“We’ve started a movement to address the under-served community of people who suffer from food allergies” With Will Holsworth
We are fundamentally changing a community who is vastly underserved, as the epidemic of food allergies continues to grow at a rate of 20 percent year over year. As we like to say, the very thing that keeps us alive should not divide us. Safe food should be enjoyable for all, and we should be more tolerant and open to people with food allergies.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Will Holsworth, CEO of allergen-friendly food company, SAFE + FAIR. Today, more than 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies and SAFE + FAIR offers a range of products that taste great, are rigorously tested, clearly labeled and affordably priced so families can easily make decisions about which products work for them.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your backstory?
I’ve been in the food & beverage industry for nearly 25 years. Prior to joining SAFE + FAIR, I was President at Muscle Milk and Sambazon. I was also Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for PepsiAmericas, and before that, Head of Global Strategy for Gatorade at PepsciCo. I am also a graduate of Wake Forest University.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing about SAFE + FAIR is that food allergies go beyond our business; it’s personal. Almost all of our staff has been affected by food allergies in some manner. I’m gluten-intolerant, as is our Head of Digital, his wife and our VP of Sales’ wife. Our SVP of Innovation’s son has Crohn’s Disease and is on a very restricted diet. Our Project Manager has nut allergies, as does the husband of our Head of Market Activation. So, you can see this is a very personal issue and helping the underserved community of food allergy sufferers is our passion project.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The fact that food allergies are in our DNA makes us unique. Many of our products, like Remy’s Grahams, Abby’s Cookies and Gavin’s Granola, are named after our founders’ kids, who suffer from food allergies. We have a deep personal commitment to changing the way those affected view and consume food; making it an enjoyable experience again instead of one rooted in fear. We also have the unwavering support of dedicated investors that share our passion and an executive team that brings a lot of expertise to this issue.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes, we have many new products in the pipeline! Until now, our products have been peanut-free and tree nut-free, but we’re about to roll out lines of pea protein chips and popcorn quinoa chips that are gluten-free, non-GMO, kosher and free from five of the top eight most common allergens. We’re also introducing brownie and blondie mixes, and expanding our line of granola — which, in my opinion, includes the best granolas you’ll ever taste.
What advice would you give to other CEOs to help their companies and employees thrive?
Hire excellent people — ones who are honest, smart, hard-working — and allow them to be the best versions of themselves. When you are the best spouse, significant other, parent, friend, etc., it enables you to bring the best version of yourself to SAFE + FAIR.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The people I am most grateful for are my kids. They inspire me. My children are top of mind when contemplating not only what to do, but also how to do it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve had the good fortune to help create SAFE + FAIR and in turn, make eating a safer and more enjoyable experience for the more than 15 million Americans affected by food allergies. At SAFE + FAIR, we’ve also eliminated premium pricing, so our products are as accessible as possible for those who need it most.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Your role is as much external as it is internal.
2) Understand and acknowledge the great responsibility that comes with your role. Every and all things stop with you.
3) Being a president is miles apart from being CEO. Understand the magnitude of your role and the opportunities to bring good to your employees and the world.
4) You have to love, love, love the pressure. You have to embrace it.
5) T-shirts and jeans are an acceptable dress code.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“You are where you are supposed to be, so you have to have all that you need.”
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I think we’re doing that with SAFE + FAIR. We are fundamentally changing a community who is vastly underserved, as the epidemic of food allergies continues to grow at a rate of 20 percent year over year. As we like to say, the very thing that keeps us alive should not divide us. Safe food should be enjoyable for all, and we should be more tolerant and open to people with food allergies.
Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
That’s easy. Chad Holsworth, Katie Holsworth or Jack Holsworth — my kids; either all of them together or individually.