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People Moves: Sunrise Strategic Brings On General Mills Veteran

In the food industry, the brands may be new, but their teams are made up of seasoned professionals with years of experience. As emerging food brands continue to take more market share away from some of food’s biggest players, they also are luring away some of their top talent. Here’s the latest in natural food hiring news.

General Mills Vet Joins Sunrise Strategic

Boulder, Colorado-based investor Sunrise Strategic Partners announced this month that Steve Young has joined the company as EVP and managing director of commercial operations.

Young has an extensive history in the food business, having spent 20 years at General Mills. During his tenure there, Young was the leader behind both the Annie’s and EPIC acquisitions and business performance. He also led General Mills’ broader $700+ million portfolio of natural and organic businesses.

In his new role with Sunrise, Young will work with the firm’s portfolio companies on marketing, sales, innovation, operations and overall business strategy. Additionally, Vincent Love, who has been with Sunrise since 2016, will now become EVP and managing director of investments.

Over the past two years, Sunrise has invested in eight food and beverage brands: Kill Cliff, Kodiak Cakes, Maple Hill Creamery, Pact Organic, Perky Jerky, Pure Growth Organic, Teton Waters Ranch and Vital Farms.

Sonoma Brands Adds Chief Brand Officer Role

CPG incubator and investor Sonoma Brands has appointed Chelsea Bialla to the role of Chief Brand Officer. Formerly the group’s VP of marketing, Bialla also worked with Sonoma Brands founder Jon Sebastiani at his previous venture, Krave.

Her appointment to the new role comes as Sonoma has spun off its Smashmallow snack brand as its own separate company under new CEO David Lacey. Sebastiani told NOSH last month that while Sonoma will continue to incubate drinkable soup brand Zupa Noma, the Sonoma Brands entity will primarily focus on external investment opportunities moving forward. However, Bialla will also likely be involved with the group’s newest launch — which Sebastiani teased will be in refrigerated snacking — later this year.

Dang Foods Staffs Up as It Expands Distribution

Just a month after debuting two new flavors of its sticky rice chips — aged cheddar and savory seaweed — Asian-inspired snack brand Dang Foods has brought on a number of new employees to help the brand scale.

New additions include Matt Davis, formerly of BarkThins, as VP of sales; Mel Zamy, formerly of MammaChia, as Northeast Regional Sales Manager; Lindsey Naple, formerly of Peanut Butter & Co, as ecommerce manager; and Zoe Salter, formerly of fashion company Dolls Kill, as social media manager.

All of the roles are new positions for the company. The goal is to help accelerate the brand’s growth both in brick and mortar retailers as well as online.

​”We’re entering into unchartered territory with retail partners… who require sophistication with data and knowledge of their systems. We’ve learned that we need to hire the team that has already seen the next stage of growth and knows how to scale their team appropriately,” Kitirattragarn told NOSH. “Our growth plan consists of a robust innovation pipeline and entry into select distribution channels that are new to us.”

Gelato Fiasco Grows Management Team

Maine-based gelato maker Gelato Fiasco is looking to scale with the help of new leadership.

The company announced earlier this month that Alexander Hnizdor joined Gelato Fiasco as COO, and will be responsible for leading overall supply chain operations out of the brand’s Brunswick, Maine production facility. Hnizdor joins the company from Farmhouse Culture, a California-based producer of fermented food and beverages that he helped grow into a national brand.

“In building disruptive brands, you are likely to face the intricacies of of scaling,” Hnizdor said. “Gelato Fiasco has a tremendous story and product. I’m looking forward to continuing that story by helping take the infrastructure, operations and overall supply chain to the next level.”

In addition to Hnizdor, the company also brought on a new “director of perfection” and several other new hires. The company plans to further expand its team with more new employees in March.

“I’m thrilled that we’re adding all these knowledgeable, experienced, and genuinely kind people tour team,” Joshua Davis, CEO and co-founder, said. “My philosophy is to hire slowly and thoughtfully, with the mission of finding people who I think will help us with our mission of producing and distributing the world’s most indulgent flavors of gelato and sorbetto with flawless operational consistency.”

Polsinelli Adds Food, Beverage & CPG Attorneys

More venture capital money is being funneled into the food industry than ever before, and with that comes a need for more service providers behind the scenes.

Colorado-based law firm Polsinelli added three new attorneys to its Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Companies practice: Chuck Cotter, Finity Jernigan and Christie DiNapoli. According to the firm. The three will be based in the Denver office, with an eventual Boulder presence. Cotter, who joined as a shareholder, will help to lead the practice.

Cotter is no stranger to the food world. Prior to joining the Polsinelli team, he served as a partner at Holland & Hart LLP where he led its Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Group.

“Chuck is a tremendous trusted advisor who has built a national reputation in the food, beverage and consumer goods industries,” Adam Hull, national co-chair of the firm’s Venture Capital and Emerging Growth group, said in a statement. “[It’s] because of his ability to help clients achieve their goals at all stages of growth – from raising capital, executing acquisitions and divestitures, or complying with regulatory requirements.”

GMA CEO Says Farewell

Pamela Bailey, the president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced last week that she plans to retire later this year. Bailey has been with the GMA for almost 10 years, supporting during her tenure everything from the modernization of the nation’s food and product safety laws to industry-wide initiatives including Smart Label.

Bailey’s departure comes as the organization has lost a slew of some of the nation’s most largest food companies — including Nestlé, Kraft, Mars, Campbell Soup Co. Hershey, Unilever, Tyson Foods, Dean Foods, DowDuPont and Cargill — for its old-school mindset and lack of flexibility in today’s changing marketplace.

“As GMA’s board continues to engage in the reinvention process to build the association of the future to meet the consumer needs of the future, it is best that they do so in concert with their leader of the future,” Bailey said in an email announcing her retirement.

The GMA has yet to find a successor for Bailey, who said she will remain with the organization during its search.

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