Feb. 21 update: Miyoko's Creamery has filed a federal lawsuit against its founder, Miyoko Schinner, accusing her of stealing proprietary recipes and cultures after she was removed as CEO in June. Schinner, in a LinkedIn post, called the accusations "wiild untruths...designed to destroy me and get me out of the way." For more about the lawsuit, see Miyoko’s Creamery sues its namesake founder over accusations of stealing proprietary information at FoodDive.com.
Miyoko Schinner will no longer lead the company she started in 2104, Miyoko's Creamery.
In a Thursday press release, the company stated it had parted ways with Schinner "as the company enters a new stage of growth" and that the founder was no longer involved in day-to-day operations. She will continue to serve as the chairwoman of the board of directors, the company confirmed Friday.
On LinkedIn, Schinner wrote Friday that she had been removed as chief executive officer in June and that before Christmas, "negotiations for my continued involvement stalled."
"As we worked to grow the business, conflict few around the best path forward for future growth while continuing to live our values, founded on the principles of veganism and animal rights, as well as our B Corp status," she continued in the post.
The company released the news while Schinner was cooking at a fundraiser for her nonprofit farm-animal sanctuary, Rancho Compasión, she wrote on LinkedIn.
"As has already been made clear, we did not arrive at this point by my choosing. It is true that I was unwilling to agree to restrictions that would have made any ongoing role I played at this Company 'for appearances' only,'" she wrote.
"I am honesty uncertain about how things will turn out—especially after some (though not all) of my fellow directors decided that I would not be actively involved with the company," wrote Schinner, 65.
Although the company's press release did not specify the reason for the split, an investor provided more details to FoodNavigator-USA in an interview published Thursday. James Joaquin, co-founder and managing director of Obvious Ventures, said the company needs a leader with a different skill set to move to the next level.
"The company is at a major growth inflection point, and for me as an investor, it's never my first choice to part ways with a founder, but it is often the case that the skill set of a founder—that innovation engine to go from zero to one, to just create a new category that didn't exist, those skills are often not the same skills to go from one to 100 and then scale that and make it more accessible and more affordable and bring those products to the masses," Joaquin said.
Schinner spoke with VegNews via phone during Thursday's fundraiser. She was surprised the separation had been announced to the public, she told the publication.
“All of the work that I have ever done in my life—since I went vegan almost 40 years ago—has been to create a new food system that respects the lives of animals and doesn’t put [humans] at the top of the food pyramid,” Schinner said. “And I’ve done that for all the enterprises that I’ve had.”
Schinner became interested in veganism in the mid-1980s, she told New Hope Network in 2018.
"I was plant-based for a number of years—an evolving vegan—but I had a hard time turning down a beautiful platter of cheese," she said. "But after learning about the dairy industry, I had to make the commitment to no eat dairy at all. It was very hard." After she opened her restaurant in San Francisco, California, she started perfecting her vegan recipes and wrote a cookbook, "Artisan Vegan Cheese," in 2012.
Later, she took some of her vegan cheese to a Tofurky party at Natural Products Expo West. Tofurky founder Seth Tibbott urged Schinner to start a vegan cheese company—and said he'd be her first investor.
"Seth gave me the inspiration to do so," she said.