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2016 Leadership Award Winners

The Specialty Food Association announces the six winners of the 2016 Leadership Awards, honoring members who have gone “above and beyond” in advancing food standards in society – and society itself – by creating social, economic and environmental impact through innovation and vision.

This year’s winners’ achievements range from navigating a food safety crisis to creating products that support both health and the environment to enhancing community through launching food businesses that empower workers in Afghanistan, Africa, and Bangladesh.

Nominations for the awards were made by members of the Specialty Food Association and others in the specialty food industry. A panel of judges composed of industry experts and influencers selected the honorees from dozens of nominees across the three categories. The judges included Derek Mulhern, Organic Trade Association, Washington, D.C.; Joe Roy, UNFI, Providence, R.I.; Donna Daniels, Social Venture Network, San Francisco; Rebecca Fontes, City Harvest, New York City; Errol Schweizer, Whole Foods Markets, Austin, Texas; David Gremmels, Rogue Creamery, Central Point, Ore., and Sara Holby, Ajiri Tea, Upper Black Eddy, Pa.

The Awards

Six winners were chosen in three categories:

  • Business Leadership: Advancing best practices in the food industry across the spectrum of workforce issues to benefit food industry personnel.
  • Citizenship: Improving the lives of people and communities by advancing environmental and social sustainability knowledge and practice.
  • Vision: Pioneering new approaches, innovative products and business models that have set in motion positive change and progress.

2016 Leadership Awards: Business Leadership

Greg Steltenpohl, Califia Farms

Not content with one super success, Greg Stehtenpohl, a co-founder of Odwalla, returned to the beverage market in 2010 with Califia Farms. Steltenpohl is building a company that's shaking up the beverage industry. Read More...


John Lowe, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

For six years, Jeni's had spectacular success, growing to 20 scoop shops, with more than 1,800 retailers carrying the brand. Last spring, the fun stopped, when FDA found listeria in a pint of Jeni's in Nebraska. Lowe acted quickly, closing down the shops and recalling everything. Read More...

2016 Leadership Award: Citizenship

Kimberly Jung, Rumi Spice

During Kimberly Jung's deployment in Afghanistan as an Army engineer, she was looking for roadside bombs, not a business opportunity. By the time her one-year tour was up, she had gained an appreciation for Afghan culture and a love for its people. In 2014, her short-term mission became a long-term commitment when she co-founded Rumi Spice, which sources pure saffron directly from Afghan farmers, many of whom had grown poppies for the opium trade. Read More...

Linda Appel Lipsius, Teatulia Organic Teas

In 2006, Linda Appel Lipsius was in the process of selling her family's Colorado-based company, Orange Glo (makers of OxiClean), when a friend from Bangladesh asked for help. Tetulia, Bangladesh was not only suffering from poverty; its land was drying up into a barren desert. Enter Teatulia Organic Teas. Read More...

2016 Leadership Award: Vision

Josh Tetrick, Hampton Creek

Breaking up the egg industry has been Josh Tetrick's goal for the past four years at Hampton Creek. The San Francisco-based food tech start-up produces 34 eggless SKUs, including Just Mayo, Just Cookie Dough, and Just Cookies. Tetrick’s vision is not to convert the world to veganism, but for everyone to buy and love his dairy-free products regardless of diet. Read More...

Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, Back to the Roots

In 2009, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez were in their last semester of college at UC Berkeley when a professor touched on how mushrooms can be grown in recycled coffee grounds. The idea struck a chord. And Back to the Roots was born. Today, their organic mushroom kits sell in 14,000 outlets nationwide. Read More...