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Plant Based World Council Introductions: Julie Mann

Julie Mann is a distinguished figure in the realm of plant-based nutrition and innovation. Her journey is a testament to the profound impact one individual can have on the food industry, driven by a deep-seated passion for compassionate and sustainable living.

“My personal passion and professional journey is deeply rooted in love for food science, new product development (and adoption) and human connection to food,” Mann articulates, reflecting on her career at The Hershey Company. This experience laid the foundation for her enduring commitment to transforming the way we think about and engage with food.

After two decades at Hershey, her ambition to deepen her impact led her to seek a broader understanding of the entire supply chain. “While 20 years at Hershey provided much experience in finished products, I desired to prioritize plant-based ingredients and transform the ingredient space,” she says. This pivot was more than a career move; it was a step towards realizing her vision for a more health-conscious world.

Her role at Ingredion emerged as a pivotal chapter, offering her the opportunity to spearhead a plant-based program from scratch. Today, as the Principal at Appropriately Rogue Consulting, Mann leverages her comprehensive experience across multiple sectors. She combines her prowess in innovation, product development, and strategic branding to guide companies in the burgeoning fields of upcycling and sustainable food practices.

Her influence extends far beyond her professional accomplishments. Her passion for innovation is matched by her commitment to empathy, people, communication, and transparency. She embodies the principle that more can be achieved together, building teams united by a shared vision for change.

Julie has been a speaker and advisor to Plant Based World since it launched in 2019, underscoring her commitment to supporting the plant-based landscape. In her current role with Appropriately Rogue, she is seeking to connect and collaborate with projects that truly embody the values of a better, healthier food system.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Jay Margolis

Jay Margolis joins the Plant Based World Advisory Council as a mission-driven leader and the newly appointed CEO of SPINS. With over two and a half decades of experience under his belt, Jay brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and a deep-seated passion for the health and wellbeing of people, communities, and the planet. His journey reflects a commitment to fostering informed and sustainable consumption through the power of data and technology.

“I’ve personally been eating plant-based for 25 years, so I consider myself an OG in the space,” he states, highlighting his long-term commitment to plant-based living.

Before his leadership role at SPINS, Jay honed his skills and vision at IQVIA, where as Senior Vice President and General Manager, he was at the helm of the U.S.-based data and technology business focused on healthcare.

His transition to SPINS represents a unique convergence of his professional experience and personal passions. “I spent 20 years prior to my role at SPINS with a company that leveraged data for improvements in the healthcare space and now I get to combine that experience with my passion for natural foods to fuel growth in the marketplace.” This statement underscores Jay’s vision for SPINS — to harness the transformative power of data analytics to propel the natural and plant-based foods industry forward.

Under Jay Margolis’s leadership, SPINS stands at the forefront of the evolving retail landscape, poised to drive significant growth and innovation in plant-based foods and other categories falling under the “natural” umbrella. As a speaker at Plant Based World Expo in London this past fall, Jay offered data to a European audience to better understand the marketplace for plant-based foods in the United States.

It is clear to Jay that companies across the CPG world are facing challenges, and data can be leveraged to navigate a turbulent retail landscape. His perspective on the plant-based market, in particular, looks beyond the hype around animal-alternatives to all areas of the retail store.

“I feel there has been an over emphasis on meats and cheeses, when so many other categories are performing well”, he offers, encouraging retail buyers to look to categories such as creamers, functional foods, frozen foods and all areas of the grocery store for continued growth in the plant-based realm. Stay tuned in the coming months as we tap further into the wealth of resources provided by Jay’s team at SPINS to better understand the current trends of the marketplace.

As a veteran in the world of plant-based living, Jay’s leadership is a beacon of progress, signaling a data-driven future for the natural products industry and sustainable consumption practices worldwide.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Michelle Adelman

Michelle Adelman, the visionary founder of Accite Holdings and Infinite Foods is a distinguished figure whose career spans over three decades at the nexus of sustainable development, technology, and food systems. Her work, primarily focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, aims to foster economic diversification and boost employment for youth and women, thereby enhancing the continent’s food security.

Adelman’s journey from a global managing director at Accenture to a leader in sustainable agriculture and food technology in Africa is a narrative of transformation and impact. “My transition from the finance world to developing and investing in sustainable farms in Botswana really changed the way I think about food systems and technology,” she reflects. This pivotal shift allowed her to view food production through a new lens, focusing on maximizing caloric output from minimal resources.

Through Infinite Foods, Adelman launched Infinite Cafe in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2021. The fully plant-based menu featured many of the leading meat, cheese and milk alternatives that were gaining popularity in the United States. Partnerships were key to introducing these products to a new marketplace long before they would have made it through traditional distribution channels. These relationships offered Adelman a unique perspective on the plant-based marketplace. She began to think creatively about how to best structure the management of these mission-driven companies to truly penetrate the market and have lasting impact.

At the heart of Adelman’s mission is a commitment to the plant-based sector’s growth and competitiveness. “I am excited to take these next steps as an industry to make the plant-based category able to compete with the meat industry and have products that are delicious, affordable, and widely available,” she states. Her vision for the plant-based marketplace is not just about offering alternatives but ensuring these options are accessible and appealing to a broad audience.

Michelle Adelman’s journey embodies a profound dedication to environmental sustainability, economic empowerment, and the advancement of plant-based foods through experiential foodservice and retail. Her innovative approach to agriculture and food technology in Africa serves as a blueprint for how to address global food challenges. As she contemplates her next steps, her focus remains on leveraging technology and sustainable practices to revolutionize food systems, meeting people where they are at and moving the needle one eater at a time.

Michelle has been a speaker at both Plant Based World Expo North America and Europe consistently since its inception. We welcome her voice to the Advisory Council as we work towards collaborative solutions to these challenges.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Master Chef James Corwell

In the world of culinary arts, few names resonate with the same breadth of respect and admiration as James Corwell. His journey, spanning over four decades, is not just a tale of culinary excellence but a testament to his transformative vision for the future of food. As a Certified Master Chef (CMC), James has not only reached the pinnacle of culinary achievement in the United States but has also been a vanguard in the plant-based food revolution.

James Corwell’s career encompasses working with some of the world’s culinary elite. This appreciation for traditions is evident in his approach: “My enthusiasm was always driven by craftsmanship rooted in history and the awareness that we can now cook and eat en masse as only kings and queens once ate.”

However, a pivotal moment in Japan altered his trajectory. Witnessing the sheer volume of tuna auctioned at the Tsukiji fish market, he realized the unsustainable pressure on our oceans. He recalls, “I immediately thought ‘that’s so much tuna, how can the oceans keep up?’ And the answer is, they can’t.” This epiphany led him to a profound decision: “I said no, never again,” and pivoted towards plant-based seafood, founding Ocean Hugger Foods in 2011.

At Ocean Hugger Foods, James pioneered the creation of “Ahimi”, a plant-based tuna alternative made from tomatoes and utilizing only 5 simple ingredients. His innovations in the plant-based seafood space have been pivotal in shaping the industry, bringing delicious and simple alternatives to traditional, beloved ocean-based foods.

Currently, through his company BlueDot Foods and through James Corwell Consulting, he continues to be a driving force in developing sustainable and affordable plant-based products. His expertise extends beyond the kitchen into areas such as the history of culinary arts and food culture, and he is a strong advocate for conscious capitalism.

James Corwell’s vision for the future is clear: he sees plant-based products as essential for enabling our earth and its inhabitants to live sustainably and thrive. His journey from a traditional chef to a champion of the plant-based movement encapsulates a remarkable evolution, driven by an unwavering commitment to our planet’s health and a deep-rooted love for culinary artistry. As he looks ahead, Chef Corwell stands as a beacon of innovation and sustainability in the culinary world, inspiring others to join in the creation of a thriving, plant-based future.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Vir Satyan

Vir Satyan, as a foundational member of the RangeMe team and the Head of Supplier Success, plays a pivotal role in the intersection of innovation, diversity, and sustainability within the retail space.

Satyan’s work involves a dynamic combination of passion and expertise, particularly in nurturing emerging companies and advocating for supplier diversity. He describes his experience, saying, “My journey started seeing the thousands and thousands of emerging brands that come through RangeMe every year and becoming aware of the resources they need to grow and succeed.”

His role is crucial in guiding these companies through the complexities of the market. “My role involves nurturing their excitement and enthusiasm while helping them navigate the struggles and challenges,” Satyan explains. This dedication aligns with a broader mission to streamline the process for buyers to discover products that are not only better for health but also champion diversity.

Speaking at Plant Based World Expo this past year in New York City, Vir highlighted a troubling, but crucial-to-recognize statistic. Only 2% of venture capital funding is directed towards women and minority owned businesses. It goes without saying that this is an unfair playing field. From this imbalance Vir draws inspiration to support these companies that are typically at a funding disadvantage to help them find their own unique path to success in the marketplace.

When analyzing data regarding certified diverse-owned companies within the RangeMe database, the prevalence of these profiles within the plant-based category is particularly notable to Satyan. “When we look at the founders of companies across RangeMe, there is more diversity in the plant-based category than other categories,” he observes.

Satyan brings his purpose-driven approach to his role at RangeMe to his seat on the Plant Based World Advisory Council. “My mission is to make it easier for buyers to find the products that are better-for-you and diverse.” His efforts are geared towards ensuring that emerging companies have the resources and support they need to thrive. Through his leadership, RangeMe has become a crucial platform for amplifying these voices, facilitating their discovery by retailers across the country and internationally.

Vir Satyan’s influence extends beyond the operational aspects of supplier success; he is a key advocate for a more inclusive, sustainable, and health-conscious marketplace. His work with RangeMe underscores the importance of supporting entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and will play a key role in advancing these efforts at Plant Based World Expo in 2024 and beyond.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Scott Swiger

Scott Swiger’s career in the foodservice industry is a narrative of bold innovation and forward-thinking strategies. As the Director of Business Development for JBH Advisory Group, Swiger brings his extensive experience and a knack for pioneering new concepts in foodservice operations.

A seasoned veteran, Swiger’s journey in the industry is marked by a series of progressive roles. Before joining JBH, he served as the VP of Culinary Excellence for Spectra, where his innovative spirit led to the creation of award-winning concepts like Top Chef Quickfire. His efforts have not gone unnoticed, earning recognition as an industry Power Player by Sports Business Journal and featuring on Food Management’s One on One Podcast discussing plant-based menu innovation.

Swiger’s approach to his work is daring yet calculated, often balancing the fine line between risk and reward. He candidly shares, “My role has always centered around innovation. I would often say ‘This idea is either going to get me fired or be terrific.'” This mindset led his team at Spectra to break new ground by introducing Impossible Foods into a stadium environment and bringing plant-based foods into NASCAR — a move that, despite initial skepticism, turned out to be a resounding success.

In 2020, Swiger transitioned to the consulting side with JBH, a firm that acts as a ‘microchip’ behind the scenes for large foodservice contractors. His role involves not just advising but actively shaping the future of foodservice operations. His perspective is particularly relevant as product manufacturers look to foodservice channels for growth outside the traditional retail avenues. At the same time, foodservice operators worldwide are adding plant-based options to menus to both cater to consumer demand while reaching their sustainability targets. Swiger’s work sits at the nexus of this abundant opportunity for new ideas and collaboration.

“I am excited to continue to be a part of the Council group and provide insights from the foodservice realm”, Swiger remarks.

As a speaker at multiple past Plant Based World Expo’s in New York City, Scott and his team at JBH have presented on the operational challenges of adoption plant-based menus and offered actionable solutions for buyers across the foodservice landscape. His journey is a testament to the impact that one can make in foodservice through a willingness to champion novel concepts and challenge the status quo, with a focus on building lasting partnerships. Stay tuned for more from Scott and his team as we dive deeper into the foodservice conversation here on Pulse in the coming months!

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Alison Rabschnuk

Alison Rabschnuk’s professional journey is a compelling narrative of passion meeting purpose. Currently the Director of Business Development at Freight Farms, Rabschnuk has traversed multiple sectors, combining her expertise in business development and marketing with a deep commitment to sustainable food systems.

Rabschnuk’s career has been diverse, spanning roles in various industries before pivoting towards a focus on plant-based protein and sustainable agriculture. “My whole journey started back in 1991 when I stopped eating meat, but it took me 25 years to integrate that passion into my career,” Rabschnuk recounts. The turning point came with her involvement in the Humane Society’s “Yes on 3” campaign in Massachusetts. This experience ignited a deeper exploration into animal welfare and the food system, leading Rabschnuk to make a bold decision: “The campaign led me to go down many rabbit holes and ultimately to shut down my successful business I had run for 18 years and join a non-profit, The Good Food Institute.”

At The Good Food Institute, Rabschnuk played a pivotal role in advising companies about the consumer demand and business potential in the alternative protein sector. This experience was foundational in shaping her understanding of the industry and its potential for transformation.

From there she took her next leap deeper into the traditional food ecosystem accepting the role of Director of Global Plant Protein Innovation for ingredient-giant Kerry. This offered another perspective on making an impact, ultimately leading to the discovery that she preferred the company culture of a smaller, more mission-driven organization, ushering her into the next adventure at Freight Farms.

Rabschnuk’s current role epitomizes her commitment to revolutionizing the way food is produced. Freight Farms specializes in converting shipping containers into hydroponic farms. “We make growing food healthy, sustainable, and accessible for a more secure food system,” Rabschnuk explains.

“At the end of the day, what drives me is wanting my kids to be proud of what I do, and I feel I am doing that now,” she shares.

Alison Rabschnuk’s journey from a successful entrepreneur to a leader in sustainable food systems with Freight Farms is more than a career trajectory; it’s a testament to the power of aligning one’s work with personal convictions and the potential to drive significant change.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Palak Patel

Chef Palak Patel’s journey is a vibrant tapestry woven with passion, skill, and a heartfelt mission to empower others through food. A classically trained chef and a two-time Food Network champion, Patel has made a significant mark in the culinary world, both through her on-screen presence and her innovative approach to plant-based cooking.

Growing up in a vegetarian household in India, Patel’s culinary roots were nurtured by the most influential women in her life – her mother, grandmother, and aunts. Moving to the United States at the age of 12, she honed her skills at the French Culinary Institute and embarked on a culinary journey that took her from the South of France to San Francisco and New York City.

“My journey into this space has been a very personal one,” she shares. When her mother was diagnosed with diabetes, Patel delved into her medical records and realized the need for a lifestyle change. This led to a profound exploration of plant-based alternatives, particularly in dairy, to assist her mother’s health. “My mom was able to shift to plant-based dairy alternatives over the past 5 years, and today she turns 79!” Patel exclaims with pride.

Her recent venture, Dash & Chutney, in Atlanta’s Chattahoochee Food Works, showcases her expertise in plant-based Indian street food. This concept aligned perfectly with the food hall’s vision of celebrating diverse cuisines from around the world. Prior to this, Patel’s culinary projects have spanned from private chef roles to consulting for restaurant launches in Italy, creating unique menus for the Dinner Lab supper club franchise, and catering elegant affairs in New York.

“I believe that the biggest thing you can give people is empowerment to make decisions for themselves,” she asserts. This philosophy is the driving force behind her upcoming cookbook “Food is Love,” which aims to illustrate and encourage plant-based eating through stories and positive emotions.

As Patel transitions from restaurant ownership in Atlanta back to New York to focus on her cookbook, her journey continues to inspire. Her approach to cooking is not just about tantalizing the taste buds; it’s about instilling a feeling, activating people to make healthy lifestyle choices, and showing how plant-based cooking can be a source of joy and connection. Chef Palak Patel stands as a beacon in the culinary world, using her expertise to transform lives one love-filled dish at a time.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Danny O’Malley

Next up in our series of Plant Based World Council introductions is a central figure in the world of plant-based proteins. Welcome Danny O’Malley, the founder and president of Before the Butcher. His journey in the plant-based industry is a story of passion, innovation, and unwavering commitment to sustainability and health.

Danny O’Malley’s venture into the plant-based realm was driven by a personal transformation. Reflecting on his path, he shares, “It really is my lifestyle that drove me into the plant-based industry.” His pivotal moment came a decade ago with an opportunity at Beyond Meat, a leader in plant-based meat alternatives. “Taking that opportunity allowed me to feel like my work had a real impact on the sustainability of the planet, among other things like health and animal cruelty,” he recalls.

After his time at Beyond Meat, Danny’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish Before the Butcher. He explains, “Shortly into my work at Beyond Meat, I was challenged to go Vegan, I did it, and have not looked back since. I later started Before the Butcher in an effort to improve and diversify the selection of plant-based meats on the market.” His motivation extends beyond business success; it’s about being part of a larger movement. “I love working in this space from many angles, particularly getting to drive change alongside so many others who are passionate as well.”

Before the Butcher, under Danny’s leadership, has been at the forefront of plant-based protein evolution. The company is renowned for its wide range of plant-based meats that extend beyond the typical beef-style burger, catering to a growing consumer base concerned about the environmental, ethical, and health implications of meat consumption. With over 25 years of experience in the food industry, Danny has been instrumental in propelling the plant-based movement. He embodies his core values of sustainable, grassroots growth by maintaining a company mindset that prioritizes people, partnerships and outside-of-the-box thinking.

As a speaker at Plant Based World Expo this past fall, O’Malley shared his expertise on business practices that allow his company to be successful. In a market that is feeling the repercussions of unrealistic and lofty valuations, his message of viability and profitability as a primary focus is more important now than ever (Stay tuned, as we intend to tap further into his wisdom in this area for future Pulse content).

Danny O’Malley’s story is not just about building a successful plant-based protein company; it’s a narrative of personal and professional evolution, driven by a commitment to health, sustainability, and delicious food. His journey is a beacon for those looking to make a tangible impact in the world, proving that business success and ethical values can go hand in hand in the quest for a sustainable future.

Plant Based World Council Introductions: Le’Spencer Walker

Le’Spencer Walker’s role as the Director of Merchandising Vendor Development at Target is more than just a job; it’s a mission to drive change in the retail landscape. With a background in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Walker combines technical expertise with a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and sustainability. His journey in retail is marked by a constant pursuit of innovation and inclusivity.

Walker’s approach to retail is holistic. He believes in the power of connectivity, collaboration, and purpose. His work involves providing the Target team with tools, processes, mindset insights, data, and storytelling to inspire growth. This approach is not only about enhancing business performance but also about fostering a culture of learning and development.

Leading the Merchandising Vendor Development team, Walker focuses on engaging, onboarding, and developing vendor partners for Target, with a special emphasis on equity for  diverse-owned businesses. This aligns with Target’s REACH enterprise goals, showcasing his dedication to creating opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs.

His passion for providing pathways for emerging companies and advocating for diversity and inclusion is evident in his work. He has been instrumental in conceptualizing and executing Target’s Black History Month Assortment, highlighting his commitment to cultural representation and inclusivity in retail. He emphasizes that his work spans far beyond the realm of “charity”, communicating that supplier diversity is a sound and profitable business practice that allows retailers to connect more authentically with their customers.

Walker’s interest in sustainable products led him to the plant-based world. “I am passionate about providing diverse-owned businesses the chance to be successful in mass retail. I think of equity as more than just financial equity but opportunity equity as well,” he explains. His experience attending Plant Based World Expo in 2022 was a turning point, as he saw parallels between sustainable product sourcing and his efforts in retail diversity.

As an advocate for blending efficiency, creativity, and an authentic shopping experience, Walker is excited about the potential of plant-based foods and products. “I am excited to collaborate with this group, stay curious, and bring the diversity and innovation from the plant-based world back to my work at Target.” His vision and expertise make him a valuable member of the Plant Based World Advisory Council, poised to bridge the gap between sustainable products and mass retail, shaping a more inclusive and environmentally conscious experience for shoppers of all backgrounds.

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