HOW VMG EVALUATES AND INVESTS IN FOOD BRANDS
At the NOSH Live Winter 2018 conference Kara Roell, co-founder and managing director of VMG Partners, gave an insider look at how the group evaluates potential investment targets in the food space. Roell emphasized the role of strong, confident and visionary entrepreneurs play in helping brands get over initial hurdles, and how that kind of leadership gives a brand “soul.” Roell also warned of the danger of brands aligning with the corporate venture capital arm of large corporations because it can eliminate optionality.
INDUSTRY ALL STARS HAVE SPOKEN AT NOSH LIVE
Chairman, Beyond Meat; TeaEO, Honest Tea
Seth Goldman co-founded Honest® Tea in 1998 with Professor Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management. In March 2011, Honest Tea was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company, helping to further the reach and impact of Honest Tea’s mission by becoming the first organic and Fair Trade brand in the world's largest beverage distribution system. Today, Honest Tea is the nation’s top selling ready-to-drink organic bottled tea and Honest Kids® is the nation’s top-selling organic kids’ juice drink. The brands are carried in more than 130,000 outlets in the United States, including all Wendy’s, Chik-fil-A, and SUBWAY restaurants. In 2016 Honest Tea’s distribution expanded to Europe. In 2016, Seth transitioned to a new role at Honest Tea as TeaEO Emeritus and Innovation Catalyst for Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands business unit. This transition allows him to take on an additional role as Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat, a privately held California-based enterprise on the cutting edge of plant-based protein research and development. In 2015 Seth was named the #1 Disruptor by Beverage World, and Beverage Executive of the Year by Beverage Industry magazine; he was also inducted into the Washington DC Business Hall of Fame. Seth has also been recognized by the United States Healthful Food Council with a REAL Food Innovator Award for helping change the food landscape by providing options that are healthier for both the body and the planet. Seth serves on the advisory boards of Ripple Foods, the Yale School of Management, the American Beverage Association, and Bethesda Green (a local sustainability non-profit he co-founded). He graduated from Harvard College (1987) and the Yale School of Management (1995), and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Seth and Barry are the authors, along with graphic artist Soongyun Choi, of The New York Times bestseller Mission in a Bottle. The book, told in comic book form, captures their efforts to create a mission-driven business in a profit-driven world. Seth lives with his wife and three sons near Honest Tea’s Bethesda, MD headquarters in an eco-friendly house.
Founder, The Goods Mart, Krupa Consulting
Over the last decade Rachel Krupa, founder of boutique PR firm Krupa Consulting, has launched incredible brands and discovered amazing products that share a common ethos – mindful practices, well-created natural foods and products, and a mission to do better. She has launched Thrive Market, Tastemade, Barnana, Brownie Brittle, goop Wellness, Sweetfin Poke, and Maman, also playing an integral role in the growth of Joe & the Juice’s in the U.S., Good Culture cottage cheese, Pukka Tea, MatchaBar, McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream as well as West Coast expansion of Milk Bar and Shake Shack. Her reach has also extended into culinary awareness for revolutionary festivals like Coachella, Arroyo Seco, Eat Drink Vegan, and Panorama. Inspired to inspire others by the restaurants, snack brands, and wellness thought leaders that she’s worked with – all passionate about ingredient quality, ethical sourcing, and consciously created business – in 2018, Rachel opened The Goods Mart, a socially conscious convenience store. The Goods Mart has curated mission driven upgrades to standard store staples that are not only delicious but also better-for-you and the environment. The Goods is a new kind of destination where neighbors get to know each other while grabbing a sustainable coffee for $1.25, a dye-free candy bar, a tasty local artisanal sandwich, chips, or the essentials – eggs, toilet paper, and milk – all the while giving back to local charities. There are two TGM locations: Silver Lake, CA and New York, NY.
Founder, Green Park Brands & HIPPEAS
Merchandising Client Lead for Natural Foods, 84.51° (Owned by Kroger)
Alex Trott, Senior Client Lead, is responsible for natural foods merchandising. Previously, Ms. Trott worked as Client Lead at 84.51°. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Miami University. 84.51° helps companies create sustainable growth by putting the customer at the center of everything. Using a sophisticated suite of tools and technology, 84.51° works with some of the world's leading CPG manufacturers and partners. With more than 700 talented and fearless associates, 84.51° is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Kroger Co.
Chief Executive, Real Good Foods; Managing Partner, Slingshot Consumer Partners
As Chief Executive of Real Good Foods, Bryan has the privilege of working with an exceptional team of food professionals that are helping change how comfort food can be Real Food You Feel Good About Eating. Prior to RGF, Bryan has led 3 other food companies from early stage to strategic acquisition. Bryan has also served as an executive at AdvancePierre Foods prior to it being acquired by Tyson. He is also the Managing Partner of Slingshot Consumer Partners that invests and helps in early stage food companies. Bryan has a JD/MBA in finance from Loyola Law School and Loyola Marymount University. He earned a BA in International Economics from UCLA and lives in La Canada, CA with his wife Teresa and 2 children.
Director of Ice Cream North America, Unilever
Leslie Miller, Director of Ice Cream North America, has spent most of her career at Unilever in brand and general management, sharing happiness through the joys of ice cream and ensuring America has great skincare through her days on Axe and Simple. Currently, Leslie manages the Lean Like a Start-up world in ice cream and the wonders of brands like Magnum and Talenti. She also just launched and developed a new probiotic ice cream brand, Culture Republick. In her current role leading the category, Leslie looks after the digital, e-commerce, partnership and acquisition strategies for the entire category that includes Breyers and Ben & Jerrys. Partnering with R&D, the best in class tech companies and trend specialists, Leslie is building the future of ice cream right here in America. Leslie started her time at Unilever on Klondike, reinventing the classic “What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?” and driving the brand to double digital growth. She also reinvented Good Humor, bringing back the iconic ice cream truck. Additionally, Leslie experienced the joys of leading Klondike, Magnum, Popsicle and Good Humor product and advertising development, a portfolio of over $600M. Her Unilever experience also includes launching the British sensitive skin brand, Simple, into the NA landscape and keeping young men clean with Axe Personal Wash. Equally passionate about changing the world, Leslie started her career working at the American Cancer Society, raising over $1M for the fight against cancer. She loves mentoring teams and people, running half marathons and her home state of Wisconsin. She clearly loves cheese and the Packers, too.
Founder, Siggi's Dairy
Siggi Hilmarsson was raised in Iceland on a traditional Icelandic diet. After moving to the United States to attend Columbia Business School, Siggi started to miss a staple of his childhood diet; skyr, the traditional Icelandic yogurt he grew up with. Yogurt here in the US had far too many ingredients and was much too sweet for his liking so he took matters into his own hands and started making yogurt in his apartment kitchen. After months of experiments, the skyr showed enough promise and soon moved from Siggi’s kitchen to a local agricultural college in Upstate New York, where the first ‘professional’ batch of siggi’s was made. Within a year, Siggi quit his corporate job, set up formal yogurt production and started selling his products at an outdoor farmers market in New York City. From kitchen to dairy plant, and from a local New York City market to Whole Foods as his first retail customer with national distribution, demand for siggi’s yogurt grew quickly. From inception, simple ingredients and not a lot of sugar has been Siggi’s motto and that still holds true today. Siggi’s homegrown knowledge for yogurt and his passion for reducing sugar in our diets have made him a go-to expert with appearances on national TV such as ABC, CNN and CBS Sunday Morning. He has been recognized by Food & Wine Magazine’s 40 Under 40 and Paper Magazine’s cheeky Beautiful People issue.
Founder & CEO, Saffron Road
Mr. Durrani is the CEO and founder of American Halal Co, Inc. — which markets the Saffron Road brand line of culinary cuisines and plant based protein snacks. Saffron Road is the first halal product to be sold nationally in the USA. Whole Foods has noted Saffron Road as being one of the most successful brand launches nationally in their 30-year history. Saffron Road is now a leading Natural/Organic PLATFORM brand and is sold in over 20,000 retail food stores. According to A.C. Nielson/SPINS Scantrak, Saffron Road is the fastest growing natural frozen entrée brand in USA and nationally ranked #2. Mr. Durrani is a serial entrepreneur and investment professional for almost 30 years, as President of Condor Ventures, Inc., a venture firm devoted to strategic investing in natural food companies. His entrepreneurial ventures have resulted in a successful track record of scaling and growing niche beverage and natural food product lines into mainstream branded companies that also deliver disruptive social impact. Mr. Durrani founded Vermont Pure in 1991. Today, Vermont Pure/Crystal Rock is the 2nd largest bottled water company in the Northeast. Mr. Durrani was also a partner in Stonyfield Farms, Inc., which was sold to Groupe Danone in 2001. He was also a principal of Delicious Brands, Inc., which he scaled, with the financial backing of Carl Icahn, to become the 5th largest cookie brand in the U.S. Adnan also sits on the Board of Directors of Maple Hill Creamery.
NEXT CONFERENCE: NOSH LIVE SUMMER 2019 IN NEW YORK CITY
The next NOSH Live conference takes place at the Metropolitan West in New York, NY on June 10th and 11th. More than 300 natural food industry founder and executives come together to move their businesses forward and discover what's next for the industry. Plan ahead and secure your seat at the two-day conference for the natural food industry. Register today to save $200 per ticket.