on arctic construction projects and hunting in the tundra and open sea with Native Alaskans.

The rough-and-tumble experiences of his early years led him to pursue more and more adventure, driving him to travel around the globe, exploring some of its most beautiful landscapes and cultures. Over the course of his life, Jason was at various times a high-altitude mountain guide, archaeologist’s assistant, commercial fisherman, kitesurfing instructor, glaciology field hand, and would-be climbing bum.

Through his adventures he traveled everywhere from his home base on the tip of Alaska to the beaches of Hawaii; from the desolate mountains of Patagonia to the most vibrant cities in Europe; and from the deserts of Morocco to the jungles of Southeast Asia.

It was on one of his most recent treks,a kitesurfing mission to a little-known break in the Philippines, when he grabbed a handful of pili nuts and embarked upon his newest adventure: sharing his discovery with the world.

Raw pili fruit: how all sprouted pili nuts begin

After his first trip to the Philippines, Jason returned to the States with 15 pounds of deep-fried pili nuts and the smallest traces of a dream. Still in love with kitesurfing, he spent the next few months driving from beach to beach in his swiftly aging truck, surfing waves while shaking hands and passing out samples at natural foods stores up and down the west coast.

There were no complicated marketing techniques in the beginningJason’s first ever sale came when he hand-packed a dozen bags, walked straight into a natural foods market, and asked the manager whether he wanted to try selling wild pili nuts. After taking a few bites, the manager came to the same conclusion as Jason, and Hunter Gatherer Natural Foods (now Pili Hunters) had its first official customer.

The company kept growing with the same basic strategy: Jason would walk into a store with a few samples, the manager would fall in love with the nuts, and a new customer would be born.

After selling all of his original fifteen pounds within a few weeks of finding his first buyer, Jason realized he might be onto something. However, selling a deep-fried food didn’t feel quite right to Jason, and he didn’t think he could continue unless his product agreed with his own philosophy of healthy living.

Two years before his first trip to the Philippines, in between many other adventures, Jason was living in Los Angeles and became a highly committed Crossfit athlete. One day, while riding his bicycle to work, Jason crashed and separated his shoulder. After six weeks without exercise, Jason returned to the gym and started working out as hard as ever. Unfortunately, his muscles  weren’t in the same condition that they had been before the accident, and within a few weeks he had pushed himself so hard that he developed Rhabdomyolyses.

After a six day stint in the hospital, Jason returned home, but not as the same healthy, energetic athlete he was when he entered. For nearly a year afterward, he attempted every strategy he could think of to try to recover, but wasn’t able to return to his original feeling of health. He finally decided that it was time to abandon the diet of ramen noodles, canned foods, and processed goods that had sustained him through his years of climbing and traveling the world. Jason then adopted the Paleo diet and intermittent fasting as a healing method, and came to view healthy eating as an essential part of a happy lifestyle. As a result, he decided that it wasn’t fair to his customers to deep-fry the world’s perfect nut, and returned to the Philippines to develop his own recipe.

He forged a lasting relationship with locals in the Philippines and together they brought the concept of the sprouted pili nut into reality. The sprouted pili nut allowed Jason to combine his love for the pili nut’s buttery flavor with his lifelong passion for healthy living and nutrition. When he brought the sprouted pili nut back to the U.S., his existing customers were amazed by the health benefits that could come with the delicious flavor they already enjoyed, and people across America began buying them, taking advantage of their value as an essential addition to a healthy diet.

Since the first shipment of wild sprouted pili nuts traveled with Jason across the Pacific Ocean, we have been amazed and humbled by the diverse range of people who have been able to use pili nuts to improve their lives. Jason originally envisioned Hunter Gatherer Natural Foods, now Pili Hunters, to be a company that would cater to outdoor endurance athletes like himselfthe extremely high oil content of pili nuts allows them to be a great energy source for long distance events. However, in the last two years, pili nuts have gained huge popularity among people on the ketogenic diet for weight loss, medical, or general health reasons.

The surge in the pili nut’s popularity has allowed Jason to move his operation out of the back of his truck and into an office in Bend, Oregon filled with thousands of pili nuts, stacks of surfboards and mountaineering gear, and plenty of enthusiasm. Despite our new, slightly less chaotic form of existence, we strive to keep Jason’s spirit of adventure in mind through everything we do on a daily basis. We hope you enjoy the pili nut as much as we do, and help us on our adventure of sharing it with the world.


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