Annie's founder joins organic baby food startup as CEO
- John Foraker, founder of Annie's Homegrown who stepped down last month, announced his new job on Monday: CEO of California-based organic baby foods startup Once Upon a Farm, according to Project NOSH and a company statement.
- The natural foods leader is joined by actress Jennifer Garner, whose title will be chief brand ambassador for the organic baby foods manufacturer. The two are also coming in as co-founders and investors.
- Foraker said he plans to apply his extensive expertise in the food industry to help the startup "grow big and fast into a highly disruptive force in the organic food space.”
Foraker had planned to only stay on for a year after Annie's was acquired by General Mills for $820 million in 2014, but he ended up remaining at the helm for three years to make sure the organic food brand was fully integrated into its parent company.
Foraker detailed his reasons for leaving Annie's in an Aug. 3 LinkedIn post, where he stated that the move had nothing to do with General Mills' "recent struggles as it works to position itself for another 150 years." He called the opportunity to join and influence the course of Once Upon a Farm "exciting and terrifying at the same time" and something he just couldn't pass up.
An entrepreneur at heart, Foraker said he's not cut out for corporate life in the long run and will now apply his food industry background and knowledge to guiding and positioning Once Upon a Farm as a major force in the sector.
The organic baby food market is crowded with players, with Gerber, Ella's Kitchen, Sprout, Happy Baby, Earth's Best and Campbell's Plum Organics jockeying for space. Parents are always looking for tasty and appealing products to feed their babies, but they are also checking labels and wanting products to look and taste as fresh as possible — while also being safe and wholesome.
Once Upon a Farm touts itself as different because it produces organic, mostly locally sourced, shelf-stable products via high-pressure processing, which uses pressure instead of heat to kill off any potentially harmful substances. The products are then packaged in eco-friendly, recyclable pouches available nationwide — including at Kroger and Whole Foods outlets — or through subscription-based deliveries.
Given the star power Foraker and Garner bring, their joining the Bay Area startup is likely to cause a few jitters in potentially impacted boardrooms. Foraker was able to nearly double Annie's business after its controversial purchase by General Mills. Garner, a mother of three, told Project NOSH she had been spent six years looking a children's food brand worthy of investment.
The development also brings a financial boost to Once Upon a Farm co-founders Ari Raz and Cassandra Curtis, who had reportedly closed a $3.1-million round of financing in January and were busy raising another $4 million in June. Raz is now the company's president and Curtis is chief innovation officer.
How disruptive the quartet can be in the organic baby foods space should soon become clear. Foraker stated in last month's LinkedIn post that details for the company's future would be revealed "over the next month or so."