Plant-based offerings have exploded in the last year. Join the Innovation Breakfast Series (still virtual!) to hear from three leaders who are planting the seeds of this plant-based revolution.
Our panel is diverse: we’ll hear from both companies that have been plant-based for decades and new start ups within large animal protein companies.
Our panel will feature:
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We are excited to have you join us in this latest Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network conversation.
The panelists for June’s Innovation Breakfast include:
Dan Curtin, President, Greenleaf Foods
Today, Curtin leads the company’s alternative subsidiary as President of Greenleaf Foods, the owner of Lightlife and Field Roast. Dan has been in the food business for more than three decades. After beginning his career as the first salesperson hired at McCain Foods, Curtin was responsible for building an array of food brands throughout his nearly ten years with the company. As his love for the industry grew and matured, he would go on to hold senior sales and management roles with Papa Charlie’s, Maple Leaf Foods and Boca Burger, where he served as partner and helped grow the business to double-digit millions before selling to Kraft Foods. In 2017, Curtin took his expertise back to Maple Leaf Foods following the company’s acquisition of Lightlife.
Nicole Sopko, Vice President, Upton’s Naturals
Nicole is Vice President of Chicago’s Upton’s Naturals, where she manages the development, marketing, sales, and production of its meat alternatives, meals, and other plant-based products. Upton’s Naturals is an independently owned natural foods company with a focus on vegan values. Since its launch in 2006, Upton’s has grown from a regional business to an international name, selling in dozens of countries globally and distributing throughout Europe from its secondary base in Amsterdam. An ethical vegan for more than 20 years, Nicole is a founding Board Member and Secretary of the Board for the Plant Based Foods Association, the first trade association of its kind in the United States. She takes a cooperative approach to the industry, working to create opportunities, reduce challenges, and educate the public and governments.
Min Jung (MJ) Tavella, Chief Marketing Officer, Planterra Foods
Min Jung (MJ) Tavella is a marketing expert in the food industry where she brings nearly 24 years of experience to her role as Chief Marketing Officer at Planterra Foods, a subsidiary of JBS, the maker of OZO. Ever focused on honing a brand’s points of difference, MJ has worked extensively in the plant-based protein space with top consumer packaged goods organizations. Most recently, she led Strategic Growth Channels as Vice President of Marketing and Innovation for Danone (formerly WhiteWave Foods) in Broomfield, Colo. where she began her career at the fast-paced innovative company in 2015 as Senior Director.
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, MJ has traveled to more than 40 countries and 50 states experiencing different cultures and food. With a love for animals, she supports animal rescues and rights while volunteering for the Mile High Dachshund Rescue in Colorado. A graduate of St. Cloud University in Minnesota, MJ then earned a Master’s of Business Administration at DePaul University in 2007 and completed the Executive Leadership Program at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in 2014.
Jeremy Anderson (Moderator), Founder, Fifty Gazelles
Jeremy is a business development professional with a passion for getting new ideas into market. Fifty Gazelles’ practice focuses on building long-term contract manufacturing partnerships and adding capacity and external expertise to commercialization teams.
This special Innovation Series event is sponsored by:
Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
1 W Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
Tel (312) 525-9653