We hear a lot about the moms driving change in the food industry, but ahead of Father’s Day, it’s time to shine a light on the dads.
As I began brainstorming about this list, it hit me: it’s huge! And I was suddenly flooded with gratitude for all that these guys have done.
It’s no small feat juggling a job and a family, but work in the food industry goes beyond that. It can be a calling. It’s a love that doesn’t stop, so it takes a special type of family to share someone with that.
So this is a shout out to those dads and the families that love them. Thank you for all that you do.
- John Foraker, President of Annie’s. When the history books are written, John will be known for being a compass of change inside of the industry. He took a little bunny across the finish line for an IPO and then into a merger that will change history. Since their acquisition by General Mills, Annie’s has rolled out more organic products and Mills is now working with Organic Valley to increase the number of organic farmland acres in the U.S.
- Matthew Dillon, Clif Bar. He’s been a driving force for change in the organic industry, spending significant time in D.C. working on policy, as well as some recent time in a studio, creating a new celebrity in the industry, Mr. Seed. He takes repeated threats, meme-manufactured insults and more and keeps going.
- David Littlejohn, founder of Humanaut. His Save the Bros campaign has to be one of the funniest things the organic industry has done in the last ten years. The video went viral, and his team is still at it. With a new baby, he understands how crazy it can be for parents today, leaning into it, with irreverence and humor.
- Darren Mahaffy, the VP of Marketing at Nature’s Path. There are so many great dads inside of this company, and Darren leverages all of that, as well as his personal experiences of a dad of kids managing food allergies, to help create safer products for all families. Nature’s Path has held out against so many acquisition offers, thank goodness, and is a moral compass driving the food industry.
- Steve Young, lead on General Mills Natural and Organic Division. HIs role might be the toughest, creating an insurgency from within, but his experience and strength could not be a better fit for it. He is changing the DNA of a multinational food corporation, leveraging the Annie’s relationship, to create extraordinary and massive change. General Mills’ recent announcement about the conversion of farmland to organic to help their dairy lines is just one example.
- Congressman Tim Ryan. There are few inside of the beltway with the guts to take this on. We’ve been through a year of a presidential campaign and not one debate has discussed the sad state of the American food system. Tim knows this and is on the frontline fighting for Team USA. He’s a dad of three with a wife who is a school teacher. He is also the author of The Real Food Revolution. He knows firsthand what good food can do for families and communities. Our hope is that his team inside of DC grows fast.
- Bert Cohen and David Lurie. These two dads have given so much to the food allergy community that there really aren’t words. They’ve led companies, Enjoy Life Foods along with amazing allies like Joel Warady, and Free 2b Foods. These companies are making allergy-friendly products for the escalating number of American kids impacted by the condition. Food allergies send someone to the E.R. once every three minutes in the U.S. They’ve got a marketplace that couldn’t be more grateful.
- Robert Craven, the CEO of MegaFoods, and a driving force for health. The supplements industry can be a shady space, full of a bunch of junked up fillers and posers. Craven stands head and shoulders above the rest, and he shows no signs of stopping, building out a think-tank team to help drive home the importance of nutrition’s role in prevention, using whole foods supplements.
- Tom Spier, Boulder Food Group. The founder of Bear Naked Granola and a lead on EVOL Burritos, he now runs the Boulder Food Group, an investment vehicle for the organic food industry. He’s driving change using capital and massive experience so that more of these little companies can grow into big ones, and he happens to be one of my brother’s oldest friends, so the stories are endless!
- Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farms. The founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farms works with other great dads like Lewis Goldstein of Organic Valley, so that American families have clean and safe yogurt, free from artificial growth hormones, artificial dyes, GMOs, Roundup and other junk. Gary is still on the front line fighting for American families and transparency in our food system for which he is owed so much gratitude, because he could have retired years ago. He has a heart that won’t stop beating for this movement, thank goodness.
Honorable Mentions: These dads have grabbed so many headlines over the years that they need no introduction, just a special shout out, once again: Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan and Prince Charles.
But even as I write this list, I think about guys in the food movement like Pulin Modi, of Change.org, Nikhil and Alejandro, the millennial founders of Back to the Roots, Ali Partovi and so many more who are not dads but leveraging everything that they are to drive change. And then there are the dads inside of the grocery stores, like the CEOs of Kroger and Costco and Errol Schweizer who drove massive change at Whole Foods.
It is so inspiring, and if you aren’t in this industry, you may want to give some serious thought to joining.
We are in good hands.
Happy Father’s Day!