I was recently asked some insightful questions by New Hope Natural Media, a resource and information provider for the natural, organic and healthy-lifestyle products industry, and am sharing my answers here as the questions provoked me to think deeply about my own motivations for fixing our broken food system.
How did you get involved in the Good Food Movement?
I got into the Natural Foods industry in 1997 when I joined Balance Bar as the VP of marketing. The company was the fastest growing food company of its time. We thought a lot about GMOs, less refined ingredients, better packaging and many issues that were ahead of our time, because we were passionate, driven entrepreneurs striving for something better. Then I saw what happened to the brand when it was acquired (by Kraft Foods) and managed without passion or a commitment toward the values of health and sustainability. Not only did the brand lose its soul over the course of the next 15 years, it rapidly declined in revenues after the first few years of harvesting the business in the mass channel. And it no longer contributed to the good food movement.
Seeing this brand decline bothered me. I had invested so much of myself into Balance Bar early in my career. So I decided to dedicate myself to entrepreneurial, values driven, passionate food companies with the potential to drive real change for our food system. And in this way, I have worked closely with some of the true heroes of the industry – Numi Organic Tea, Alter Eco and many others. I co-founded Pluot Consulting to help sustainable food business grow. And I started OSC², One Step Closer to an Organic Sustainable Community, to bring these companies together and continuously challenge each other to drive real, positive, sustainable change.
What are you doing to fix a broken food system?
I have worked in the Natural Foods industry for more than 2 decades, because if good companies grow, our food system improves and we all win. That is a big part of why we started Pluot Consulting. Then, I realized that a siloed approach doesn’t work…one company at a time cannot fix the system. So I co-founded OSC² with Ahmed Rahim, Numi’s co-founder and CEO, precisely to help fix the broken food system.
OSC² is based in Northern California and is a national community of sustainably focused natural foods industry CEOs and business leaders. We strive to leave Earth and humanity in better condition than we found it by inspiring leaders to work together in innovative and collaborative ways toward positive change. OSC²’s mission is to “address the toughest sustainability problems facing our industry and our planet by building new regenerative business models and agricultural systems.”
We differ dramatically from most member-based sustainability organizations, because we are all passionate leaders getting things done. We take action and mobilize large groups of pivotal people in the industry to help inspire broad, open sourced change. We are particularly passionate about fixing food packaging—the true Achilles heel of the industry. We founded the OSC² Compostable Packaging Collaborative three years ago and have made dramatic progress toward a flexible packaging solution to replace landfill packaging. This has been accomplished by inspiring a broader vision than one company can create alone and breaking down barriers by building demand and driving economies of scale. More sustainable packaging is currently unaffordable and technically very challenging…but it is possible. It just isn’t something one company will be able to develop on their own as a solo competitive advantage; it is an industry imperative. And it is happening through passion combined with bringing the right kinds of partners together. I encourage your audience to read more about our packaging coalition.