Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 Under 40: Steve Savage

Steve Savage
Co-founder and president
Boulder, Colo.
Age: 39

Steve Savage has spent nearly half his life developing and selling sustainable products. He and his father started Eco-Products in 1990, right after Steve graduated from college. They sold green office products—recycled paper, organic coffee and alternative packaging materials. In 1996, Eco-Products added environmentally friendly building products. Today, the company is a leader in compostable products for foodservice: hot and cold cups, polylactic acid and sugarcane containers, utensils, plates, trays and napkins.

But Savage does more than just sell products that are good for the environment. Eco-Products has been named an "Environmental Leader" by the state of Colorado. The company has a zero-waste facility, uses a solar system that makes company headquarters almost completely energy self-sufficient, offsets transportation emissions from shipping products, fuels its trucks with clean-burning natural gas or biodiesel, and offers employees incentives to use alternate transportation.

What was your first job in the naturals industry? Eco-Products was my first job. This was also my first exposure to the natural products industry.

What are the biggest challenges facing the naturals industry? Big industry is not going to give up the shelf space without a fight. They pretty much own the shelves of large retailers.

What would you like to see change in the naturals industry in the next five years? I see the large retailers and distributors migrating toward natural products in a big way. They have already started, and this will lead to a lot of opportunities. I just hope they give the little guys a chance.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? I enjoy working with our managers and team members to develop new and exciting products for the foodservice industry. For example, developing the first compostable hot-cup lid and seeing it take off in the marketplace is really rewarding.

What was your inspiration when getting started? I was excited to be in the natural or environmental products industry. I also loved business in all its forms; out of college, it was very exciting.

What are you most proud of? I am most proud of the environmental change Eco-Products has made in the foodservice industry. Every day, we distribute more than 10,000 pounds of products made from natural resources and not oil. Our products are also compostable, which helps our landfill capacity and emissions of methane gas.

What's the one natural product you can't live without? My electric scooter.

What's next for you? Our new retail entity, called Ellie's. Ellie's will open its first concept store this September, and then I hope to roll out 30 in the next three years.

What keeps you going on a tough day? I always know that my family is there for me.

If Ben & Jerry's named a flavor after you, what would it be? Green Galore.

As a little kid, you wanted to grow up to be … a tennis pro.

What are you afraid of? I'm always concerned about competition.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 34

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