As a food innovator, Amy’s experience and successes sit at the crossroads of food, strategy, and brand to develop market performing products and scalable businesses. Amy has spent the last 15 years, in the food industry, leading innovation and product development teams in both the food service, meal kit and CPG channels. Amy’s career is focused on new to this world approaches to solving ever evolving consumer needs, with an eye to emerging agricultural and processing technologies while delivering products that delight. She has had the opportunity to collaborate with many big players in the food world, i.e. the Mars Global Innovation Group, Dannon, McCormick’s, Stoneyfield, Heinz, Organic Valley, and Panera Bread. Currently, Amy heads up the Product Development group for SpoonfulOne, a start-up creating new food products focused on food allergy prevention so children and families can eat freely and without fear. SpoonfulOne is the only “po Previous to Before Brands, as the Founding Executive Chef and VP of Innovation Projects at Revolution Foods, Amy joined the co-founders and set out to disrupt the status quo in the $18 billion school food service marketplace. As a member of the executive team, Amy lead a cross functional team who created a new food platform for the industry. With Amy’s pursuit of culinary excellence and business acumen, Revolution Foods has delivered access to kid-inspired, chef-crafted meals nation-wide and achieved rapid growth with $150M in revenue. Outside the kitchen, she has extensive experience working with food leaders to identify how to create scalable sustainable food systems and was three times sent as a delegate to Slow Foods Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. Four years running, she hosted an officers class from the National Defense University, formally the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and received civilian accommodation for her work with them on scalable, safe and clean supply chain and nutrition. She attended culinary school at San Francisco’s Tante Marie’s in North Beach and worked in fine dining, most notably at Insalata’s restaurant in Marin County. She ran a successful catering business for three years and was a chef instructor at Sur La Table, Copia, and Parties that Cook. She has a BA from Lewis and Clark College in English Literature.
Senior Marketing Director
E&J Gallo Winery
The Jackfruit Company
Annie Ryu is the founder and CEO of The Jackfruit Company and Global Village Fruit, Inc. (GVF). Annie founded GVF in the summer of 2011, while working in India to implement a maternal and child healthcare program that she and her brother had developed. In discovering jackfruit, Annie saw an incredible opportunity to convert an underutilized crop to nutritious, delicious food, and income and opportunity for farming families. Annie worked to build GVF during her junior and senior years at Harvard, simultaneously winning Harvard’s Women in Business Competition, Harvard’s i3 Innovation Challenge, and the Resolution Project’s Social Venture Challenge, and being recognized as a Global Good Fund Fellow, an Honorary Fellow at the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT, and one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women.
Graduating first in her class in 2013 (Sophia Freund Prize), Annie declined the Fulbright Fellowship and the Rockefeller Fellowship to work full-time building Global Village Fruit. In 2015, Annie and her team launched The Jackfruit Company. After introducing four retail products in September 2015, The Jackfruit Company won the NEXTY Editor’s Choice Award at Expo East. Now the global leader for jackfruit products and farm-to-market supply chains, The Jackfruit Company’s retail products are available at retailers from coast to coast. The Jackfruit Company also launched a bulk foodservice product which can be found on restaurant and university menus nationwide. In recognition of her work, Annie was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 for Social Entrepreneurs in January 2017. In July 2017, Annie and her team introduced exciting innovation to the frozen fruit aisle with the launch of frozen ripe jackfruit to grocery stores. In 2018, TJC launched frozen single jackfruit entrée bowls, offering jackfruit in a convenient, ready-to-eat format with a complete nutritional profile. In 2019, the company’s first shelf-stable jackfruit products will hit the marketplace.
Before attending Harvard and launching Global Village Fruit, Annie grew up in Rochester, MN (18 years). She graduated as valedictorian of Mayo High School, where she served as President of the Student Government, President of the Spanish Club, captain (state champion ‘09) of the varsity tennis team, and concertmaster (4 years) of the orchestra. She currently resides in Boulder, CO.
Vice President of Research & Development
Bakkavor Group Ltd.
Director of Product Development
La Terra Fina USA
Dan has been working in the food industry for over 25 years, starting in the trenches at Starbucks where he developed his deep love of good coffee and strong desire to work regular hours. He then managed to annoy his way into an internship at Mattson, the nation’s premier food product development firm, where they kept him and let him make things for over 11 years. While at Mattson he was featured in the 2005 Malcom Gladwell New Yorker article “The Bakeoff”. He was lured away from Mattson by Windsor Foods in Hayward to lead part of the product development team for frozen Asian meals and appetizers. Since he always has felt that he should be in charge, he jumped at the chance to prove it at La Terra Fina, a fast growing, premium brand currently placed in the deli category with dips and quiche leading their portfolio. This is where he and his small team do product innovation and renovation. During his tenure at La Terra Fina sales have tripled and they have successfully launched over 20 new products that account for a significant percentage of that growth.
Corporate Exec. Chef
Senior Vice President of Innovation
The Safe + Fair Food Company
Hana Group North America
Director of Research & Development
Vice President, Research & Development and Innovation
Simmons Pet Food, Inc.
Leah Lambrakis is a University of Guelph Alumna, focusing her studies in the fields of Animal Science and Animal Nutrition. During her graduate studies, Leah held a position at the Toronto Zoo, working as a Nutrition Research Assistant. Her research included the nutritional evaluation of captive diets for several exotic species, as well as assisting in the diet management for species in reintroduction programs. In 1999, Leah moved into the field of Companion Animal Nutrition at Menu Foods Limited, now owned by Simmons Pet Food. Throughout her career, Leah has formulated and launched over 1000 pet food products in market, across Private Brands, Pet Specialty, Organic and Veterinary platforms. During her journey in product development, Leah gained a broad level of knowledge and experience in pet food processing, manufacturing, ingredient functionality, and food science. Today, Leah holds the position of Vice President, Research & Development and Innovation at Simmons Pet Food, leading a team of 23 scientists across Simmons Pet Food's wet, dry, and treat divisions. Leah has a passion for innovation, nutrition, health & wellness and consumer insights.
Director of R&I
Happy Family Organics
Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer
Product Development Manager
Barilla America, Inc.
After graduating in agriculture science and receiving his ph.d in plant genetics, Maroun Atallah started his career leading projects in plants biotechnology, biodiversity and hybridization research. He joined Barilla in 2007 as a scientist, leading research on durum wheat within R&D. A couple of years later, he took the lead of the ingredients research and applications unit leading innovative projects for new product development and value for money. In 2015, he was in charge of the R&D strategic initiatives and processes in Europe Region, covering pasta, sauces and bakery products under Barilla Brand. Currently, with base in Chicago, he has been leading the sauces development and upgrading for the US market. During his speech in the American Food Innovate Summit, Maroun will go through the product design and the innovative approach behind the tomato sauces strategy and the recent sauces launch in the US.
Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff and Chief Innovation Officer
Dairy Farmers of America
As DFA’s executive vice president, chief of staff and chief innovation officer, Monica is responsible for a wide range of duties related to the overall success of DFA. Monica entered the dairy industry nearly 30 years ago and joined DFA’s headquarters in 2006 as vice president of corporate communications and member relations. She currently serves on DFA’s crisis preparedness team, strategic planning and policy committee. She also leads the Cooperative’s innovation efforts, including its partnership with the Sprint Accelerator and DFA’s investments in ag tech and dairy food start-ups. In addition, she serves on a number of industry committees and boards, including Global Dairy Platform’s marketing committee, as chair of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s communications committee and on the board of directors for the Center for Food Integrity. She also works closely with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy on crisis communications strategies.
VP, Supply Chain and R&D
Vice President of Innovation
Natalie currently serves as the Vice President of Innovation for Surlean Foods in San Antonio, TX. She has a bachelor’s degree in food science and technology from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and a master’s in business administration from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. She has been in the food industry since 2002 in progressive roles within the field of research and development. During this time, she has played a leadership role in innovation process and product design across a variety of channels and product types. Channels include national accounts, food service, retail, club store, K-12 schools and college and universities.
In addition to Natalie’s technical experience she is passionate about building mutual trust and respect to enable high performing individual contributors and teams. Because of this collaborative nature and leadership style she has been able to unite departments and impact overall organizational culture.
Natalie has been a member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) since 2002 serving as an IFT Ambassador and assisting students and entrepreneurs in answering questions within the field of food science. She also serves as the Chair Elect for the Alamo Section of IFT, bringing relevant educational content and networking opportunities to regional members. In addition to IFT, Natalie is a member of the Women’s Foodservice Forum and served on the board of A Child’s Voice Child Advocacy Center from 2017 – 2018.
CEO & Founder
Vice President, R&D/QA
Lindt & Sprungli Inc
Sarah Keller studied at the Technical University of Zurich where she received her Master’s Degree in Food Science. She has over 25 years of experience in the food manufacturing industry and food related research institutes. Her career has involved managing various projects as well as leading teams of Research & Development (R&D), Quality Assurance (QA) and Consumer Service (CS). Sarah has mainly worked for companies with premium product brands, and she is very passionate about high quality food, their premium experience and about companies who care.
Today, Sarah holds the position of Vice President R&D/QA/CS at Lindt & Sprüngli in Stratham, NH. In addition to this role, she was appointed to the Sustainability contact person at Lindt & Sprüngli USA, and assures the regular sustainability information from group management in Switzerland is communicated to the organization in the USA.
Since 1845 Lindt is “Mastering the Art of Chocolate Making” to create the ultimate delight for consumers. Our Master Swiss Chocolatiers create the ultimate LINDT chocolate delights by focusing and controlling the entire process of chocolate making; from selecting, roasting and refining the highest quality cocoa beans, adding only the best ingredients and using the most refined recipes.
“We never compromise on quality – and that makes my job easy. It is great being part of a continuously growing company who cares, in a wonderful region together surrounded by really friendly and passionate people. I’m also excited to be involved with bringing the sustainability plan to life and making a long-term impact.” Sarah currently resides in New Hampshire with her husband and their two boys. The family relocated from Switzerland in 2009.