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Female Disruptors: Molly Hemmeter is helping to expand access to fresh and healthy foods

I’m passionate about making fresh and healthy foods available to as many people as possible. A lack of access to fresh food affects 23.5 million people in the U.S. each year. Through our newly launched Good-to-Grow™ Program, Curation Foods will soon begin partnering with one of these underserved areas to offer fresh foods. Our employees […]


I’m passionate about making fresh and healthy foods available to as many people as possible. A lack of access to fresh food affects 23.5 million people in the U.S. each year. Through our newly launched Good-to-Grow™ Program, Curation Foods will soon begin partnering with one of these underserved areas to offer fresh foods. Our employees will volunteer through a paid-time-off program to deliver fresh, plant-based foods to a neighborhood that does not typically have access to these foods. We will work on making our first program successful and hopefully to be able to expand to help as many people as possible.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Molly Hemmeter, president and CEO of Landec Corporation. Landec is a diversified health and wellness company with two operating companies: Lifecore Biomedical, a contract development and manufacturing company (CDMO), and Curation Foods, a branded natural foods company focused on innovating plant-based foods with 100% clean ingredients. Hemmeter earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville and master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career as a process engineer in the pharmaceutical industry. After receiving my Harvard MBA, I made a dramatic career change to consumer brand marketing before beginning two software start-ups. Each of these experiences provided the opportunity to learn how to create new products and introduce them to the market with disruptive business models that provided a competitive advantage. Landec Corporation was a perfect fit for me because it coalesced my industry experience, my entrepreneurial passions and my leadership skills together in one role.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are being disruptive in each of our businesses.

Lifecore has revenues of approximately $75 million and was originally a supplier of premium, FDA-approved hyaluronic acid (HA) that was used primarily in the orthopedic and ophthalmic markets. HA is an extremely viscous material (like petroleum jelly). What we learned, though, was that over decades or formulating, fermenting and filling HA into vials and syringes, Lifecore had acquired a unique capability to work with difficult-to-handle biomaterials. Understanding this unique capability, Lifecore transformed its business model from a supplier of HA to a specialty contract developer and manufacturing organization (CDMO). Although most CDMOs focus on high volume, low margin opportunities, Lifecore created a niche by offering its specialty services to a wider range of pharmaceutical and biotech companies searching to commercialize FDA-approved drugs that highly viscous or difficult to manufacture. As a result, Lifecore has continued to grow topline and bottom line on average by double-digits since Landec acquired them in 2010.

Curation Foods has annual revenues of approximately $475 million and is a natural foods company focused on innovating fresh, plant-based foods with 100% clean ingredients. Consumer buying behaviors are changing rapidly. Consumers are looking for fresh, plant-based foods with clean ingredients that are delicious and convenient. Curation Foods is disrupting the market by offering delicious, convenient food options in the fresh, refrigerated perimeter of the store — options that do not contain the artificial ingredients or preservatives that are sometimes found in the center of the store.

We are able to do this because we have strong internal innovation capabilities and a refrigerated supply chain that allows us to source fresh plant-based ingredients and deliver our products rapidly to keep them in their freshest possible state for the consumer.

The brands within our Curation Foods portfolio are disrupting the market in multiple categories:

Our Eat Smart® Sweet Kale Salad disrupted the packaged salad kit category to create a new line of vegetable salads with a delicious combination of nutrient-dense superfoods; the Eat Smart Salad Shake-Ups introduced new convenience in a single-serve salad, leveraging a patented bowl design that allows you to eat a salad with less mess.

All of our O Olive Oil and Vinegars® premium products have 100% clean and traceable ingredients with a broad range of flavors for the food explorer; O is disrupting a category with many imported products that do not have clean labels or traceable ingredients.

In October, we launched our Now Planting pure-plant soups that are sold in the refrigerated sections of the store, disrupting the center-of-the-store soup category by offering a fresh, pure-plant product with improved nutritional value and a patented package that offers plant-based toppings in the lid.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?

There are many female mentors in the world today from whom I learn.

Earlier in my career I watched and learned from Meg Whitman, most noted as CEO of eBay and winner of the Republican primary in the California Governor race. I watched her successfully navigate a male-dominated business and political world that I wished to enter.

Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women nonprofit organization, has always captured my respect and admiration. Zainab is a woman who grew up in Baghdad, Iraq and came to the US at the age of 19. She has dedicated her life to supporting women of war-torn countries to rebuild themselves and their communities. Her selfless devotion reminds me that our connection and service to others is what really matters.

More recently, I have watched Michelle Obama and learned how she artfully balances her marriage, family, career and position on the world stage. I have also admired Rachel Maddow, who consistently demonstrates how to communicate complex topics with others in a way that is factual, authentic and comprehensible.

How are you going to shake things up next?

We always start with innovation, and that begins with knowing our consumer. We focus our internal innovation efforts on the plant-forward consumer. Being ‘plant-forward’ does not necessarily require you to be vegan or vegetarian, rather that you prefer approximately 70 percent of your meals to contain plant-based ingredients. We’ll continue to disrupt the market and change the categories with more plant-based options, as well as providing greater access to our food products through North America.

With Lifecore, we’ll continue to grow through expanding our business beyond our historical capabilities, providing differentiation for difficult-to-handle pharmaceutical products.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m passionate about making fresh and healthy foods available to as many people as possible. A lack of access to fresh food affects 23.5 million people in the U.S. each year. Through our newly launched Good-to-Grow™ Program, Curation Foods will soon begin partnering with one of these underserved areas to offer fresh foods. Our employees will volunteer through a paid-time-off program to deliver fresh, plant-based foods to a neighborhood that does not typically have access to these foods. We will work on making our first program successful and hopefully to be able to expand to help as many people as possible.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Visit CurationFoods.com for more on our brands and I’m on LinkedIn at Molly Hemmeter

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