6 Women in the Food Industry Making Giant Strides as Leaders and CEOs

by | Aug 31, 2022 | Food Professionals

The food industry is a dynamic playground where the spark of a good idea can lead to new ventures that quickly bear fruit. Women in the food industry bring new creativity and fresh ideas to the table, especially those in leadership roles across different segments. Although we can always do more for diversity in the industry, the future of women in food looks bright, with superstar CEOs, restaurant founders, and tech startups making strides in every facet of the business. According to the Castle Project, companies with more than 30% of women in executive roles are likely to outperform those with only 10 to 30%. The performance differential is staggering, and when it comes to the food industry, women are taking the reins and paving the way for the next generation of girls. 

The current crop of women leaders and CEOs in food owes some thanks to those who came before, like Julia Childs and Paula Deen. However, instead of just focusing on making people fall in love with food again, today’s women are spreading their wings and reshaping the food, beverage, and hospitality industries into a diverse, dynamic, and delicious garden of opportunity. Below, we celebrate the women leaders and trailblazers making a difference in the food industry. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Women in the food industry are inspiring change and innovation across all sectors of food production, packaging, and supply
  • From cow burp suppressants to compostable packaging, women are driving change as leaders of new startups and capital funds
  • The six women featured here are reshaping the food industry towards greater sustainability, reduced waste, and a more circular economy

Women in the Food Industry: Driving Innovation and Making a Difference

The food industry is transforming every angle. Consumers are more value-driven and environmentally conscious, while technological innovations enable startups to compete rapidly with larger chains and established brands. Within this simmering crockpot, many women emerged as leaders for change and disruption in the industry. From cultivating sustainable food systems to funding impactful initiatives, here are six women shaping the future of food in the industry. 

1. Daphna Nissenbaum – CEO of TIPA® Compostable Packaging

Daphna started TIPA® in 2010 to use nature’s example for packaging (like peels and skins) in the food industry to reduce plastic pollution. Today, the company goes beyond just food and beverage products by offering compostable packaging solutions to various businesses, including clothing lines and paper manufacturers. TIPA taps into the growing zeitgeist that we need to embrace a circular economy, and what better way to achieve this than to follow nature’s techniques? 

TIPA’s products are:

  • Durable with oxygen and moisture barriers available in laminates or films
  • Printable and sealable with similar mechanical properties as plastic packaging
  • Completely compostable and able to work with conventional packaging machines

2. Shayna Harris – Co-Founder of Supply Change Capital

The best way to demonstrate your commitment to change is to put your money where your mouth is, and that’s what Supply Change Capital is doing right now. Shayna Harris and her team are funding sustainable startups at the intersection of food, technology, and culture. They want to change the face of food and prioritize humanity in all areas of the industry. In 2021, Supply Chain Capital funded five startups and aims to ramp up investments this year. With its FOODS framework, the company evaluates potential investment opportunities for women in the food industry with diverse backgrounds. 

The FOODS framework used by Supply Change Capital when investing in women in the food industry

Image Courtesy of Supply Change Capital

3. Eva Goulbourne – CEO of Littlefoot Ventures

Eva has been active in the sustainable food and waste reduction space for years before starting the Littlefoot Ventures consultancy, focusing solely on helping ventures to implement bold strategies. Previously, she was part of the founding team for ReFED, and in December, the Upcycled Food Foundation elected her president. Littlefoot Ventures sees environmental sustainability and food waste reduction as a call to action for organizations and brands that want to engage consumers, protect natural resources, and future-proof food systems. 

The consultancy provides services like:

  • Developing strategies and implementing changes across the entire food lifecycle
  • Building capacity and advising on philanthropic efforts at nonprofits or social entrepreneurs
  • Engaging with stakeholders and strengthening the Littlefoot Network to mobilize partners

4. Christine Gould – CEO of Thought for Food 

Working tirelessly to get the next generation onboard with sustainable food production in agriculture, Thought for Food (TFF) provides resources to millennial and Gen Z startups. Christine wants the next generation of problem solvers to have the tools required to ensure food security and establish sustainable agricultural practices around the globe. The TFF community has more than 30,000 members, and the company raised over $200 million to implement their ideas borne from the annual TFF Challenge

List of regional coordinators for Thought for Food from around the globe

5. Anne Palermo – CEO of Aqua Cultured Foods

Anne Palermo and her co-founder Brittany Chibe are making waves in the aquaculture sector of the food industry. Using novel protein fermentation technologies, Aqua Cultured Foods is working to develop an alternative supply of seafood and replace fish in the value chain. The added benefit is that these food products will be free from the contaminants like mercury, microplastics, and pesticides. By going down the fermentation path instead of cultivated or plant-based alternatives, Aqua Cultured Foods will have resource-and energy-efficient production processes that bring affordable seafood alternatives to landlocked countries. 

6. Joan Salwen – CEO of Blue Ocean Barns

Another startup that wants to change the impact of farming on the environment is Blue Ocean Barns. Instead of making bold changes to livestock farms, Joan and her team aim to reduce methane emissions with red seaweed and algae feed supplements. In one test last year, cows that ate the supplement produced 52% less methane. This approach requires no change to farming operations, retraining of staff, or capital investments from producers. Their first product, Brominata™, is available on the market and marketed as the most effective burp suppressant for cows. 

Discover More Women Trailblazers in the Food Industry at SIAL America

With technology and innovation intersecting everywhere, women are taking charge and leading the way towards a more sustainable and resilient food industry. SIAL America allows professionals to meet and network with disruptors and innovators from every facet of the food and beverage industry. The next event is in March 2023, and we hope to see many more women leaders in the food industry there. 

For women in the food industry that want to attend SIAL America, register here, or if you want to receive weekly updates from our Flavorful newsletter, sign up here