Remember to look them in the eye and give a firm handshake.” My dad, a salesman, taught me that relationships are valued more than the contract. He was wise to warn me of weak handshakes and shifty eyes.
Asa part of our series about strong women leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie Seng Sadowsky.
Maggie Seng Sadowsky, the President of 8 Track Foods, is considered a thought leader in Natural Foods and a subject matter expert in plant-based proteins. Maggie graduated from The Ohio State University with a BS in Food Science; she is a Certified Food Scientist (CFS) from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and holds advisory positions with the Good Food Institute (GFI) and US Dry Bean Council (USDBC). Before launching 8 Track Foods, Maggie owned the consulting firm The Culinary Architects, with clients including Conagra, Kellogg and Beyond Meat.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Ata crowded Natural food show, I was looking for a place to sit. I secured a spot tucked next to a trash can. As I processed the show’s events and my annual trend report, I was interrupted by the custodian emptying the trash bin. Mesmerized, I watched hundreds of beautiful plastic containers and spoons spill into the giant bin. At that moment, I realized we had a huge problem. We focused on creating a sustainable food supply, but we forgot about the packaging. It led me down a rabbit hole looking for a solution to our waste problem. After an abundance of research, it came to me while I prepared chili. After chopping the onion, I realized everything else I used came from my pantry. The answer was simple, a steel can. In the summer of 2019, I started looking for a canner for our first organic products: black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans. We launched 8 Track Foods in early 2020 with the knowledge it would be an uphill climb to get consumers to embrace their pantry to reduce their plastic waste.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I want to create a sustainable food system, not a sustainable product. The food system is broken. It’s not a consumer problem to solve, it’s an industry problem to solve. Over 40% of the food we grow in the U.S. is never consumed. That leaves tons (literally) of food in the trash and 80% of plastic waste in our oceans and landfills. We live in a world driven by single-serve convenience and global transportation of goods. We need to stop and rethink the narrative around convenience and make simple, deliberate daily choices to reduce waste. At 8 Track Foods, we believe that starts with growing and canning our products here in the United States.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
It always comes back to my mom. She balances guidance, strength and beauty in her will to never stop believing in her dreams. As a child, I would sit in her bedroom as she set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals for her work as a Mary Kay consultant. It’s hard to find female role models in the business who emphasize family and career. My mom and Mary Kay taught me that you can praise women and grow companies.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“It won’t be perfect… just go!” My little brother gave me the shove I needed to launch 8 Track Foods.
“Not everyone is going to like you.” A bartender at my first job told me this. I was frustrated by a rude table and my unsuccessful attempts to correct the situation. His wise words made me realize that you need to be you and not let the naysayers encumber your progress.
“Remember to look them in the eye and give a firm handshake.” My dad, a salesman, taught me that relationships are valued more than the contract. He was wise to warn me of weak handshakes and shifty eyes.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I created 8 Track Foods to start a revolution in the food industry! We have a real opportunity to make an impact and secure our future food supply. It starts with a conscious decision to care about packaging and transportation just as much as we care about the food we eat.
We are currently working with industry partners and farmers to keep our food supply secure, our waste low and create more delicious pantry meal solutions.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I grew up with four strong-willed brothers and no sisters, so I know how to hold my position at the table. Those dinner conversations taught me the art of negotiation and my love for it. Early in my career, I was offered a decent amount of money for a consulting job. Instead of readily accepting it, I counter-offered. It wasn’t a fight, just a request for more.
During my career, I have coached many women to obtain better salaries and titles. The biggest challenge I encounter is that women don’t realize they can negotiate. They accept positions and salaries without realizing they can ask (and should ask) for more. I believe there can be more women disruptors if we stop letting others define our worth.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
We all like to hear success stories. They keep us motivated. My favorite listen is “How I Built This with Guy Raz,” an NPR podcast that highlights the founders’ origin story of your favorite brands. Usually, you get the glossy overnight success story, but these are the gritty parts that other interviews leave out. There’s an episode on Spindrift’s founder, Bill Creelman, where he tries to find out what natural flavors are made out of. As a Food Scientist, I love that he is challenging our food system and wants to pull back the curtain. I do, too.
At the end of each interview, Raz asks, “How much of your success do you attribute to your skill, your intelligence, your hard work, and how much of it to luck?” I can’t wait to be asked that question in the future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday.” -Unknown. I became a Food Scientist to make an impact on our food supply. I know we are a long way from perfect, but I know that my contributions have led to major food industry trends, such as Clean Label and Plant-Based Diets. I am ready to take on the next big issue, climate change.
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. 🙂
Our global population is estimated to be 9.8 Billion by 2050. We need to make changes to how we value our food to secure enough of it for future generations. I want 8 Track Foods to trigger real change in how we grow, store, and transport our food. We can make simple, sustainable choices like meatless Mondays, buying less plastic and stocking our pantries to ensure we have enough food in the future. We want to provide access to healthy food for everyone. We can make a difference by stocking our pantries and choosing products that don’t perish quickly and end up in the trash.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!