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Clockwise from left: Michelle Kwait, Deirdra Chester, Ravi Inukonda, Prabir Adarkar, Clayton Wood, Nicholas Bertram

March moves: Robot pizza CEO steps down, Meati beefs up C-suite, new execs for DoorDash, Flashfood

March 6, 2023

To keep everyone up to speed on the latest people moves in the world of food and ag, AFN publishes a monthly column of the industry’s biggest people moves. This month, the USDA gets a new director, DoorDash shuffles executives, Flashfood and Upside Foods adds to its C-suite and Picnic’s CEO steps down.

Are you in a new role or company? Know someone who has left? Drop me a line to share the details: [email protected].

A new USDA director

Dr. Deirdra Chester will join the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of the Chief Scientist, which advises on the science that impacts the US government’s food and ag decisions.

Chester previously worked as division director for the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition’s division of nutrition. In that role, she led research and education activities on nutrition, functional foods, microbiome and chronic diseases.

“Our job is to make sure that we protect American agriculture related to plants and animals,” she recently told a group of students at her alma mater Florida International University.

Grocery vet joins Flashfood

Surplus food marketplace Flashfood has steadily grown in both size and popularity over the last several years. Executive leadership team has grown with it, most recently adding longtime grocery industry executive Nicholas Bertram, who recently assumed the newly created COO role.

Bertram, who will also serve as president of Flashfood, has spent time at supermarket chains Jewel-Osco, Walmart and Ahold Delhaize brand The Giant Co.

“I have never been more excited about the collective impact the food industry, sustainability-minded investors and technology companies like Flashfood can have on our future,” Bertram told Progressive Grocer.

DoorDash has a new COO

Last-mile/food delivery company DoorDash recently promoted CFO Prabir Adarkar to COO. The move comes as current COO and president, Christopher Payne, moves out of the role to retire from the company. “I’m particularly proud of what we’ve built during my 7+ years at @DoorDash, and consider this the most rewarding chapter of my career,” he wrote on LinkedIn.  

“CP is a do-er, an exceedingly rare quality for any executive, let alone one with CP’s experience,” DoorDash founder Tony Xu said in a blog post

Ravi Inukonda will take over the CFO role. Both he and Adarkar joined DoorDash in 2018 from Uber.

Upside Foods’ HR on the up and up

Cultivated Meat company Upside Foods startup recently appointed Michelle Kwait to the role of chief human resources officer. Kwait joins the company from London-based insurance broker Tysers, where she “built the company’s HR organization from the ground up,” according to Upside.

She’s no stranger to food companies, either. Previously Kwait worked for Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in addition to kitchen/food retailer Williams-Sonoma.

Upside recently received a green light from the United States Food and Drug Administration, which is one major regulatory step for the company.

“It’s a dream come true to be joining at such a pivotal time,” Kwait wrote on LinkedIn.

Picnic’s CEO steps down

Clayton Wood took automated pizza machine startup Picnic from its early days of proving a concept to being a leading company in food robotics with a national footprint in the US.

In a LinkedIn post, Wood said it is time for something new and that he is “looking for the next leadership challenge.”

As The Spoon points out, Wood’s departure comes just a few weeks after Picnic announced layoffs.

Miyoko’s Creamery founder/CEO booted out

The board of plant-based foods company Miyoko’s Creamery made a “unanimous” decision to replace founder and CEO Miyoko Schinner with “proven P&L experience who has scaled a larger business.”

The transition takes the cake for most controversial executive shuffle of the month, thanks in no small part to the lawsuit the company heaped on top of the situation. Said lawsuit accuses Schinner of “hatching a plot to steal company property and trade secrets.” For her part, Schinner says she did “not steal any trade secrets” and has “no desire to get back into CPG.”

As AFN‘s Elaine Watson wrote:

“Schinner claims she’d had disagreements with the board over strategy, while a key investor and board member told AFN last week that she lacked the skillset to take the firm to the next level. The lawsuit also alleges that in Q1, 2022, the ‘senior leadership team brought multiple concerns about Schinner to the board and threatened to quit due Schinner’s mismanagement.'”

Meati beefs up leadership team

Alternative protein startup Meati has hired Elizabeth Fikes as chief supply chain officer and Joseph Johnston as svp of operations and engineering.

Fikes joins Meati after roles at Stanley Black & Decker and PepsiCo. At Meati she will oversee all aspects of the company’s supply chain. She will also oversee the scaling of Meati’s Mega Ranch, a large-scale production facility that will produce tens of millions of pounds of mushroom root for alt-meat products.

Johnston just spent the last decade at Sabra Dipping Company. At Meati, he will lead efforts to implement new technologies in the manufacturing process.

“I’m thrilled to join Meati at this early stage to define a new category of healthful, sustainable animal-free meat, while driving toward unmatched efficiencies,” he said in a statement.



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