Food Business News - July 10, 2018 - 26
Stonyfield co-founder says the key is thinking
like an entrepreneur
NEW YORK - Consumers weren't necessarily clamoring for organic yogurt in 1983,
the year Gary Hirshberg and Samuel
Kaymen founded Stonyfield. Back then,
Mr. Hirshberg recalled, "many people
thought we were crazy and organic just
meant you had to chew more."
Today, Stonyfield is the leading
organic yogurt brand, with $370 million
in sales in 2016. The company changed
hands last year from Danone to the
Lactalis Group for $875 million. Danone, which had acquired Stonyfield in
2001, agreed to divest the business last
FOOD & BEVERAGE
SOLUTIONS SINCE 1986
summer in connection with its acquisition of WhiteWave Foods. The winning
bidder, Lactalis, is a privately held global
dairy company with approximately $22
billion in sales.
"My joke about Stonyfield is that
when we started the company, we had a
wonderful business, just no supply and
no demand," Mr. Hirshberg said in an
interview. "No one understood what we
were talking about. Now you've got a
consumer demanding this stuff."
Mr. Hirshberg, who sits on the
boards of a handful of companies,
acquired by the
Lactalis Group for
$875 million in 2017.
Unlocking growth and earning
the consumer's trust
including Blue Apron and Applegate,
was invited to speak at the Summer
Fancy Food Show on June 30 in New
York about unlocking growth in a
competitive environment. The key, he
said, is to embrace an entrepreneurial
approach to business and toss out the
"My basic message is, if you want
growth in this environment, then you
have to find a way to be less fearful, less
worried about failure," he said in an
interview prior to Summer Fancy Food.
"An easy way to do that is to just be completely confident in your supply chain...
If you're not totally transparent, it will
be found out, so better to get your act together to clean up your chain, regardless
of the category."
Millennials, many of whom are
parents of young children, demonstrate
"incredible distrust" of food companies,
Mr. Hirshberg said. Brands that clearly
communicate how and where ingredients are grown are more likely to disarm
the discerning shopper.
"The traditional path of conventional food is to make your input as inexpensive as you can, so you have as big of a
gross margin as possible so you can then
fund as much advertising as possible,"
Mr. Hirshberg said. "But the insights
we've seen from these millennial
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Food Business News
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July 10, 2018