Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 Under 40: Steve Siegel

Steve Siegel
Vice president
Ecuadorian Rainforest
Belleville, N.J.
Age: 29

Steve Siegel was appointed vice president of Ecuadorian Rainforest, a supplier of global natural products, in July 2004, and, in addition to overseeing all facets of the business, is responsible for marketing and communication initiatives.

Siegel started ER's Folklore Project to integrate indigenous history into modern-day marketing. He also created the Ecuadorian Rainforest Knowledgebase, an online database of botanical information that visitors can use before making a purchase decision.

In 2005, he represented ER as part of a U.S. trade delegation to the Netherlands, arranged by the U.S. Embassy there. In 2008, Siegel visited a Moroccan orphanage for disabled children and organized a donation to be made on behalf of ER and himself. In 2009, Siegel will participate in a five-week rain forest expedition in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The group will study the ecosystem and take part in a conservation and humanitarian project.

Prior to joining ER, Siegel was a guest lecturer at WSB-National Louis University in Nowy Sacz, Poland. He received his master's in integrated marketing communication from Emerson College in Boston in 2003 and holds a bachelor's in advertising from Northeastern University in Boston.

What was your first job in the naturals industry? Or first exposure? My family roots—no pun intended—go back to Ecuador, South America. My grandmother is a bona fide medicine woman. When I was younger and my brother and I would fight, she'd put us in our separate corners and make us drink a tonic made of the herb rue. Sure enough, we calmed down. Later on in life, my first job in the industry was helping my mother with her then-small startup, Botanicals Nutritional International. Working with my mother, I learned about many interesting botanicals. One day I looked up my grandmother's famous rue tonic and found that it had sedative properties! However, to be totally honest, I'm not sure if it was the herb or the horrible taste that got my brother and me to temporarily call a truce. (Sorry, Grandma.)

What are the biggest challenges facing the naturals industry? Quality! With recent disastrous events in China and, of course, the long-standing problem of bogus suppliers, the industry is facing a real quality-control issue. I like to call it "quality out of control." I think the time has come for genuine suppliers, their partners and manufacturing clients to step up to the plate and combat the unscrupulous characters in the industry. For now, people are content with just turning a blind eye on something that really affects us all.

If Ben & Jerry's named a flavor after you, what would it be? Bananas and Nuts. Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you I'm crazy. No, not in a shave-my-head-Britney-Spears way, but rather in how I live my life. I'm always up for trying new things, whether it is at work or in my personal life.

Got any tattoos? Wouldn't you like to know.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 35

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