- Mark Rampolla, the founder of ZICO Coconut Water and founding partner of plant-centric venture capital firm Powerplant Ventures, announced another career shift on Wednesday. In a written statement, he's the new CEO of Beanfields Snacks where he is taking no salary for his position and will be able to transfer a portion of the company's ownership and profits to gang intervention program Homeboy Industries.
- According to a company press release, Rampolla remains a partner of Powerplant Ventures, but also is going to focus on growing the snack company.
- "With Beanfields I see an opportunity for a successful, scalable business that addresses a major issue in our food system, but one that also creates a sustainable source of funding and hopefully job opportunities for individuals that need it," Rampolla wrote in his statement.
Although Rampolla's jump to a salary-free CEO job may be surprising, the prelude to it has been there. Powerplant Ventures has long funded Beanfields Snacks, a company that makes bean and rice chips that are vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and non-GMO. And Rampolla has always been enthusiastic about the company's products, telling Food Navigator in April that he believed "that just the current product line has the potential to be a $20-$30m business with no additional innovation."
This spring, the company transferred its controlling investment to Powerplant Ventures, and Rampolla became co-chairman of the board. Meanwhile, the company's founder Reed Glidden was ready to step out of its day-to-day operations.
According to his statement, Rampolla was excited by what he saw at Beanfields — both with the company's products and its partnership with Homeboy Industries.
"Similar to what I saw in the beverage industry in 2003, the salty snack industry is ripe for disruption: it’s a massive, multi-billion-dollar market, with a few entrenched players, not delivering the real health and nutrition consumers want and need," he wrote.
According to reports, consumers often reach for salty snacks when they are hungry. A new Euromonitor study shows salty snacks sales have grown during the last year — and are beating those of confections — in all areas worldwide except Eastern Europe. These kinds of snacks comprise almost a third of global snack sales, and 40% of those in the United States. Datassential's MenuTrends Keynote snacking report indicates 48% of consumers say they ate at least one salty snack yesterday, though many want to see more healthy snack innovation.
Rampolla wrote that the charitable mission of using Beanfields' proceeds to benefit a gang intervention and rehabilitation program also led him to take the helm of the snack company. In the latest funding round for Beanfields, all investors pledged to donate at least 10% of their gains to the program — though a release said some would donate up to 50%. Under Rampolla's leadership, he wrote that Homeboy Industries will own 5% of Beanfields — potentially up to 10% in time. He also pledges to give 1% of all sales proceeds to the program and wrote employees will donate 1% of their time to support it. Additionally, he wrote he will try to create jobs for Homeboy Industries program graduates.
Not only do today's consumers respond to healthier product options, but they also prefer "mission-based" brands that do more than just make a product to make a profit. According to research by Globescan, 40% of middle class consumers want to choose brands that "have a clear purpose and act in the best interests of society."
Pushing the partnership with Homeboy Industries to the front and center of Beanfields' branding is likely to help its bottom line as will the products' healthy credentials. A Maru/Matchbox report shows millennials are willing to pay more for premium products, and about 61% of them expect food to be GMO-free. This key snacking demographic is a prime group of consumers for Beanfields' products. And if anyone knows how to successfully scale and disrupt a category, it's Rampolla.
“I couldn’t be happier that we have someone of Mark’s experience, passion, and dedication to lead Beanfields at this critical juncture,” Glidden, under the title of Beanfields founder, said in the company statement. “And to get him for free? We might be the luckiest brand out there.”