The natural products industry — once just a hippie offshoot of Big Food — has grown into a $300 billion colossus, and one of the bellwethers of the recent shift toward more enlightened business attitudes. It is today a bubbling cauldron of entrepreneurship, sustainability, and triple-bottom-line orientation.
Twice each year, industry leaders gather for trade shows run by New Hope Network: Natural Products Expo West (each March in Anaheim) and Natural Products Expo East (each September in Philadelphia). Expo West has often attracted more than 3,500 exhibiting companies and 80,000 attendees.
The MBArk program gives a select group of MBA students from around the country the opportunity to attend these trade shows (courtesy of New Hope , the show organizers); to meet with CEOs, industry leaders, and MBA alumni already blazing trails in the industry; and to network with dozens of the top natural foods companies in an effort to explore prospective career opportunities. It is a truly unique opportunity for MBA students seeking summer internships or permanent positions to delve inside one of the fastest growing, most successful and most progressive industries on the planet — all during one weekend, and under one roof.
In recent years, MBA students from American (Kogod), Arizona State (W.P. Carey), Babson (Olin), Berkeley (Haas), Boston University (Questrom), Carnegie-Mellon (Tepper), Chicago (Booth), Clark (GSM), Colorado (Leeds), Colorado State (GSSE), Columbia (GSB), Cornell (Johnson), Dartmouth (Tuck), Duke (Fuqua), Emory (Goizueta), Florida (Hough), Georgetown (McDonough), Harvard (HBS), Indiana (Kelley), Johns Hopkins (Carey), Michigan (Ross/Erb Institute), Minnesota (Carlson), Missouri-Kansas City (Bloch), MIT (Sloan), NYU (Stern), North Carolina State (Jenkins), Northwestern (Kellogg), NYU (Stern), Oregon (Lundquist), Penn (Wharton), Penn State (Smeal), Pittsburgh (Katz), Presidio, South Florida-St. Petersburg, Stanford (GSM), Texas (McCombs), Texas A&M (Mays), UC Davis (GSM), UC Irvine (Merage), UCLA (Anderson), USC (Marshall), Vanderbilt (Owen), Virginia (Darden), Washington (Foster), Wisconsin and Yale (SOM), among others, have taken part. They have found jobs working with companies as diverse as Annie’s, Dr. Bronner’s, Good Tastes, General Mills, OCHO, Revolution Foods, Danone/WhiteWave and Zevia; several have launched their own natural products companies.
Among the CEOs and industry leaders who have met with MBArk participants are:
Nikhil Arora and Alejo Velez Ramirez, Co-Founders of Back To The Roots
Sarah Bird, interim CEO of Quinn Snacks and former CEO of Bhakti Chai
Jennifer Berliner, President of Zupa Noma
Tatiana Birgisson, Founder and former CEO of MATI Energy
Linda Boardman, CEO of Bragg and former President of Branch Brook Holdings (Julie’s Organic Ice Cream)
Sarah Cline, VP of Sales at PlantPlus Foods and former VP of Sales of Nature’s Path Organic
Carol Cone, CEO of Carol Cone On Purpose
John Foraker, CEO of Once Upon a Farm and former CEO and President of Annies
Betsy Foster, former Global VP of Whole Foods Market and President of Love Life!
Tyler Gage, founder and former CEO of Runa
Natalie Gershon, former VP Marketing of Zevia
Seth Goldman, Tea-EO Emeritus of Honest Tea and founder/CEO of Eat the Change
John Haugen, former General Manager of General Mills’ 301 Emerging Brand Elevator
Gary Hirshberg, Co-Founder and Chairman of Stonyfield Farm
Heather Howitt, Founder of Oregon Chai and Meriwether Group and CEO of Thaice
David Ingalls, CEO of Zing Bars
Trish Karter, Founder of Dancing Deer Bakery
Blair Kellison, former CEO of Traditional Medicinals
Molly Keveney, VP of Corporate Communications at WhiteWave and VP Consumer Engagement at Champion Pet Foods
Hillary Lewis, Founder and former CEO of Lumi Juice
Lucas Mann and Gareth Asten, Partners of Acre Venture Partners
Guy Ozery, President of Ozery Bakery
Russell Parker, President of Edward & Sons and former SVP of KeHe/Nature’s Best
Ricardo Peridgao, Global COO/CFO of Sambazon
Kirsten Quigley, Founder and CEO of LunchSkins
Doug Radi, CEO of Rudi’s and former CEO of Good Karma
Mark Retzloff, Founder and Former CEO of Horizon Organic and Alfalfa’s
Denis Ring, CEO of BODE International and Executive Chairman of OCHO Candy
Walter Robb, former Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market
Peter Roy, former President of Whole Foods Market
Matthew Sade, former CEO of Kite Hill
Miyoko Schinner, Founder and CEO of Miyoko’s
Rory Schmick and Kevin Tisdale, former Sustainability Director and VP Marketing of Pacific Foods
Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis, Co-Founders of Magic Spoon and Exo Protein
Megan Shea, Co-Founder of The Soulfull Project
Jordan Silbert, CEO of Q Drinks
Jared Simon, President of Manitoba Harvest and former VP of Marketing at Hain Celestial
Paddy Spence, former CEO of SPINS and Zevia
Greg Steltenpohl, Late Founder and Former CEO of Odwalla, Founder and CEO of Califia Farms
Terry Tierney, former CEO of Daiya Foods
Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer of Revolution Foods
Luke Vernon, Managing Partner of Ridgeline Ventures
Danielle Vogel, Founder of Glen’s Garden Market
Naomi Whittel, former CEO of TwinLab
The next event is scheduled to be the core MBArk program at Expo West in Anaheim, March 9-11. The application process is competitive and will open in the late fall of 2022.
NOTE: Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from the shows, and all meals and incidental costs. Discounted reserved lodging may be available through the program. Admission to Expo, normally $995 for each guest, is waived entirely.
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