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2018 Leadership Award Winners

The Specialty Food Association’s sixth annual Leadership Awards honor food industry frontrunners who go above and beyond by creating positive social, economic, and/or environmental impact through their innovation and vision. Their efforts help build a better world.

While managing successful businesses, Leadership Award winners also:

  • Demonstrate sound ethics, professionalism, transparency and collegiality within our industry;
  • Pioneer innovative products, practices, and business models; and/or
  • Advance food standards and the positive role food can play in the future of society.

Our winners efforts range from providing jobs to the developmentally challenged in the Midwest to providing clean water in sub-Saharan Africa. We look forward to honoring them all at our award ceremony to be held during the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco on January 21, 2018. All Show attendees are welcome to attend.

AWARD CATEGORIES

Leadership Awards are given in three categories:?

  • Business Leadership: Advancing best practices across the spectrum of workforce issues to benefit food industry personnel.
  • Citizenship: Improving the lives of people and communities by advancing environmental and social sustainability knowledge and practice.
  • Vision: Pioneering new approaches, innovative products and business models to set in motion positive change and progress.

2018?Leadership Awards: Business Leadership

Meg Barnhart, The Zen of Slow Cooking

Meg Barnhart’s slow-cooking journey began in 2006, as an overwhelmed mother of three trying to figure out a better way to cope. Her husband worked long hours and she found herself crying to her best friend on the phone, saying she felt like a failure because she couldn’t get dinner on the table. Read more...

Christopher J. Patton, Midwest Elderberry Cooperative and River Hills Harvest Marketers

Pomegranates, make room for another superfood: American-grown elderberries. The market is miniscule so far, but the potential is super-colossal.

Meet Christopher Patton, who recently founded a cooperative of commercial elderberry growers in the Midwest. His previous jobs included teaching, advertising, and public relations, plus five years in Israel training as an archeologist in paleoenvironmental studies, a path that circuitously led him to the specialty food industry. Read more...


2018?Leadership Award: Citizenship

Ryan Emmons, Waiākea Hawaiian Volcanic Water

“I was always fascinated by water,” says Ryan Emmons, 27. As a student at the University of Southern California, he got the idea for bottling the precious resource in an eco-friendly way while he was visiting his mother’s family in Hawaii. One day he was struck by the “amazing” taste of natural spring water from his uncle’s well. Read more...

Sam Mogannam Bi-Rite Family of Businesses

Sam Mogannam worked at his family’s Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco as a kid and all through high school, then left the grocery business behind to become a chef. When he was just 23 he opened his first restaurant in the city, Rendezvous du Monde. The California-Mediterranean menu reflected what was available at the farmers market, and that concept proved to be a blueprint when Sam and his brother, Raphael, took over Bi-Rite in 1997. Read more...


2018?Leadership Award: Vision

Mohammed Ashour, Aspire Food Group

The first insect Mohammed Ashour ate knowingly was on live television in Canada. He was a guest on a breakfast show and the time came to taste a cricket.

“I had to act super-normal about it, as if it were the millionth cricket I’d had,” he says.

In 2013, he and four fellow McGill University graduate students (Shobhita Soor, Gabriel Mott, Jesse Pearlstein, and Zev Thompson) had won the prestigious, $1 million Hult Prize. The business model they’d devised to tackle ending world hunger was farming edible bugs Read more...

Thierry Ollivier Natierra By BrandStorm, Inc.

Thierry Ollivier, a Parisian, fell in love with Los Angeles and its sunny climate in 1995 and soon got a job importing sparkling lemonade and candy from France. Advancing to a position in charge of sales, he traveled 200 days out of the year, visiting clients and searching for ideas for other products he could introduce to the U.S. Read more...

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Our Judges

A panel of judges composed of industry experts and influencers selected the honorees from dozens of nominees. 2018?judges included:?

  • Polly Adema, University of the Pacific, San Francisco
  • Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas?
  • Lou Cooperhouse, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
  • Maren Keeley, Conscious Company Magazine, Seattle
  • Bruce Nierenberg, Greyston Bakery, Yonkers. NY
  • John Raiche, UNFI, Providence, Rhode Island?
  • Lisa Sposato, City Harvest, New York City
  • Margaret Core, Food Marketing Institute, Washington, DC
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