Episode Sixteen: Inspiring insights from women leaders in the plant-based industry
New Food’s Editor Bethan Grylls and innovative global plant-tech company, Equinom, invited plant-based pioneers to ‘lean in’ to the mic and kick off a new series led by women.
Female executives are a powerful breed of visionaries in the fast-growing category of plant-based food. In this latest podcast episode, an expert line-up comprising Wendy Van Buren – Growth Leader for ADM’s Alternative Proteins business; Mecca Ibrahim – the Co-Founder of Women in Food; and Tsipi Kagan, CFO of source-ingredient creator Equinom, discuss topics close to women’s hearts, business minds and palates.
There is good reason to launch a series dedicated to the plant-based market. The industry is projected to be worth $74.2 billion by 2027, and everyone wants a slice of the action. Consumers are driving demand for products that are ‘better for you’ and better for planet Earth, and companies are responding with healthier solutions that have broad impact – with a mission to help feed the world.
The panel acknowledges the COVID-19 elephant in the room, describing the creative accommodations that their organisations are making due to the pandemic, such as virtual tasting sessions and work-arounds to interrupted supply chains, and a surprising benefit that because workers are staying put, it’s easier to connect virtually with customers and colleagues.
Physical and mental health as well as climate change and sustainability are top of mind when consumers make decisions at store shelves and on their supermarket websites. With a clear sense of urgency and pursuit of variety, people holding the purse-strings are choosing clean labels – natural products and brands with fewer ingredients. As the plant-based movement comes into its own, the new generation of consumers is also interested in the company behind the label – and its agenda. Fortunately, companies like Equinom are already there, with non-GMO ingredients and a mission to help manufacturers minimise processing.
The session wraps up with tips on how established women can be effective role models for others and how fellow females new to the industry can be successful mentees. Ibrahim reflects on a quote attributed to singer/actress Dolly Parton: “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader”.
Mecca Ibrahim was formerly Head of Marketing & Social Media at Great British Chefs – the UK’s fastest growing food website. After almost eight years in that role, Mecca (who everyone calls Mex) co-founded ‘Women In The Food Industry‘ – an initiative that shines a spotlight on the work of inspiring women in the industry.
Mex has also set up a freelance social media, marketing and content creation agency, and is a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Her expertise includes sustainability, food entrepreneurs, equality within the food industry and ethical eating.
Wendy van Buren is the Commercial leader for Global Alternative Protein Growth at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). She brings more than 30 years of broad experience in the food industry within technical and commercial roles and in every part of the value chain.
ADM continues to invest and provide the edge customers need to succeed in this fast paced alternative protein world. Here, Wendy leads the alternative protein growth and diversification of proteins with focus on new proteins for alternative meats, which means not only new protein sources, but new ways to enhanced nutrition, texture, flavour and appearance, and inspire new formats.
Tsipi Kagan is a seasoned financial executive specializing in start-ups and fast-growing global science and technology companies. She previously served as CFO for Afimilk Agricultural Cooperative, Ceragon Networks, Xjet and Radvision. Tsipi earned her MA in business administration and her BA in accounting and economics.