What do the most iconic, mission driven food brands in our industry have in common? A commitment to their values and passions while having the courage to change as they grow. The process of performance management is very important to growth, and a culture of passion and values is essential toward building an iconic brand. Aligning with investors who share these values and are also committed to doubling or tripling bottom lines can be a game changer, not just for individual companies, but also for entire industries. Learn how some of our best-loved brands in the sustainable food sector navigate these simultaneous challenges and opportunities, and what role likeminded investors ply in scaling impact.
How did this event come about? My working with entrepreneurs for many years inspired this event. I observed how important passion and the unique insight of the entrepreneur is within the context of building an iconic brand. I also noticed how the truly iconic brands in our natural products industry still had founder involvement (e.g. Stonyfield, Clif, Patagonia). It had me asking ‘what does it take to achieve iconic brand status?’ and ‘what comprises that careful balance of driving a mission driven, passionate brand forward, while introducing operational excellence?’
I found that answer among 2 decades of experience working with mission driven natural foods brands: passion is key to success, but also incrementally introducing performance management process at the right time and of the right size. We will talk more about this with three CEOs who have stayed true to the missions of their brands, while figuring out those tools they need to scale.
Here’s a sneak peek at the slides we’ll share. The event is Tuesday, May 10 in Berkeley, Calif. Register here! The program is a partnership between OSC2 and SOCAP and will take place inside the David Brower Center. Afterward, join us at Impact Hub Berkeley (Suite 400) for a Beer & Wine Down to continue the conversation and meet fellow social entrepreneurs and lovers of sustainable food/ag.
More congrats are in order for Alter Eco… following its Expo West Nexty Award, the company has been honored by the Nutrition Business Journal this week with its Stewardship Award.
The article mentions the role OSC2 has made in the collaboration and partnership toward addressing what I constantly refer to as the “Achilles Hell of the packaging industry” and it also educates the reader regarding the importance and challenges in addressing packaging.
I’m quoted in the article: “Flexible plastic is lightweight and has benefits, but the downside is that it is comprised of multiple [otherwise] recyclable layers, which makes the whole structure unrecyclable.” These companies, she says, “have ethical food in basically unsustainable packaging. It doesn’t match their values.”
For a company founded on sustainability, it’s not surprising they find these efforts an imperative, not an adjunct. “When you look at the state of the world today, we really have to act fast,” says co-founder and co-CEO Mathieu Senard in the piece. “We believe it is the duty of business—which is the strongest force on the planet right now—to really tackle the issues. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Congrats to everyone involved. Alter Eco has taken huge steps to pioneer at huge expense and huge risk and have done it in a totally radical way—not just on behalf of themselves but on behalf of the industry. We’re so proud to be in partnership with you.
What a weekend! The rebirth of the Natural Foods industry is here—bigger and actually better—the innovation is back!
Overall comments: Wow—what vibrance and innovation this year at Expo West. I had less time than usual to really see, taste and walk the show, but it was clear that our innovative spirit is in such full force! The intersection of sustainability and tasty super foods has created a whole new way of thinking and eating and it showed up in full force. Grass-fed is good for our bodies and for the planet’s, and even bigger companies are getting excited about good animal protein: Mighty Grass-fed Jerky from Organic Valley, Grass-fed Yogurt from Stoneyfield, and bone broths are starting to really show up. I talked to some young and forward-thinking bone broth folks who are really thinking hard about great packaging that is better for the planet.
Also, bugs are showing up. Exo just received $4M Series A for cricket-flour based foods! Truly sustainable eating and it will be interesting to see how consumers embrace it. My quick taste did not leave a particularly positive or negative impression. The bar was slightly bitter, but not unpleasant.
And super foods that are sustainable inspire us all. Coconut everything and Cocoa everything. Big Tree Farms showed big innovation with cocoa nibs with cashews, drinking chocolate and coconut sugars. There were some great coconut buttery spreads out at a breakfast event I ran and they were wonderful. Nutiva as usual has amazing new stuff with Nutella-inspired Yummy chocolate-y hazelnut spreads with coconut oil. Alter Eco stole the show with its new “Gone 4 Good” campaign on every trashcan at Expo! It is such an inspiring personal accomplishment for me and this wonderful and well-intentioned team at Alter Eco to produce a compostable pouch to our industry. This truly meaningful innovation to the world and inspiration for the industry. And their new pouch won a Nexty!
Turmeric is really turning beautiful with absolutely delicious Gaia Golden Milk Powders (Nexty Winner!), Numi Turmeric Teas, and Temple Turmeric Turkish coffee (and their booth rocked with a friendly, inspiring vibe of health, yoga and happiness).
There will be so much post-Expo chatter and more roundups, but wanted to share my quick thoughts on the wonder, hope and beauty of our food system. This was the most inspiring, alive show I have been to in my 18 years of attending and companies are getting bigger, but showing more care for food and planet than ever before. Really inspiring for my work at both OSC2 and Pluot.
More to come.
The excitement is building as I busily prepare for Expo West, now just 2 weeks away. Our focus this year is around climate change, a topic that is front and center in the wake of the recent COP21 Global Climate Summit in Paris. The universal “we” have made major progress in building awareness and actions among countries, companies and communities; it is now indisputable that we need to take dramatic action to address the health of Mother Earth and I know natural foods companies can—and will—rise to the challenge.
My panel,“Time to Lead on Climate”, will explore best climate practices for our industry and showcase specific activities of top leaders in natural foods. Author and climate activist Bill McKibben will share his thoughts (via video) on our industry’s engagement in climate action. Attendees will gain useful insights into where to begin their climate journey or for those already on the path, inspirational actions toward deepening their existing commitment and impact.
I love that this panel is in the ‘making the impossible possible’ track, though I don’t view this is an impossible concept. Join me, Bill, Chris Mann, and Nancy Hirshberg of the “Just Label It” campaign on stage to launch a climate-friendly foods movement. We’ll be in Marriott’s Grand Ballroom F on Saturday, March 12 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
I’ve got a busy show… as a heads up, I’m also speaking on a panel titled “Packaging Imperatives: where we are and where we need to go” in the ‘stewardship’ track. That will take place on Friday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m. and includes Cynthia Barstow, James Tonkin and Jeanne Cloutier discussing how natural foods brands are uniting in search of compostable packaging. OSC2 (of which I’m a co-founding director) is also hosting its fourth annual breakfast presentation on Saturday, March 12 at 8 a.m.
We’ll see you in Anaheim in 2 weeks!
We’re just 3 weeks away from annual journey to Expo West, the signature event for the natural foods industry, and I wanted to share 3 events I’m collaborating on, in conjunction with my group, OSC2. Our focus this year is around climate change.
The first panel is “Packaging Imperatives: where we are and where we need to go” in the ‘stewardship’ track. On Friday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m. I will join Cynthia Barstow, James Tonkin and Jeanne Cloutier of Alter Eco on stage to discuss how natural foods brands are uniting in search of compostable packaging.
The second panel is “Time to Lead on Climate” and I love that it is in the ‘making the impossible possible’ track. On Saturday, March 12 at 3 p.m., I will join Chris Mann, Bill McGibbon and Nancy Hirshberg of the “Just Label It” campaign on stage to launch a climate-friendly foods movement.
Why this focus? Jessica Rolph (Happy Family founding partner) and I started talking last fall about our growing concern around climate change and our thoughts to inspire top leadership toward connecting with the crisis. We thought the natural products industry should engage to do more, so we’re bringing the foremost leaders in the natural foods industry together and will share more details during this second panel. I will hint the key influencers working on this with us in phase 1 include UNFI, Target, NCGA, Guayaki, New Hope and SFTA.
OSC2 is also hosting its fourth annual breakfast presentation on Saturday, March 12 at 8 a.m.; our event is already “sold out” in terms of our location’s capacity.
If there are any specific climate change questions you’d like our group to consider for either panel, please leave a note in the comments. I hope to see you in Anaheim in just a few weeks!
A few weeks ago, I met with Laura Howard and Douglas Gayeton from the Lexicon of Sustainability and introduced them to my OSC2 group of sustainable food CEOs.
I asked the Lexicon to present their approach to addressing climate change to this group. The Lexicon is on the forefront of understanding consumer sustainability thinking and we need to stay connected closely to that as marketers and CEOs.
Douglas made a big impression on me when he shared an activist ad that showed a picture of a polar bear on a melting iceberg and the caption, “You put me here.” Well what are we supposed to do about that? And that is what a lot of leaders in natural foods probably think and feel. Climate is a big big issue, but it is remote. And we have no idea what to personally do about it.
Our friends and Guayaki have one answer and are actively contributing to a more hopeful future. They are not only protecting, but also restoring the rainforests. So much so that their mission does not talk at all about selling Mate; it is about protecting and restoring millions of acres of rainforest
Many companies do have the answer… partly. There are 5-10 key hot spots where natural foods companies can make a difference. Rainforests matter a lot. Soil does too. Packaging is a big one. And there are a few more. I love this article on the rainforests as it provides a hopeful message. As does soil and carbon sequestration. There are some big and radical steps natural foods companies can take. The key is to secure alignment on identifying those big hot spots as an industry and then acting. It is a lot easier to act, when we know what to do and why. Stay tuned for more OSC2 and Pluot work toward this.