Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 Under 40: Katie LeBel

Katie LeBel
Planet Friendly Public Relations
Newcastle, Maine
Age: 39

Nine years ago, Katie LeBel was amazed at how few public relations firms representing only green companies existed. She also found a lack of awareness in the naturals industry of PR as a cost-effective marketing alternative. Inspired by eco-friendly products and the socially responsible companies making them, LeBel left her public relations job in the outdoor industry and brought the concepts, strategies and tools she was using there to the natural products marketplace. " I wanted to work with companies that I believed in," she says.

Today, LeBel takes pride in turning people on to the latest healthy alternatives—for them and the planet. She believes that the purchasing behavior of the huge group of people in the mainstream is where the greatest difference can be made in society. " It is enjoyable to go to work every day for companies with amazing missions, and rewarding to help them make a difference by telling their compelling stories. At the end of the day, I feel good that Planet Friendly is helping to make a difference in the world," she says.

Family is also important to LeBel, who runs the business with her husband Mic, with whom she has three daughters. She has made sure that Planet Friendly is a family-centered company, allowing LeBel to be a work-at-home mom. " We are very fortunate that our clients are supportive of our family-oriented approach," she says.

What are the biggest challenges facing the naturals industry? The escalating cost of energy and how that impacts the whole North American economy. Since premium organic and natural products may often have a higher price than more conventional mainstream products, it will be interesting to see if the spending habits of health- and eco-minded consumers change because of the threat of global energy and economic woes.

What's the one natural product you can't live without? Hemp. It is an organic product that Planet Friendly has helped promote since the beginning, so I know how wonderful it is from a health and environmental standpoint. It is in so many of my favorite products. My kids love hemp butter and jelly sandwiches. My dog's coat is healthy because of it, and his collar is made from it.

If Ben & Jerry's named a flavor after you, what would it be? Planet Friendly Purpose.

What are you afraid of? I am afraid of the emerging global energy crisis and the future of the planet for my kids and future generations.

Got any tattoos? No, but I am still young, right? I'm not even 40!

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 28

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