Eric Ryan - founder, Method Products
Ryan’s LinkedIn profile gives you a sense of what kind of guy he is: “Eric makes soap. Really nice smelling soap that's non-toxic and good for the planet. Soap that's really beautiful, too. He started Method in 2001 with his high school buddy Adam and has since built Method into a $150 million brand at retail.”
Eric has a lot going for him. He was named PETA’s Person of the Year; Vanity Fair recognized him as an eco-leader; Food & Wine named him a Tastemaker, and Time magazine described him as an eco-revolutionary.
Before launching Method, Ryan worked in London as a strategic planner in advertising followed by stints at Fallon, Hal Riney & Partners and TATTOO Brand Consulting. No mention of Eric would be complete without noting that his LinkedIn profile also says he has been named “one of People Magazine's Sexiest People Alive.” The profile adds: “Okay, that last one's not really true, but the others are.” That’s Ryan — someone who also took on Unilever, P&G and other Fortune 500 consumer strategics in the uber-competitive market of household cleaners. He has a passion for taking on entrenched incumbents and helping entrepreneurs thrive.
Meredith Schwarz - manager, General Mills Ventures
Meredith Schwarz spends a lot time in Whole Foods and other supermarkets. Most of the time she’s not shopping for food -- she’s shopping for companies. As the manager of General Mills Ventures she is constantly seeking promising consumer goods companies that might be a fit for General Mills Ventures.
She can be found reading labels of packaged snacks, looking for contact addresses or other contact information of manufacturers with promise. In her role identifying and developing early-stage companies, she is on an endless quest for companies that understand their customers and have strong brands. She sets the direction of the fund, manages the portfolio of investments and develops the pipeline of new investment opportunities.
Schwarz is the most well-connected leader at any corporate venture fund. In consumer retail, the M&A market last year was twice the size as it was in internet and software combined. Her success in helping to lead the internal venture arm of one the important consumer strategics makes her a Kingmaker.
David Kingsbury - vice president of product development, New Hope Natural Media
David Kingsbury is a leading thinker in positioning brands through mining qualitative consumer insights, product development and innovation. Kingsbury has been developing progressive products and services to serve customers for the past four years at New Hope Natural Media, the leading media resource and information provider for the natural, organic and healthy-lifestyle products industry.
As vice president of partnership and product development at New Hope Natural Media, he is one of the key players on New Hope's NEXT Trend business intelligence solutions team. NEXT Trend offers proprietary pre-shelf natural products data, future trend insights, a predictive consumer segmentation, custom research and extensive industry expertise that helps companies spot emerging market opportunities in the natural products industry.
Before New Hope, Kingsbury was a senior strategist and planner for the Product Innovation Group at Crispin, Porter & Bogusky (CP+B) where he led strategy for the group that successfully won and worked with clients including Domino’s, Kraft, Coke, Microsoft, Best Buy, Activision and Volkswagen.
Josh Goldin - co-founder & managing partner, Alliance Consumer Growth
Josh Goldin co-founded Alliance Consumer Growth, a New York-based private equity fund, to help entrepreneurs in the consumer space grow and thrive. It is a testament to Josh and his partners’ reputation for picking winners that it took ACG just two months to close its second fund — the $90 million Alliance Consumer Growth Fund II. The fund was oversubscribed with strong support from existing LPs and new investors and made its initial investment in snack foods brand BarkTHINS.
ACG has a stellar record of providing growth capital and support to promising emerging consumer, retail and restaurant brands. Current investments include Babyganics, The Honest Kitchen, Kriser’s Pets, KRAVE Jerky, Shake Shack, Suja Juice, barkTHINS and PDQ Restaurants. Prior investments include EVOL Foods (acquired by Boulder Brands) and Plum Organics (acquired by Campbell Soup Company).
Mike Mauze - co-founder & managing director, VMG Partners
If you look at a list of a few of VMG Partner’s transactions, you would say that the firm that Mike Mauze co-founded in 2005 has a golden touch: VMG sold Pirate Brands to B&G Foods, maker of Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Dash seasonings; they sold Natural Balance Pet Foods to Del Monte Foods; they sold Pretzel Crisps’ maker Snack Factory to Synder’s-Lance; and they sold Waggin’ Train to Nestle Purina PetCare.
As VMG Managing Director, Mike focuses on all aspects of the fund’s investment strategy, execution and portfolio company management. He serves on the boards of KIND Snacks, Mighty Leaf Tea, Pirate Brands, Pretzel Crisps, Timbuk2, Speck Products and Kernel Season’s, and served on the board of Waggin’ Train before Nestle Purina Petcare acquired the company.
Previously, he was a managing director at TSG Consumer Partners and before that advised consumer products companies in M&A at Lehman Brothers Inc. and spent 13 years focused on consumer products M&A at PaineWebber.
John Foraker - CEO, Annie's
John Foraker transformed a $7-million niche player in mac & cheese into a household name in natural and organic foods. Foraker’s tenure with Annie’s is practically a how-to guide for growing a consumer products brand. After leading an investment of growth capital in Annie’s in 1999, he served as Chairman, then became CEO in 2004, and led the company through a successful IPO in 2012.
Annie’s Inc. is now a leading brand with more than 145 products and sales exceeding $200 million. This year the company celebrated its 25th anniversary by being acquired by General Mills for $820 million. In announcing the deal in September, General Mills Chief Operating Officer Jeff Harmening said: “Consumers know and trust Annie’s purpose-driven culture and authentic brand.” A testament to John’s leadership of the Berkeley-based company.
Before Annie’s, Foraker co-founded Napa Valley Kitchens and Stonehouse Olive Oil Company, both specialty food companies, and served as a corporate lender for Bank of America.
Kirsten Green - founder, Forerunner Ventures
In her 20-plus years of investment experience, Kirsten Green has spotted some of the hottest startups, including Warby Parker, Bonobos, Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club. During her early years in private equity, she spent spare time helping cash-starved startups develop strategy and, in her own words, learning “what it meant to invest in a private company, how to partner with an entrepreneur.”
As the founder and managing director of Forerunner Ventures, she’s combined that understanding of startups with great insight into consumer trends. She has successfully evaluated and invested in countless consumer oriented businesses, from pre-revenue startups to multi-billion-dollar enterprises.
Her ability to draw connections between large and small companies ensures a well-rounded perspective on successful business models, operational and market issues, and consumer trends. Green has raised in excess of $100 million from leading institutional investors and invested in more than 30 early stage companies.
She currently serves on the board of directors of several Forerunner portfolio companies including Bonobos, Dollar Shave Club, Retention Science, Serena & Lily and Into the Gloss.
Bill Shen - director, Encore Consumer Capital
Bill Shen is responsible for deal origination and execution as well as portfolio company oversight at Encore Consumer Capital, a private equity firm investing exclusively in consumer products companies. In his six years at the firm, he has made his mark and became a director at Encore early this year. He is a director of Ancient Harvest, Brownie Brittle, California Splendor and Ciao Bella.
Before Encore, he led corporate development for Nest Collective, a natural and organic consumer products company. Shen began his career at Swander Pace & Company (later acquired by Kurt Salmon), a strategy consulting firm servicing food, beverage, apparel and retail clients, where he was a member of the firm’s Private Equity Practice and worked on multiple consumer transactions.
After Kurt Salmon, Shen led the food and beverage practice of a boutique investment bank.
Barry Nalebuff - co-founder & chairman, Honest Tea
Barry Nalebuff is an expert in business strategy and game theory and a successful entrepreneur and angel investor. A professor at Yale School of Management, Barry co-founded Honest Tea, a company that sells great tasting ready-to-drink iced tea. He and one of his former students, Seth Goldman, launched the company using whole tea leaves after discovering that most American bottled tea was made from lower quality dust and fannings left after quality tea had been produced.
Honest Tea has been one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing companies, growing revenue from $250,000 in sales its initial year, 1998, to $23 million in 2007. The next year The Coca-Cola Company took a 40 percent, stake and Honest Tea grew to $38 million in revenue. Four years later, it had grown sales to over $70 million, and Coca-Cola purchased the remaining stake in Honest Tea.
Even as a Coca-Cola brand, the company is grabbing headlines as a leader. This year, Coca-Cola Company announced Honest Tea would be its first brand available in K-Cup packs for use in Keurig’s hot brewing system.
Kevin Park - founder, SimplePitch Ventures
Kevin Park is a three-time entrepreneur and founder of SimplePitch Ventures. His approach at SimplePitch is simple: Cash is king. The firm works with growing businesses that do not have to rely on an exit or outside financing to keep growing. His firm provides capital and operating expertise to focus all business decisions (hires, marketing, systems, etc.) on growing cash in the bank.
As he says, “The success of early-stage companies is accomplished through execution and cash management. I love to roll up my sleeves and jump in right alongside the founding team.” His Consumer Circle fund focuses on seed-stage funding to food, apparel and packaged goods companies selling clever and exciting and disruptive products in under-$1 billion industries.
Park’s success has come from listening to stories about how entrepreneurs came up with their amazing ideas and helping them maneuver through the highs and lows of growing their businesses.
Nick Giannuzzi - managing partner, The Giannuzzi Group LLP
Nick Giannuzzi is that rare breed: an excellent attorney and an invaluable team player. Since January 2011, Nick has served as managing partner of The Giannuzzi Group LLP, a premier boutique law firm specializing in the representation of fast-growing, independent companies in the hospitality, food and beverage industries.
He is known for his thorough knowledge of the law and his zealous advocacy for his clients. Those clients include vitaminater, VitaCoco, Siggi’s, Peeled Snacks and Happy Baby. For these clients, he has helped arrange investments or acquisitions by larger companies. He is also on the Board of Advisors for AccelFoods, a national packaged food and beverage accelerator with a dedicated investment fund.
Giannuzzi served as outside legal counsel and a board member of Nurture Inc., a leading organic baby food company, until June 2013 when he oversaw the sale of the company to Group Danone. He also served as outside general counsel to Glaceau, the owner of the Vitaminwater and Smartwater brands from the formation of the company until the sale of the company in 2007 to Coca-Cola for over $4 billion.
Brad Barnhorn - industry advisor, Silverwood Partners
As an industry advisor with Silverwood Partners, Brad Barnhorn draws on his years of experience to provide insights into the trends, strategic options and valuation parameters in the consumer industry for the investment bank’s clients. He also serves as an operating advisor with Encore Consumer Capital and Winona Capital Management.
Barnhorn founded Fantasia Fresh Juice Company, which was a pioneer in the fresh juice and smoothie category. He grew the company into the leading fresh juice and premium smoothie brand in the Midwest. As Chairman and CEO, he sold Fantasia to North Castle Partners in late 2000 concurrent with a merger with Naked Juice, which was subsequently acquired by Pepsi in 2006.
Barnhorn dedicates his time to developing great consumer companies and CEOs through his advisory work and through his board of directors work with leading consumer growth companies that include Krave Jerky, KeVita and Zola. Brad is in a unique position to identify and guide high potential consumer businesses on the journey from great idea to great company.
Janica Lane - managing director, Piper Jaffray Companies
Janica Lane’s passion and talent for helping consumer-oriented businesses is well-known in our industry. That expertise and experience was affirmed late last year, when Piper Jaffray Companies acquired Partnership Capital Growth, where she was a partner.
The Minneapolis-based investment bank clearly saw the addition of Lane and others from PCG as its best option for expanding its consumer investment services. And no wonder. In her seven years at PCG, Lane and her colleagues had made quite a name for their investment bank, which focused exclusively on consumer-oriented markets across health/wellness, active lifestyles and sustainable products and services.
At Piper Jaffray, she is a managing director 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. Janica has a passion for helping businesses in several categories including healthy food, direct-to-consumer, vitamin, mineral & supplement, and personal care/beauty categories. Her drive and willingness to help businesses has made her a leading advisor to those seeking to raise value-added capital.
Ravi Raj - head of product, Bloomreach
Ravi Raj recently moved from @WalmartLabs to become head of product at Bloomreach, which provides cloud-based applications used by leading retailers to help personalize websites, mobile sites and mobile apps and optimize them for relevance and improve the customer experience.
Raj has a 15-plus year track record of successfully developing products in the search engine marketing and e-commerce space. He was most recently the vice president of @WalmartLabs, where he managed customer acquisition, social and mobile products for Walmart.
In his time with @WalmartLabs he was involved in some leading edge initiatives, such as Goodies, a social shopping business built from the ground up in 6 months; Shopycat, a Facebook app that recommends gifts for friends and family based on their likes, tastes and activity on Facebook; and Smart Store, a mobile web app and an interactive kiosk that enable shoppers to search a store using an indoor map, check price and availability and print coupons.
Raj joined Walmart through the acquisition of Kosmix, where he had served as the vice president of product and general manager of Kosmix’s websites, Kosmix.com, RightHealth.com and Tweetbeat.com.
Mark Poff - managing director, Swander Pace Capital
Mark Poff is a managing director at Swander Pace Capital, a leading private equity firm focused on buyouts of growth-oriented, lower middle-market consumer products companies based in North America. For 17 years he has been instrumental in Swander Pace Capital’s mission of acquiring and investing in companies with leading market positions in attractive, defensible niches with opportunities to take advantage of growth trends and improve operating performance.
He also teaches on leveraged buyouts at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Mark serves as chairman of Bravo Sports, Incase Designs Corp., Wholesome Pet Care Ltd. and is a director of Gilchrist & Soames, Inc., Raj Manufacturing, LLC and ReNew Life Formulas, Inc. Before SPC, he was with the private equity consulting practice of Bain & Co., where he led due diligence projects for a number of private equity sponsors.
Steve Spinner - CEO, president & director, United Natural Foods Inc.
Since Steve Spinner became President and Chief Executive Officer of United Natural Foods Inc., (UNFI) in 2008, UNFI has achieved double-digit compound annual growth rates. This financial success is only part of the story. As the top executive at North America’s leading distributor of organic, natural and specialty products, Spinner oversees a massive operation that includes 28 distribution centers in the US and Canada and more than 6.5 million square feet of warehouse space.
All of this delivers more than 65,000 distinct products to more than 31,000 customer locations. During Spinner's time at the helm, UNFI has invested more than $270 million to complete the build-out of its nationwide infrastructure and to improve technology, and has made multiple acquisitions including Disley Food Services, Purity Organic Holdings and Trudeau Foods.
Before joining UNFI, Spinner served as CEO of Performance Food Group Co. from late 2006 to 2008 and was its chief operating officer and senior vice president previously.
David Jacquin - founder and managing director, North Point Advisors
David Jacquin has spent two decades as an M&A advisor. With his extensive knowledge and expertise, he founded North Point Advisors in 2004. His objective was to earn his clients’ lifetime loyalty by creating value through exceptional mergers and acquisitions, advice and services. He and his firm have succeeded. Their list of clients includes Jamba Juice, Teavana, Protein Bar and Jimmy John’s, to name just a few. Before founding North Point Advisors, David led M&A divisions for Piper Jaffray & Co, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America/Montgomery Securities. Additionally, he practiced law with Cravath, Swaine and Moore in New York and London, where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions. He also worked as a consultant for Arthur Andersen and Company.
Jeff Jones - chief marketing officer, Target
Jeff Jones joined Target in 2012 as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Jeff brings extensive experience in leading global marketing, advertising strategy and operations across more than a dozen industries, including consumer products and retail.
One of the things that makes Jones unique in the brick-and-mortar retail space has been his passion for technology and entrepreneurship. He helped establish a systems integration consulting firm that was acquired by marchFIRST and he co-founded Motobias, a dynamic video services provider. He has also advised Zoove, a mobile marketing company; experiential marketing firm ASquared Group; Point Inside, an indoor-mapping technology company; and Curious Sense, a music-based gaming company.
As Target’s CMO he oversees marketing business intelligence, enterprise loyalty and all advertising, media and marketing strategy and operations for the company. He's also responsible for corporate communications, public relations and investor relations. Forbes has named him one of the World’s Most Influential CMOs and one of the Top 20 Social CMOs of Fortune 250 companies. His leadership and work have been profiled in Harvard Business Review, Spencer Stuart’s magazine, Point of View, and the book, “What the New Breed of CMOs Know That You Don’t.”
Shaun Westfall - managing director, Piper Jaffray
Shaun Westfall has worked on more than two dozen capital raising and advisory-based transactions at Piper Jaffray, where he is a managing director and member of the consumer investment banking team. He focuses on beauty and personal care, infant, household and pet products, sporting goods and outdoor products. He has provided investment banking and M&A advisory services to beauty companies such as Urban Decay, tarte, Bare Escentuals and Ulta, and leading outdoor lifestyle brands such as Burton and Black Diamond. Before joining Piper Jaffray, he worked at Cascadia Capital, a boutique investment banking firm that provides private placement and M&A advisory services to emerging growth and middle market companies.
Mark Dufilho - managing director, Consumer Products Group, Houlihan Lokey
Mark Dufilho is a managing director in Houlihan Lokey’s Dallas office, where he is a senior member of the Consumer, Food and Retail Group. He has nearly two decades of experience providing transaction advisory, corporate finance and restructuring services to small and mid-cap public and private companies and private equity firms. Dufilho’s experience spans various branded consumer products segments, including branded apparel, consumer electronics, health and beauty, household and home products, and retail.
Before joining Houlihan Lokey, he worked at Alvarez & Marsal, where he provided interim management and turnaround advisory services to distressed companies in a wide range of industries. Earlier, he worked as a manager in corporate development for Commerce One and as a manager providing M&A services in the transaction services group at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Lou Marinaccio - managing director, North Castle Partners
Lou Marinaccio is a managing director at North Castle Partners with 20 years of experience investing in, advising and operating consumer and middle-market companies. His experience includes more than 12 years at North Castle, a leading private equity firm focused on investments in consumer-driven product and service businesses that promote healthy, active, and sustainable living. Lou has led more than a dozen food and beverage brand investments. He currently serves on the board of directors of Flatout, Palladio Beauty Group and Mineral Fusion Natural Brands.
Marinaccio was integral to North Castle's prior portfolio company Naked Juice, where he served as COO and a member of the senior management team responsible for dramatically improving performance, culminating in a sale to PepsiCo. He also helps lead North Castle's beauty and personal care investments and sits on the Board of Directors of gloProfesional and Mineral Fusion. He served as interim CEO of DDF, a prior North Castle portfolio company, delivering sales and earnings growth leading to a sale to Procter & Gamble.
Tony Fadell - CEO, Nest
Look at the November issue of the Harvard Business Review, and you’ll know why Tony Fadell is on the Kingmakers list. The cover story is The Internet of Everything: Smart, connected products will transform your business. Fadell is the founder and CEO of Nest, best known for its smart thermostat and for its acquisition by Google for $3.2 billion. Nest, which also has a smart, connected smoke and CO2 alarm, says of itself: “We reinvent things. We take the unloved products in your home and make simple, beautiful, thoughtful things.”
The author of more than 300 patents, Fadell is at the forefront of intelligent, internet-enabled consumer products that will redefine many of the most mundane appliances in our lives. Before founding Nest Labs in 2010, Fadell led the team that created Apple’s first 18 generations of the iPod and the first three iPhone generations.