BevNET Live Winter 2019 Speakers
As President at Chobani, Peter McGuinness oversees all global demand creation, supply chain, manufacturing, sustainability, and research and development functions. He also leads the Chobani Café and the Chobani Food Incubator. Peter also oversaw Chobani’s first ever brand evolution, which was executed by the company’s newly formed in-house Creative agency. In his time at Chobani, the brand has risen to become the #1 Greek yogurt brand and the second largest yogurt manufacturer in America, reaching record share and launching more new products then at any other time in its history—including Chobani Flip, one of the fastest growing platforms in packaged foods. Throughout his tenure, Chobani has received widespread acclaim as a values-based, mission driven brand. This includes being named among Fast Company’s “World’s Most Innovative Companies” for the last three years and “25 Brands That Matter Now,” Fortune’s “Change the World” list of brands, PEOPLE’s “50 Companies That Care,” and Reader’s Digest’s “Most Trusted Brands in Health and Wellness.” Chobani has also been honored with a “Salute of Greatness Award” by The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Peter’s innovative approach to leadership and strategy has earned him significant recognition, including being named to PR Week’s “Power List” and Path to Purchase Institute’s Shopper Marketing Hall of Fame, and receiving PR Week’s “Global Marketer of the Year Award,” Consumer Goods Technology’s “CMO of the Year Award,” and The CMO Club’s “CMO Marketing Innovation Award.” Prior to Chobani, Peter served as President and CEO of DDB Chicago and Gotham. He also served as Regional President of Europe/Middle East/Africa Momentum McCann World Group. He brings more than 20 years of global marketing experience to the company, with a record of shaping and growing some of the world’s most iconic brands including MasterCard, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, McDonald’s, Microsoft and Coca-Cola. He is an active industry leader, serving on influential boards including the Ad Council, AAAA, Advertising Education Foundation (AEF), the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and the CMO Council of North America. He is a member of the Advertising Hall of Achievement.
CEO & Co-Founder, La Colombe
Todd Carmichael is the co-founder and CEO of La Colombe Coffee, a premier coffee roaster and retailer. Carmichael has lived and breathed coffee for over three decades. By pressing the limits of taste, service, and most notably, coffee sourcing – visiting the world’s developing countries to responsibly gather the planet’s best coffee – Todd has converted the nation’s culinary elite into La Colombe drinkers. Along the way, he has made his company the country’s leading coffee roaster while managing it philanthropically. Fueled by Todd’s passion to push the U.S. coffee scene forward, La Colombe sits at the forefront of the ethical trade movement and regularly dabbles in new terrain, inventing ground-breaking new brewing devices and beverages, such as the first ever Draft Latte. He is also the host of two Travel Channel series, “Dangerous Grounds” and “Uncommon Grounds.”
VP, Category Management & Growth Solutions, KeHE Distributors
Katie is currently Vice President, Category Management & Growth Solutions at KeHE Distributors, where she develops supplier and retailer category management solutions based on analytics, consumer insights, and category trends. Katie has been serving at KeHE for ten years and has held positions in Analytics, Pricing, Integration, Category Management, and Smart Growth Solutions. Katie received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Food & Consumer Packaged Goods Marketing from Western Michigan University. In 2015, Katie was named one of Griffin Report’s Food Marketing “40 Under 40” in 2015. She received her EMBA degree in Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in June 2017 and is currently applying that knowledge back into the industry.
Director, Growth Solutions, KeHE Distributors
Alex is a Director on the Growth Solutions team at KeHE Distributors, where he develops retail category management solutions based on analytics, consumer insights, and category trends. Alex has been serving at KeHE for nine years and has held positions in Sales, eCommerce, Space Management, and Category Management. Alex has been specializing in the beverage category for years, although his expertise is all-things natural/specialty. Alex received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Food & Consumer Packaged Goods Marketing from Western Michigan University.
CEO & Founder, Brew Dr. Kombucha
Co-Founder, CAVU Ventures
Clayton is passionate about entrepreneurship and loves helping small food and beverage companies scale. Based in Austin, Texas, he is strategically positioned at the epicenter of a growing culture of consumer innovation. He is the Founder and former CEO of Sweet Leaf Tea, a company he started in 1998 with $12k in savings and a recipe from his grandmother. Sweet Leaf grew to a nationally recognized brand and was sold to Nestle in 2011. Following his success at Sweet Leaf Tea, Clayton co-founded and was CEO at Deep Eddy Vodka. Deep Eddy became the fastest growing spirits brand in the United States and was sold to Heaven Hill Distilleries in August of 2015. Clayton is also the Co-founder of Rhythm Super Foods, CAVU Venture Partners, Waterloo Sparkling Water, Mighty Swell, Naturally Austin, and SKU. In 2006 he was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year for Central Texas and is a recipient of the Austin Under 40 Austinite of the Year Award. Clayton currently resides in Austin, TX with his beautiful wife, Carly, and their two children.
Operating Partner, Continental Grain & Arlon Investments
Tyler Ricks has spent 25+ years creating value in the food and beverage industry. He’s held executive level positions at PepsiCo, Bear Naked, Plum Organics, Peet’s Coffee and Einstein Noah’s. Tyler recently transitioned from his position as CEO of Bagel Brands for JAB into a full-time Operating Partner role for Continental Grain and Arlon, a hybrid investment firm based in NYC. Tyler supports the venture and middle market segments of the portfolio. He serves as a Board Member for Wholesome Sweeteners, Cicis Pizza, Joyride Coffee and Kitu. Tyler has been an avid venture investor, participating in the success of Bear Naked, Evol Foods, I and Love and You, Kevita, Sweet Earth, Yasso, Sufferfest, Vive, Dang, Flying Embers, Ancient Nutrition, Grillo’s and Kitu. He recently relocated from Northern California to Connecticut with his wife Brianna and their three children.
Co-Founder & Chief Sales Officer, Health-Ade Kombucha
Founder & CEO, Recess
Benjamin Witte is the Founder & CEO of Recess, a consumer wellness brand creating products and experiences designed to help people feel balanced, centered and inspired so they can be their most productive and creative selves — despite an increasingly stressful world. Prior to Recess, Witte served as a Partner at Life Capital and Head of Mobile at AdRoll. He serves on the Board of Directors for the US Hemp Roundtable, the main industry coalition pushing the hemp industry forward.
CEO & Co-Founder, Wandering Bear Coffee
In 2013, Matt Bachmann walked into a grad school classroom carrying a travel mug of homemade cold brew coffee and met Ben Gordon, who was sitting with a leather-wrapped mason jar filled with his own homebrew. This set the two off on what has now been a four-year journey to create the best-tasting cold brew coffee products packaged uniquely to suit the full range of consumption occasions, whether at home, at work or on the go. Wandering Bear products can be found nationwide at retailers such as Kroger, Target, Safeway and Whole Foods, on Amazon, FreshDirect and Thrive Market, as well as on tap via both bag-in-box and keg formats in thousands of offices across more than 30 states. Matt holds an MBA from Columbia University and a BA from The University of Michigan and lives in New York City with his wife and son. Visit www.wanderingbearcoffee.com or @wanderingbearco on Instagram to stay in touch.
Founder/Co-CEO, Halen Brands
Jason Cohen, Founder/Co-CEO, grew up in Northern NJ where his parents were prodigies of immigrant parents that came over to America seeking refuge. Jason attended the University of Maryland at College Park where he earned a BS in Marketing and Minor Finance. After college Jason went on to work for Northwestern Mutual Life where he quickly became one of the top producing insurance salesmen in the country. Utilizing his interpersonal skills Jason networked with his clients in effort to find his true passion. Eventually leading him to create a better way to eat without sacrificing taste and style. In 1999 Jason founded Mamma Says, a food manufacturing company that produced biscotti and cookies in a plant he built in upstate NY with the money he saved from his insurance sales. Working insurance by night and plant by day... In a few years, the company was able to establish a national brand where Jason partnered with Kellogg’s to grow the brand even further.. In 2005, the business was sold to NONNIS Inc., a portfolio brand of Windpoint Partners for 4x revenue. In 2005, Jason co-founded World Gourmet Marketing, creating better-for-you snacks under the flagship brand Sensible Portions, which included snacks such as Nationally recognized Veggie Straws,.. Under his management, the company achieved double-digit growth and became one of the fastest rising snack food industry purveyors. The company grew to just under $100MM in 4yrs. In 2010, World Sensible Portions brand sold for $110MM to The Hain Celestial Group, one of the leading providers of organic and natural foods. While at Hain Celestial, Jason served as President of the Club and Snack Division. In 2011, Jason founded Rickland Orchards, the first shelf stable Greek yogurt brand. In October 2013, after sales soared to $50 million in just 18 months, the company was sold for $57.5 million to B&G Foods, a public company. In 2013, Jason partnered with the founders of SkinnyPop Popcorn an early stage better for you play on popcorn. In 2014, Jason received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Excellence in Emerging category in the New Jersey region. in 2015 after enormous success SkinnyPop went public for 1.4 billion in shareholder value through Goldman Sachs and was recently acquired by Hershey’s. In January 2015, Jason co-founded Halen Brands, Inc., which quickly funded Chef’s Cut Real Jerky a premium jerky brand in March 2015. In July 2015 Halen Brands, Inc partnered with Core and most recently acquired OWYN. Which stands for ONLY WHAT YOU NEED. A simple clean approach to plant-based protein without compromising taste or style. In 2015 Jason and his wife Jamie created an Entrepreneurship Endowment at the University of Maryland to assist the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. In 2017 Jason was nominated to the University of MD Smith School Advisory Board and Mass Eye & Ear Advisory Board. In addition, Jason set up a foundation for Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion Research at the University of Miami in 2017. In 2018 CORE HYDRATION, one of Halen Brands' strategic investments, sold to Keurig Dr. Pepper for $525mm In 2018 Halen Brands launched REAL FOOD FROM THE GROUND UP, utilizing cauliflower as its main ingredients to create a full line of snacks, crackers and chips. In 2019 Jason was nominated to University of Maryland Board of Trustees Jason currently resides in Northern NJ with his wife Jamie and two beautiful daughters Jordan and Hailey.
VP, CPG & Enterprise Sales, SPINS
CEO & Founder, VYBES
Jonathan Eppers is the CEO & Founder of VYBES, a wellness beverage crafting organic drinks made with Hemp CBD (Cannabidiol). VYBES has helped pioneer an emerging new category of functional beverages focused on addressing mind + body well-being. Prior to VYBES, Jonathan was the CEO & Founder of RadPad, an end-to-end rental marketplace that made finding a place, signing a lease and paying rent much easier. Jonathan made the switch from tech to CPG after he began using CBD to help with his own anxiety and believed CBD could help a lot more people if only it was available in beverage form, which led to the origins of VYBES, now one of the emerging category leaders.
President & COO, Daytrip Beverage Co.
As part of the original team that launched Rockstar Energy Drink in 2001 Joey brings very relevant beverage, sales and distribution experience to the Daytrip team. During his 17+ year tenure at Rockstar, Joey was the Executive Vice President of Sales and Distribution, overseeing distributor relationships, the internal Rockstar sales organization and national account coverage including Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Coca-Cola Enterprise and Pepsi Bottling Company. With ties to both politics and Hollywood Joey's Rolodex is one of pure authenticity as a trusted friend and colleague in the ever evolving world of category inception (from FDA regulations in energy drinks to influencer strategies before "influencer" was even a word. Joey will be using his beverage experience, knowledge and contacts to help develop the organization and make Daytrip the most widely available and known brand in the cannabis-infused category.
Managing Partner, The Giannuzzi Group, LLP
From Harvard University to New York University School of Law to a chic business residence in the Meatpacking District of NYC, Nicholas Giannuzzi is a partner and founder of The Giannuzzi Group, LLP. Started in 2011, the “Giannuzzi Group” has since become the leading law firm for nearly 500 high-growth consumer brand companies in the natural, better for you food and beverage industry. Among the firm's many clients – both present and historic – are some of the industry’s most successful and fastest growing companies such as Glaceau (creator of VitaminWater and SmartWater), Pirate’s Booty, Pretzel Crisps, Vita Coco, Siggi’s, WTRMLN WTR, Mamma Chia, Sir Kensington’s, Hint, Califia Farms, Krave, HappyBaby, Chameleon Cold Brew, Essentia, Rhythm Superfoods, Peeled, Runa, Oatmega, Sugarfina, Juice Press and many more. In addition to day-to-day legal services, advice and guidance the Giannuzzi Group has assisted its clients in over 500 financing transaction and in nearly 50 exits to strategics and PE funds, including but not limited to sales to Coke, Pepsi, General Mills, Group Danone, Hersheys, Hain Celestial, Amplify, Bacardi, White Wave and many other multi-national companies and some of the largest PE funds. In the last year, the firm has overseen the sale of KRAVE Jerky to The Hershey Company, the partial sale of Suja Juice to The Coca-Cola Company, the acquisition of Wallaby Yogurt by WhiteWave Foods, the sale of YummyEarth to the Riverside Company and the firm is currently working on multiple sales transactions in the 100s of millions of dollars for its other food and beverage clients. The Giannuzzi Group has an un-paralleled understanding of the industry and works tirelessly to serve its clients and to create positive relationships with all of the investors, co-packers, distributors, brokers, acquirers, service providers and difference makers throughout the industry so that we can shares these relationships with our clients.
Managing Director, Piper Jaffray
Janica Lane is a managing director at Piper Jaffray focused on providing investment banking and M&A advisory services to consumer companies in healthy, active and sustainable living industries, with a focus on food and beverage, as well as nutritional supplements. Prior to joining Piper Jaffray, Lane was a partner at Partnership Capital Growth, a boutique investment bank providing M&A and private placement services to health and wellness-oriented businesses. Prior to investment banking, Lane was a researcher at Stanford University’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy (CESP) and an equity research associate on Prudential Securities’ energy team. Lane has a Master of Business Administration degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She received dual bachelor's degrees (international relations and Spanish) with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Stanford University. She spent six months living in Santiago, Chile, as part of her undergraduate education and is fluent in Spanish.
COO, Americas, IWSR
Brandy Rand is the Chief Operating Officer, Americas for the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the leading source of global beverage alcohol data and trends from across 157 countries, including market forecasts. As COO, Brandy oversees demand generation and strategy for North America, Canada and the Caribbean region. Brandy joined the IWSR after 18 years of management experience in the beverage alcohol industry, with previous positions at Allied Domecq Spirits & Wines, William Grant & Sons, and Bacardi Limited. In these roles, she worked across multiple markets, covering brand commercial strategy, trade marketing, consumer engagement and product innovation. Brandy also ran her own consulting practice for many years, specializing in brand-building for media and consumer packaged goods, with clients such as Anheuser-Busch, Ritz Carlton, Beam Suntory and Bowers & Wilkins. Brandy writes extensively about beverage alcohol in both national and trade publications. She sits on the advisory board of Vinexpo New York and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, including National Beverage Alcohol Control Association, Wine and Spirits/Beer Business Summit, Bar Convent, Brewer’s Association and American Craft Spirits Association. She holds a B.A. in anthropology from Tufts University and has done graduate studies in literature at Harvard University.
Founder & Distiller, Venus Spirits
Sean Venus is the founder and distiller of Venus Spirits, located in Santa Cruz, California. Over the last 14 years he has helped develop and bring to market over 150 craft beers, organic and natural foods and beverages. In 2014 Sean founded Venus Spirits, a craft distillery focusing on small-batch organic whiskies, gins and agave spirits. Venus Spirits has been recognized with over 40 awards for their Wayward Whiskey, Venus Gin, and El Ladrón Agave Spirit. Most recently Venus launched a line of ready-to-drink cocktails. Sean is current president of the California Artisanal Spirits Guild.
CFO, Socati, Longtime Consumer Products CFO & Investor, CapStream Group
Founder & CEO, Dry Soda
As the visionary behind DRY Soda Company, Sharelle Klaus has always had a passion for the culinary world and celebrating each part of a meal – including the beverage. After having four children, she didn’t want to let a lack of wine or cocktails stop her from creating a great pairing. Klaus recognized an absence of refreshing, clean, non-alcoholic options in the market, and became determined to create the first line of less-sweet sodas that was worthy of meal pairing and premium mixology. She believed savory and sweet flavors more commonly used in cuisine could offer exciting compliments to her favorite meals. In 2005, Klaus crafted the first batches of DRY Sparkling soda in her home kitchen and officially launched DRY Soda Co. a few months later. In 2018, she launched DRY Soda Co.’s second brand – DRY Zero Sugar organic sodas – to bring that same elevated experience to consumers seeking a better sugar-free soda option. Klaus brings nearly two decades of entrepreneurial, financial and technology industry experience to her role as CEO at DRY, and oversees all marketing, strategic planning and innovation for the brand. With guidance from some of the Pacific Northwest’s best chefs and a savvy corporate team, Klaus pioneered a new category of sparkling beverages, fearlessly leading DRY’s aggressive growth in a male dominated industry. Prior to founding DRY, Klaus worked as a consultant for Infrastructure Management Group and Price Waterhouse. She also served as president of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, where she drove strategic development of programs, events and fundraising for the organization’s 250+ Seattle-area members. Klaus has been featured by ParentMap, Huffpost, Forbes, BevNET, Seattle Magazine, Imbibe, and was honored by Seattle Business Magazine as one of its 2018 CEOs of the year. With a keen appreciation for humor and wit, Klaus is an avid supporter of entrepreneurship and frequently speaks at professional conferences, workshops, and the University of Washington Business School, where she also participates as a judge for the Michael G. Foster’s School’s well-known business plan competitions. She has served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Seattle Pacific University Business School, the Board of Directors at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and the Board of the Seattle Lung Force. Klaus graduated from Seattle Pacific University with an undergraduate degree in political science, and currently resides in Seattle, Wash.
Chief Marketing Officer, Roar Beverage Company
Eric Berniker is a seasoned marketer with a specialty in entrepreneurial food and beverage brands. Over the last 15 years, he has been on the leadership team of several iconic brands that have successfully exited including glaceau vitaminwater/smartwater, Pirate’s Booty and CORE Hydration. In 2019, Eric became the CMO of ROAR Organic - the USDA certified organic line of electrolyte-infused beverages that’s on a mission to fuel and empower the millennial hustler to make moves and be heard. Prior to ROAR, Eric was CMO of CORE Hydration. Over his 4 years with the brand, it was recognized by Goldman Sachs as one of 7 private beverage brands with billion dollar potential, an inaugural member of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s top 250 Top Direct Brands to Watch, and as a 2018 Nielsen Breakthrough brand. In 2018, CORE exited to Keurig Dr Pepper for $525 million Before Core, Eric was Head of Marketing and Executive Team Member for Pirate’s Booty. In this role, he helped steer the strategic direction of the company as well as direct the overall marketing approach. Pirate’s Booty was acquired by B&G Foods in 2013 for $195 million. Eric’s most formative experience was his role at glaceau where he joined as the first dedicated marketer on the smartwater brand. Over his 6 years at the company, he was promoted to SVP Brand Marketing and directed the marketing strategy that helped grow vitaminwater and smartwater from small entrepreneurial brands ($25 million in revenues combined) to the #1 water and the #1 premium water respectively in the country ($700 million in revenues combined). In this role, he gained valuable experience related to evolving marketing strategies for the accelerated life-cycle of a brand and company. glaceau was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company for $4.1 billion in 2007. Eric received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and his MBA from The Harvard Business School. He currently lives in Westport, CT with his wife Jennifer and his two children. In his free time you can find him coaching his kids soccer teams, walking his dog Benny and raising awareness for ALS as a board member of the NY Chapter.
SVP of Sales, Vive Organic
Blair is an experienced CPG Sales Executive with a passion for building high performance teams. In her current role as SVP Sales for Vive Organic, Blair is responsible for scaling a hyper-growth functional shot brand in an on-trend and highly competitive category. Prior to Vive, she led sales for Harmless Harvest – turning around a market leading brand during a period of significant supply chain disruption. Earlier in her career Blair built a best in class team at Big Heart Pet (formerly Del Monte) leading to their successful acquisition by JM Smucker and delivered category leading growth at PepsiCo, and Hallmark Cards.
Principal, Gallego & Co.
Arthur Gallego is one of the most experienced and well-rounded marketing strategists in the food & beverage industry. He runs Gallego & Co., a consulting firm based in Southern California that advises some of the top brands in their categories, in the US and UK. Gallego has worked directly with the founders and CEOs of brands producing natural soda, energy drinks, iced tea, kombucha and hard kombucha, RTD coffee, sparkling water, functional & nutritional drinks, cold-pressed juice, alt-dairy and of course, coconut water. He also advises private equity groups on their natural food & beverage brand portfolios and is recognized for his fluency across a wide range of CPG categories and marketing disciplines. For more information visit www.gallegoandco.com.
Founder and CEO, Venice Cookie Company
In 2006 Kenny co-founded two well-known medical cannabis collectives in West LA and Venice Beach, California. Combining his knowledge of cannabis and communications, The Farmacy stores positioned cannabis in its rightful place within the Traditional Chinese Medicine pharmacopoeia, with licensed herbalist acupuncturists presiding over a wide array of plant-based herbs and other remedies to be compounded according to your personal needs. In 2008, Kenny founded Venice Cookie Company with the simple idea that cannabis infused food and beverage should be tasty, safe, and wellness oriented. The company, now known as VCC Brands, is a manufacturer and distributor of infused products including top-selling beverage Cannabis Quencher. In 2012 he expanded to the state of Washington as Evergreen Herbal, assisting in the creation of regulations with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Evergreen Herbal built Washington’s first licensed volatile cannabis extraction facility and collaborated with local agencies to use it as a training facility. While serving his second term on the board of California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) in 2016, Kenny founded the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association (CCMA) to advocate on behalf of the state’s most ethical plant-touching operators. Kenny is a well-known California cannabis CPG pioneer having led VCC Brands through over a decade of profitability. Please visit VCCBrands.com and CannabisManufacturers.org. to learn more.
Chief Growth Officer, Docklight Brands
Robert Drew is Chief Growth Officer at Docklight Brands. He leads the sales and operations organizations. Docklight is a pioneering cannabinoid CPG company bringing the social and wellness benefits of hemp and cannabis to adult consumers through leading brands including Marley, Irisa, and Goodship. In his 25 years in CPG, Robert has held leadership positions at IRI, Coca-Cola, and PwC helping commercialize both established and emerging brands.
Some might call him a socialpreneur. Others, a food & beverage visionary. No matter the title, Eric has been a natural product industry pioneer for over 20 years and counting. With diverse experience in sales, marketing and new product launches, Eric enjoys taking ideas from scratch and turning them into viable businesses that make a global impact, through the consulting agency he founded, BeyondBrands. He is the co-founder of Steaz, a leading organic tea brand that was strategically acquired in 2016 as well as a member of Runa tea which was successfully sold in 2018. He is the co-founder of Good Catch, the world’s first plant-based seafood brand as well proud recipient of the 2007 “Sustainable Business of the Year Award”, 6-time Annual Winner of the BevNET.com and Beverage Digest “Best Product of the Year Award”, a Top 50 Beverage World Disruptor and is an active Nutrition Capital Network Selection Committee Member.
Managing Director, Encore Consumer Capital
Robert co-founded Encore Consumer Capital in 2005. He is Chairman of Encore portfolio companies Ancient Harvest and Tender Belly and a director of butter LONDON, Navitas Organics, and Supergoop!. Robert was the Chairman of former Encore portfolio companies Aidells Sausage Company, Atlantic Aqua Farms, California Splendor, Caterina Foods, Isopure, PhillySwirl and tarte and was a director at Thanasi Foods. Prior to Encore, Robert was a partner at Swander Pace Capital, a private equity firm focused on investments in the consumer products industry. Robert previously was the Director of New Business Development at Foster Farms, where his responsibilities included the general management of Foster’s $75MM Prepared Foods Division and corporate development. Robert began his professional career in the consumer products industry in 1991 as a consultant at Swander Pace & Company, where over time he became a Principal. He advised consumer products companies and private equity firms on matters of corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions and competitive assessment. Robert received a BS and an MS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University. Robert is a native Californian and currently resides in Marin County with his wife and their three children. He is actively involved in his children’s schools and sports teams and enjoys water sports and exploring the outdoors with his family. Robert is a member of the Leadership Council of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national non-profit developing “Better Athletes, Better People” by working to provide youth and high school athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience.
Managing Partner, Whipstitch Capital
Michael Burgmaier is a Co-Founder and Managing Director with Whipstitch Capital, an investment bank that provides private placement and buy-side / sell-side mergers & acquisitions advisory services for leading consumer products companies in the healthy, organic, natural and/or functional food, beverage, supplements, personal care and related retail companies. He has helped complete over 50 transactions for clients such as KeVita, Uncle Matt’s Organics, Essentia Water, Spindrift, The Switch, Redd Bar, Peeled Snacks, Blake’s All Natural Foods and Otter Creek Brewing Company. Mike has been active in the M&A and private equity/VC consumer space since early 2004; previously he was a Consultant with Bain & Co. In 2008, Burgmaier was named as a "40 Under 40" leader in the Natural Products Industry by Natural Foods Merchandiser. Mike has an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, an MPP from Duke University and a BA in Economics from Boston College.
President, Beverage EUM, Kerry
Kate leads the beverage business in North America. Prior to Kerry, she was CEO of a venture-backed food startup that targeted older adults with fresh, personalized nutrition. She also led strategy and consumer insights at McKinsey & Company where she focused on consumer packaged goods, agriculture, and sustainability.
Rajesh Potineni, PhD, MBA
Vice President RD&A, Taste, Kerry
Rajesh Potineni is currently the RD&A Vice President at Kerry Taste & Nutrition. He is responsible for Kerry’s taste innovation, savory & dairy flavor creation, sensory & analytical sciences within North America. Rajesh holds both Ph.D. and Master degrees from Pennsylvania State University in Food Science, with emphasis on flavor chemistry, confectionary processing , dairy science and food emulsions. He also holds MBA degree from Xavier University. Before joining Kerry, Rajesh worked at Givaudan and Pepsico leading various long term research efforts mentioned below. Rajesh’s experience includes research efforts in the area of beverage applications, fat mimetics, ingredient discovery and flavor encapsulation as well as developing solutions in the area of sweetness modification, salt reduction, bitter/protein masking, mouthfeel and savory enhancement.
Managing Director, First Beverage Ventures
Beverage Technical Director, FONA International
With over a decade of experience in the beverage industry, John Fishel is widely respected for his expertise in getting end products to market. At FONA, John leads a team of application scientists and flavorists in FONA’s beverage business unit. No matter the application or ingredients at play, John has the proven ability to navigate the challenges and deliver actionable solutions. He is particularly adept at product development using proteins and other functional ingredients, including cannabis. John makes customer ideas a reality with a focus on successful commercialization. John is a go-to asset for customers, at any stage of their product development, helping them effectively create a winning beverage from start to finish. John holds an MBA from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and a B.S. in chemistry from Millikin University.
Technical Project Manager, SoRSE Technology
Mike Schmitt brings over 16 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, along with an academic background in Business, Food Science, and Microbiology. Mike’s career began at Kerry, where he held roles in QA, operations, R&D, and regulations. Schmitt then went on to lead QA at Wilcox Farms, then was hired by Darigold as their concept to commercialization food scientist. Most recently, Mike was a Technical Project Manager at Dohler North America. He currently serves on WSU’s External Advisory Board for the School of Food Science and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.
CEO & Founder, BevNET.com
As founder and CEO of BevNET, John Craven is a widely-recognized authority on the beverage industry and he is frequently cited in mainstream media. His vision shapes the editorial, publishing, and positioning of all of BevNET's properties, including BevNET.com, BevNET Magazine, Brewbound.com, BevNET FBU and their associated conferences. John is a graduate of Boston College with a BS in Marketing and Computer Science.
Business Development Manager, Omni ePartners
Christina has over 10 years of experience in retail, digital advertising, marketing, and operations. With her diverse background, she can scope businesses from a full 360 and identify solution-based recommendations. She has over 8 years specifically at Amazon where she became an expert in navigating several different areas of both the seller and vendor ecosystems driving significant growth and sustainability. Outside of work, Christina enjoys traveling the world and learning about new cultures, scuba diving and enjoying the delights of PNW including hiking, rock climbing, and any water-related activity.
As Editor-in-Chief of BevNET, Jeffrey Klineman oversees the organization's reporting across all of its web sites, as well as BevNET Magazine. Jeffrey is also responsible for developing the content for conferences like BevNET Live and Food and Beverage University (FBU). Jeffrey previously worked as a newspaper reporter for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, the Boston TAB and the Metrowest Daily News, and has freelanced for publications like Slate, Boston Magazine, Self, George, Commonwealth, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Jeffrey is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. A frequently-cited expert on the beverage industry, Jeffrey has also been named in Forbes as one of the 25 Most Influential Kingmakers in Consumer and Retail Companies. He is still trying to live that one down.
Chief Creative Officer, The GRO Agency
Kelly Criswell is a visionary and creative leader, shepherding The GRO Agency as the Chief Creative Officer based in the Los Angeles office. With a fierce love of beverage branding and a 16+ year career in CPG brand development and packaging design, Kelly will relentlessly push brands to the next level for success on shelf. Over her career she has worked with such notable brands as Dunkin’ Donuts, Nestlé, Premier Nutrition, Diageo, and Red Bull. Her latest modus operandi is harnessing her extensive experience in CPG to help entrepreneurs and start-ups launch their brands. Her current passion project is Kabaki Kenyan Purple Tea- she has teamed up with the founder Martin and helped him position, brand, package, and develop go-to-market strategy for a 2018 launch. When she’s not obsessively taking photos in grocery stores (say hi if you see her!) she’s painting or hiking with her two kids.
Partner; Co-Chair Food and Beverage Group, Nutter
Jeremy Halpern is a partner and co-chairs and serves as the Director of Business Development for Nutter’s Emerging Companies Group. Jeremy’s practice focuses on emerging companies, private equity, venture capital and angel financing transactions, mergers and acquisitions, executive and team compensation matters, and general start-up support. Serving as the firm’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Jeremy often works on strategy and corporate development matters with companies, investors, and executives in technology, life sciences and the food and beverage industry. Jeremy is an active angel investor and is a member of the board of The Capital Network, a Boston based non-profit serving entrepreneurs seeking high growth capital. Jeremy serves on the Advisory Board and the Executive Education Committee of the MBI Health Program and on the Advisory Board of Pintley, a MassChallenge 2011 finalist company providing marketing solutions to the craft brewers and bars. He continues to serve as a mentor at MassChallenge and LearnLaunch, an expert advisor at the Innovation Hub at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and as a speaker, reviewer, judge or mentor for MIT HackingMedicine, HackingPediatrics, the Mass Tech Transfer Center, the Mass Life Science Center, M2D2, BranchFood and Startup Institute. Previously Jeremy served on the Board and Investment Committee of MassVentures, an early stage venture capital fund funding technology companies in Massachusetts. Jeremy taught entrepreneurial leadership at Tufts University for nine years and cofounded a company in the mobile technology synchronization space. Jeremy received his B.A., summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of California, Berkeley, and his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.
VP of Field Operations, L.A. Libations
Born in Los Angeles, California, Robert Macias was raised in the San Fernando Valley. Robert attended San Fernando Valley College. Soon afterwards, Robert started working at Pickwick Records where he held positions of warehouse supervisor, to sales representative. Robert was instrumental in persuading the Pickwick buyers from a mainstream purchasing pattern to the new the exploding new wave and punk rock scene. Robert was recognized for his bold and visionary views. In 1984, Robert started working for Coca-Cola. Hired as a merchandiser, Robert was quickly moved to sales and held positions throughout the Los Angeles basin. Robert was promoted to District Sales Manager in 1990. In 1996 Robert was appointed to Sales Manager at Los Angeles Sales Center with the objective to build the same culture that he achieved while a District Manager in Sylmar. Robert reengineered the entire sales system and changed the face of sales center. Robert introduced the "Men in Black" reset team. The "Men in Black" were identified as the best of the best merchandisers, but lacked either the desired formal education, training and leadership. With the help of District Managers, Robert developed a weekly training program revolved around communication, business math, volume trends and the ability to rise above. The Men in Black worked closely with the Sales Team, and were assigned key areas in Los Angeles. The objective was to dominate the trade with selected best selling brands, and introducing new beverages. In 1999 Robert was promoted to Branch Manager, Downey Production Center, Downey, California. From 1999 to 2005, Robert managed the Downey, City of Industry, Ventura/Bishop, Sylmar/Lancaster and the Los Angeles Sales Center. It was in Los Angeles, as the Sales Center Manager, where Robert developed many visionary platforms. Robert was the only Sales Center Manager appointed to the company's Atlanta Based Diversity and Inclusion Council. Robert was instrumental in creating Blue Demon energy drink and through area focused taste tests, recommended to the brand team, switching the Coke Zero package from a white package to a black package. Robert also recommended the target audience by reviewing data, and using "no sugar" as the tagline. The sampling platform was Classic Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero. In 2016 Robert joined LA Libations as Brand Manager for Arriba Horchata. Robert introduced Arriba to Vallarta Markets, all three SKU's and in over 33 outlets. Since January, 2017 Robert now manages the LAL Field Team as the VP of Field Operations. Robert quickly introduced Repsly, which tracks guidance and results. Robert teaches his team productivity data, and to treat each business with the same tactics Robert learned from his experiences and methods he learned in his 32 years at Coca-Cola. They have successfully developed key areas in the Southern California area. Robert and his team have lead and participated in numerous meetings sharing "the secret sauce", and in trade visits showing others how to win the marketplace. Robert is an active cyclist, kayak fisherman and music fan, Robert lives in Santa Clarita with his wife of 23 years and their son Neil and beautiful daughter Susha. Robert's has two older sons, Rawley who owns Rouleur Brewery in Carlsbad, and Drew who is a Key Account Manager for Stone Brewing, Southern California.
Chief Customer Officer, L.A. Libations
Wade Duke is a high-performing, enterprising sales leader and general manger with broad-based business expertise. Wade has over 30 years of CPG experience that spans national key accounts, strategic business development, leading people, P&L responsibility, channel development, and organizational design. After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in Communications, Wade started his career in CPG sales with General Foods. After successful assignments in sales Wade became a District Manager with General Foods in Cincinnati. This started Wade’s career in people leadership and development. After 5 years with General Foods Wade joined Frito Lay in Dallas and worked through a variety of roles with Frito Lay. In 1988 Wade joined Brown Moore and Flint a Dallas based Food Brokerage and became an equity partner in that firm. Wade was Vice President and General Manager of the Dry Grocery Department. Wade helped build the Dallas based Food Brokerage company to become one of the largest food brokers in Dallas. In 1998 Acosta acquired the business. In May of 1998 Wade joined Coca-Cola Enterprises as Vice President of Sales in the San Antonio, Tx Division. After 3 years as VP of Sales Wade was named Vice President and General Manager of CCE’s Mid-South Division where Wade was responsible for all sales and operations. During the time with CCE Wade was also named Vice President of Sales for the North East Region and then Vice President of Sales for the Club, Drug, Mass and Value Channel. In 2008 Wade became President and General Manager of the Kroger Beverage Team. Wade was responsible for all sales throughout the Coca-Cola system. Kroger is Coca-Cola’s largest volume supermarket chain producing over $1 billion in sales revenue and over 180 million eq. cases nationally. As President of this team Wade lead the development of the go to market strategy, drove the business planning process, owned the customer relationships at the most senior level, lead cross functional initiatives, and developed people talent. In 2014 Wade moved to Destin with his wife Debbie. Wade enjoys golf, fishing and traveling. Wade has three sons and a grandson.
Managing Partner, Cascadia Managing Brands
Bill Sipper is Managing Partner at Cascadia Managing Brands and is one of the food and beverage industry's bright stars, having held senior-level positions at several of the top beverage marketers in the world. His market reach and depth of knowledge of the food and beverage industry includes North America, Asia, Europe as well as Central and South America. Sipper's track record for helping develop rising brands is unparalleled and will be key to any brand's development and deployment. Sipper was Chief Operating Officer of New Leaf Brands before rejoining Cascadia Managing Brands, a company he co-founded in 2003, a recognized consumer packaged goods consulting firm with deep expertise across all key areas of the food and beverage business including planning, sales, marketing, training, finance, operations, logistics, and general management. Before establishing Cascadia, Sipper was Senior Vice President of Marketing at the Ultimate Juice Co. which owned brands such as Naked Juice, Zeigler's Apple Cider, Fantasia, Hansens Smoothies, and Saratoga Mineral Water; President of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Tear of the Clouds; Director of National Sales at Nantucket Nectars; Vice President of Sales, Marketing, Distribution and Operations at Fresh Samantha. Fresh Samantha and Odwalla merged during Mr. Sipper’s tenure and both companies were sold to the Coca Cola Company in 2001; Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Chatham Beverage Company (Clearly Canadian, Old Tyme Soda, and New Amsterdam Beer.. Sipper began his career at Evian Natural Spring Water and helped pioneer Evian to its height in the United States, which in turn helped establish the premium bottled water category in America.
Group Director, Venturing & Emerging Brands, Coca-Cola
Creative Director, Interact Boulder
Fred Hart is the creative director and a partner at Interact, a Boulder-based branding and design firm. Fred’s CPG experience includes work in multiple bleeding-and-leading edge food categories, as well as nearly every beverage category imaginable. Notable brands he’s worked with over his career include Monster Energy, Dogfish Head Brewery, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and International Delight.
Co-founder and Vice President, Cambridge SPG
Polina Chebotarev is the co-founder and vice president of Cambridge SPG, an investment firm focused on innovative and healthy consumer brands. Its portfolio includes stakes in Foodstirs, Once Upon a Farm and Owl’s Brew. Polina has over a decade of experience in real estate, angel and venture capital and is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs and securing investment for women-owned businesses.
Sr. Category Manager for Beverages, KeHE Distributors
Julie is the Senior Category Manager of Shelf Stable Beverages for KeHE, which is one of the leading U.S. distributors of natural and specialty food products. Prior to her role at KeHE She has held management positions at Kroger, Coca-Cola and Safeway. She brings a diverse breadth of industry knowledge that has been the platform for her passion to find the items, trends and programs that drive success.
VP of Marketing & Innovation, VEB Coca-Cola
Kellam Mattie is the Chief Marketing Officer & Vice President of Marketing and Innovation for the Venturing & Emerging Brands (VEB) business unit of The Coca-Cola Company. She is responsible for leading all VEB brand businesses and for leading mission-seeking and nurturing new opportunities to build the next generation of growth.
Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Founder, Zico, Powerplant Ventures
Mark is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Powerplant Ventures (PPV), an plant-centric investment fund whose investments include Beyond Meat, Ripple Foods, REBBL and Vive Organics. He’s also the founder ZICO Beverages, which under his leadership, became one of the fastest growing beverage brands in the world and was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company in 2013.
Founder, TF Ventures