He’s been a standard-bearer for the organic success story for years, as well as a mentor to Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman, but Stonyfield founder Gary Hirshberg announced today that he’s handing day-to-day operations over to former Ben & Jerry’s CEO Walt Freese.
Hirshberg’s sale of Stonyfield to Danone in 2003 — and subsequent operation of the company as a unit with autonomy within that larger company — is largely seen as a model for Goldman’s sale of Honest Tea to the Coca-Cola Co. last year. Hirshberg was a shareholder and board member at Honest Tea, and maintains a role on that company’s advisory board.
Hirshberg will remain with Stonyfield as a shareholder and Chairman of the Board, while Freese assumes the twin roles of President and CEO. Hirshberg will also take on several board roles at Stonyfield’s parent company, Grupo Danone, while maintaining oversight of Stonyfield initiatives like its Stonyfield Cafes and Profits-for-the-Planet. He said his time will also be spent on working on larger agricultural and regulatory policy issues.
“I will also focus a significant amount of attention on advancing Stonyfield’s broader mission and specifically advocating for change in national food and agricultural policies, especially seeking the labeling of GE foods,” Hirshberg said in a statement posted to the Stonyfield web site.
Today’s announcement from Stonyfield, which includes a note that Freese was “hand-selected” as Hirshberg’s successor, follows:
Stonyfield Founder Gary Hirshberg Steps Into New Role, Selects Mission-Driven Successor Walt Freese as Stonyfield CEO
Freese, former CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, to direct next phase of Stonyfield growth; Hirshberg will continue in leadership roles with Stonyfield and Danone
LONDONDERRY, N.H., Jan. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Stonyfield announced today that mission-driven business leader Walt Freese will join the company as President and Chief Executive Officer (CE-Yo). Co-Founder Gary Hirshberg will continue as Stonyfield Chairman and shareholder, while advocating for change in national food and agriculture policies, including the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Hirshberg hand-selected a like-minded successor in Freese, former CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., who will take the reins of the organic yogurt company later this month.
“In Walt Freese, Stonyfield gains a leader with a stellar track record at another values-led company,” said Hirshberg. “Walt is well versed in fostering a sustainability mission in partnership with a global food company, and is deeply committed to Stonyfield’s organic and environmental missions. Since our early days at Stonyfield, I’ve watched organic become a $29 billion industry and a healthy mainstay in peoples’ diets. Now more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from and to trust the companies behind the brands. I look forward to working with Walt to continue to grow Stonyfield and further our mission of promoting healthy food, healthy people and a healthy planet.”
As Stonyfield Chairman, Hirshberg will remain involved with the company he co-founded nearly 30 years ago and he will maintain oversight of Stonyfield’s European sister companies, its new Stonyfield Cafes and the company’s Profits-for-the-Planet program, while serving on several boards at French parent company Danone. The move will allow Hirshberg to devote more attention to a variety of local and national political efforts including seeking labeling of genetically engineered foods with the Just Label It campaign and his work on US food and agriculture policy as a Co-Chair of AGree, a Washington, DC-based public policy initiative.
Freese will assume his full duties as CE-Yo at Stonyfield later this month. He will be overseeing America’s top selling organic yogurt company, with brands and product lines including Stonyfield’s core organic yogurts, rapidly growing Organic Oikos Greek Yogurt, and popular product lines including YoBaby, YoToddler and YoKids.
As CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, Freese led the company on a fantastic growth track, while championing environmental issues and acting to promote social justice worldwide. During his 10 years with the company, sales more than doubled and operating profit margins more than tripled. At the same time the company tackled critical issues in areas as diverse as global climate change, environmental sustainability, supporting family farms and challenging federal budget priorities to increase support for basic human needs. Prior to joining Ben & Jerry’s, Freese was President of Celestial Seasonings, a values-led natural foods business in Boulder, Colorado.
“When you look at both the boom in organic food sales and rapid expansion within the yogurt category, it is clear Stonyfield is perfectly positioned in the marketplace,” said Freese. “I’m excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Gary and the Stonyfield team to further the Stonyfield organic and sustainability mission and expand the market for Stonyfield’s unrivaled products. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Stonyfield, celebrating its 29th year, is the world’s leading organic yogurt company. Its certified organic yogurt, smoothies, milk, cultured soy, frozen yogurt and ice cream are distributed nationally. The company advocates that healthy food can only come from a healthy planet. Its use of organic ingredients helps keep over 200,000 farm acres free of toxic, persistent pesticides and chemical fertilizers known to contaminate soil, drinking water and food. To help reduce climate change, Stonyfield offsets all of the C02 emissions generated from its facility energy use. The company also started a NGO called Climate Counts (climatecounts.org) which shows people how they can help fight climate change by the way they shop and invest. Stonyfield donates 10% of its profits to efforts that help protect and restore the Earth. For more information about Stonyfield, its products and initiatives, visit www.stonyfield.com or follow @Stonyfield on Twitter and on Facebook www.facebook.com/StonyfieldFarm.
CONTACT: CONTACT: Carrie Kocik, Stonyfield Farm, +1-603-437-4040, firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Site: http://www.stonyfield.com
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