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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Hollywood Actress Jennifer Garner and Organic Food Veteran John Foraker Join Once Upon a Farm as Co-Founders

In what is sure to send shockwaves throughout the entire industry, A-list celebrity Jennifer Garner and John Foraker, former President of Annie’s, have signed on to become co-founders of organic baby food company Once Upon a Farm, alongside current co-founders Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz.

Having recently stepped down as the head of Annie’s, where he led the company for 18 years and negotiated its sale to General Mills for $820 million, John Foraker is one of the most accomplished and respected executives the organic industry has ever seen. And if you combine that with Jennifer Garner’s star power, branding acumen and dedication to both healthy food and helping children, Once Upon a Farm will be a very, very serious force in the fast-growing organic baby food segment.

Last week, I spoke with John Foraker and Jennifer Garner, who will now be the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Brand Officer, respectively, about this new and exciting development.

How did this all come together?

Jennifer Garner: I had been looking for a while to partner with an early-stage brand in the food space. And as a mom with three kids, I have three lunch boxes to pack each day and understand the problems that must be solved with serving fresh food to young children. My mother made every single meal for me, and I have always been a big believer in staying connected to the earth, which grows our food.

In my work with Save the Children, where I have been an ambassador for the last five years, I have visited a ton of families in rural America, and kids just do not have access to fresh organic food.

Even though I have advocated for this issue in the government at both a state and national level, I understand that business drives change and wanted to find a company that could get nutritious food out to kids.

I ended up meeting Cassandra and Ari, and loved the product. After some research, I soon learned that John was on the board of directors and wanted to know why.

Once John and I met, everything he said rang true with me. He is so passionate and knowledgeable about all of the same things. It was clear early on that we were meant to be partners.

John Foraker: I was one of the earliest investors in Once Upon a Farm, and during that initial meeting with Jen, we just started talking about the product, the vision for the company and what got me interested in the brand.

That first meeting, which was supposed to be 30 minutes, lasted four hours. By the end of it, I said to her “I am in, if you are in.” I left there knowing that this was truly unique, special and not expected.

At Annie’s, I believed that I had the best job in the food business, especially being able to leverage organic within General Mills. Even though I was presented with hundreds of opportunities over the last three years, I was in a great spot and under no pressure to leave.

But I am an entrepreneur, and this one felt perfect.

What was it about Once Upon a Farm that you found so attractive?

JG: For me, it was opening up these pouches and trying the food. When you meet Cassandra, she is Earth Mother personified, and you immediately want to start making food to feed your babies. Once Upon a Farm is doing what they say they are doing.

JF: I love the brand name. And it is so clear that with our shared passion, we can make this way bigger than baby food. We want to become the next big nutrition brand for kids.

There is a lot of white space out there for healthier kids’ food than what is now found in the center of the store. There are a lot of products in the pipeline, and we’re currently working on many different ideas.

Jennifer, how involved will you be on a day-to-day basis?

JG: I believe in the motto “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

When I started with Save the Children, I was involved on a daily basis. With Once Upon a Farm, it will be the same, and I plan on being very involved. More specifically, I will be a part of innovating on new products, participating in design, going on sales calls, and making sure the world knows we exist.

JF: I would not have done this if this was just an endorsement deal. The opportunity is big, and I saw her passion to be actively involved. Jen has a great track record at Save the Children.

John, after building and running Annie’s for nearly two decades, what is the most important learning that you will take with you to this new venture?

JF: Annie’s was an amazing brand, but it took us a while to articulate the mission. Once we did, the company took off. That showed me the power of a socially-driven business.

At Once Upon a Farm, it was critical that we get clear on the mission and our core values. We already have that down.

To be able to attract both Jennifer Garner and John Foraker to your company is an incredible accomplishment, and co-founders Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz deserve a lot of credit for this.

They were able to build a fantastic brand with great-tasting products, so much so that it convinced both Jennifer and John to deeply commit themselves to the company.

It seems that the stars have aligned for Once Upon a Farm, and the quest to become the next big nutrition brand for kids now begins.

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A message from Tradin Organic

How Tradin Organic is Helping Coconut Farmers in The Philippines

For more than a decade, Tradin Organic has been working with local partners in The Philippines to bring a diversified range of organic products to the market, such as coconut oil, tropical fruits and even cocoa.

The company is helping to support local farmers by assisting them with technical support and organic certification, in addition to paying Fairtrade premium on top of the organic premium.

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Company Stories

The Shameful Truth About the Naked Juice Class Action Lawsuit Settlement and What American Consumers Can Do About It

Last week, Naked Juice agreed to settle a very important class action lawsuit which accused the company of deceptive labeling.

The primary basis of the lawsuit stemmed from the company’s use of the words “All Natural” on products that contained Archer Daniels Midland’s Fibersol-2 (“a soluble corn fiber that acts as a low-calorie bulking agent”), fructooligosaccharides (an alternative sweetener), other artificial ingredients, such as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde), and genetically-modified soy.

Since these ingredients are either genetically-engineered or synthetically produced and do not exist in nature, it is completely misleading to consumers for these juices to claim to be “All Natural.”

As part of the settlement, Naked Juice, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, has agreed to remove the label “All Natural” from all of its juices and to pay a $9 million settlement to the class action group.

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Living Maxwell

Company Stories

How Sustainable Bananas are Produced at EARTH University in Costa Rica

When I was at EARTH University in Costa Rica, I got a chance to learn everything about sustainable banana production – from how they are grown in the fields to how they are shipped to the U.S.

In this video, I’ll take you onto the banana plantation of EARTH University and show you the issues that they have to deal with when growing bananas in such humid conditions.

What’s important to note is that it took EARTH University many, many years for its sustainable bananas to reach profitability and the school was told by consultants that the program wasn´t going to work.

EARTH University’s president refused to give up because he knew that this was the right way to do business – for the environment, for the farm workers, for consumers – even though his bananas were more expensive than conventionally-grown ones.

Whole Foods recognized the importance of what EARTH University was doing and the values that it stood for, and decided to distribute the school’s bananas throughout the U.S. Not only has this partnership been critical for the long-viability of EARTH University’s banana program, but the strong demand for the school’s bananas has proven that sustainability is good business.

Without question, EARTH University’s bananas are the best that I have ever eaten. If you have the chance to buy them, definitely do so.

You’ll be eating a fantastic product and also be supporting an incredibly important endeavor for sustainability.

Also, being such a huge fan of bananas, I can’t tell you how interesting this day was for me. Enjoy!

livingmaxwell: a guide to organic food & drink