Most food and farm business leaders know the value of a strong, engaged, committed team. But for those organizations deemed essential, operating through the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this into even sharper focus. They understand that their employees are on the front lines, continuing to work hard even despite the risks, to ensure Americans stay nourished and the company stays afloat. And for their teams’ dedication, the CEOs and founders whom FFI works with all say they are extremely grateful.
It’s experiences like this that really test businesses and show what—and who—they are made of. Companies rooted in values, with a clear mission and a culture of employee engagement and empowerment, have been better equipped to navigate the pandemic and recent racial tensions facing our society. Now, that’s not to say some amazing food and farm businesses haven’t faltered in these challenging economic times due to circumstances beyond their control. But in general, the current climate has demonstrated clearly that empathetic leadership, an inclusive company culture and a highly valued workforce matter.
Put simply, take care of your team and they’ll take care of you. Show them daily that you believe in their skills and talents, and they’ll rise to challenges. Give them responsibilities, and they’ll go above and beyond. And during a pandemic, make extra efforts to support and safeguard them—including inviting them to share their concerns and questions on the matter—and they will feel valued and heard and, in turn, supported and safe.
Sadie Scheffer, founder and CEO of gluten-free sourdough brand Bread SRSLY and Tera’s latest Edible-Alpha® podcast guest, is a great example of this type of leader. For the last several years, she has been working hard to make her organization less hierarchical and to cultivate leaders in as many areas as possible. As a result, her team gets behind the company’s mission and values, and there is now a very low turnover rate. Even as the pandemic drove demand for Bread SRSLY products through the roof, Sadie and her fellow leaders proved how much they value their team by dialing back capacity—and even shutting down for a few weeks—to ensure everyone’s safety.
It typically takes an upfront investment, in both time and money, to really, truly engage and care for employees and to nurture aspiring leaders. That’s why when businesses are hell-bent on operating in the most efficient manner possible, these things can fall by the wayside. But in the end, they almost always prove to be worth the investment. Workers work harder, achieve more and stay with the company longer, all of which pay off long-term.
Tera talks more about Sadie’s work and affirming organizational culture in our huddle notes from August 10th.
When: Tuesday, September 22, 1 to 3 p.m. CDT. Registration: FREE
And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…
Business Model Insights
- Social media influencers offer economical access to consumers during pandemic (FoodNavigator-USA) Through the pandemic, more Americans are living vicariously through social media influencers, many of whom have not yet raised their rates to reflect their higher engagement. This make them a timely investment for food and beverage brands looking to boost their online presence.
- How accelerators and incubators can help grow natural products startups (New Hope Network)
- Delivering leadership where it matters the most—in the future (Natural Products Insider)
- ‘We are over-mentored and under-funded’: Minority founders find a cultural disconnect with VCs (Modern Retail) While venture capitalists tout their diversity initiatives, many founders of color still find it difficult to land investment. They believe the issue stems from the VC world’s tight circles, tendency to fund friends and family and obsession with founder narratives.
- Lever VC raises $23M to invest in early-stage alternative protein companies (Food Dive)
- Entrepreneurs and Investors Discuss Uplifting Black Food Businesses (Food Tank)
- Carbon Labels Are Finally Coming to the Food and Beverage Industry (Forbes) Nutrition labels aren’t enough for consumers anymore. They are increasingly demanding another type of label that details how individual food and beverage products contribute to climate change.
- ‘Big Food’ enjoying sustained sales uplifts as consumers stay home (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Regenerative Organic Certification Launches to Prioritize Soil Health and Farmworker Justice in Food Products (Food Tank)
- Alternative flours get a boost as traditional counterpart sells out (Food Dive) The pandemic’s baking frenzy benefited companies such as Renewal Mill and Nature’s Eats as consumers experimented with products from almond to okara flours.
- Lockdown, leftovers and how food frugality is a climate boon (Reuters)
- Shoppers settle into online grocery routines (Grocery Dive)
Farming and AgTech
- A New Row-Cropping System in Iowa Offers Some Reasons for Optimism (Civil Eats) A pioneering approach to raising livestock and growing crops on the same land could diversify farm country, bring more income to farmers, and feed the communities where food is grown.
- Regenerative Ranching in a Pandemic (Civil Eats)
- Farms Are Becoming Popular Staycation Destinations (Modern Farmer)
- Land O’Lakes, Microsoft team to boost food production, sustainability & farm quality of life (FoodNavigator-USA) An unexpected partnership between one of the largest dairy cooperatives in America and a technology powerhouse is taking on some of the biggest threats to the U.S. food system to help farmers produce more food, more profitably and more sustainably.
- Walmart’s newest Instacart partnership bolsters the retailer’s same-day delivery offerings – and takes dead aim at Amazon’s Whole Foods (Business Insider)
- Indigo Ag expands its ambitions to reward farmers for fighting global warming (CNBC)
- Edible-Alpha® Consultant Huddle: 8/31 at 1 p.m. CDT (Get notes from the last huddle here.)
- Edible-Alpha® Entrepreneur Huddle: 8/31 at 2:30 p.m. CDT (Get notes from the last huddle here.)
- Virtual Restaurants: 9/9
- Food Automation and Manufacturing: 9/14–9/16
- Spark Change Mission-Driven Business Community Event: 9/16
- AgTech NEXT: 9/22–11/10
- Spark Change Modern Health Community Event: 10/7
- Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit: 10/13–10/15
- Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo: 10/17–10/20
- Food Safety Summit: 10/19–10/22
- Spark Change Organic & Regenerative Agriculture Community Event: 10/28
- PACK EXPO Connects: 11/9–11/13
- Spark Celebration: 11/10–11/11
- Kosherfest: 11/10–11/11 in Secaucus, NJ
- PLMA Private Label Trade Show: 11/15–11/17 in Chicago, IL
- American Food Manufacturing Summit: 11/16–11/17 in Chicago, IL