I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Acree, Executive Vice President Saffron Road Foods. Jack has been in the natural foods business since 1990 when he was part of the founding team behind Terra Chips. Since then he also helped launch ALEXIA Foods in 2002, then Saffron Road in 2010. Jack enjoys helping new food entrepreneurs, which lead him to the Board of Directors of the Specialty Food Association where he regularly participates in The Basics program — an intensive all day seminar for new food business owners.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my own lifeguard company when I was 16, and after college, I realized I probably was not going to have a traditional life. I gave up a very good job to live on $50 a week as the road manager for a three-woman rock band. It was fun but very hard with most days being about 16 hours of driving, setting up, performing, playing a little, sleeping, then doing it all over again. After about 3 years, one of the members got a Geffen recording contract when that meant something (1987), and I helped to manage her through that process for three years. That was also a lot of fun and hard work but ultimately unsuccessful. Meanwhile, her husband was a chef who had co-created the product soon to be named Terra Chips. They were good in the kitchen and I was good at sales. 28 years later…
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
This story actually happens somewhat regularly. I’ll meet someone through one of my son’s activities and become acquaintances, or even friends, until it finally comes up what brand I’m involved with. It will often turn out that they are a consumer and have my product in their home. I always get a thrill out of this, as it’s such a strong reminder of what a unique place it is to be a part of someone’s life in this way. Meeting consumers in this way always help me remember that I’m making much more than a “product”.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At Terra Chips, we had heard stories of whole truckloads of chip bags popping open when going over mountains because of the change in pressure. We were beginning to ship nationwide, so we started using new film and a new sealer. We accomplished our goal, the bags would not pop, but they could not be opened either. I could stand on a bag and it would not pop open! I learned to test product changes before putting them in the market.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Saffron Road, we don’t follow a formula. I see so many folks focus on one consumer. Alternatively, we try to make something for everyone. From meat-eater to vegan. From Naan Bread to Certified Gluten Free products. From Muslims (Halal), to Jews (Kosher), to Christians or atheists. We try to bring people together on our Journey to Better through good, clean food. We get so many messages of thanks from such a wide variety of people that it helps me to step back and look at all that we do have in common. Good food being one thing.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would recommend that you don’t live your work life from nine-to-five. That doesn’t mean working less. In fact, it usually means working more, but when it is best for you. Less than 50 percent of what’s important has to happen between 9–5. There’s still plenty of work to get done outside of those hours. It’s just important to get it done when it’s right for you. This is especially important when you have young kids. Those little things only happen once and last forever.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There have been plenty of people I have been grateful towards, but I have to say my parents — particularly my dad — standout. When I wanted to start my lifeguard business when I was 16, it was going to cost about $3,000 to jumpstart. My dad made me draw up a business plan to see if I could make enough to make it worthwhile. He went with me to the bank and co-signed a loan that was in my name. Back then, you got a coupon book and made payments out of the book. I paid it off in two years.
Later, when I decided to quit my good job and go into Rock n Roll, I needed to buy a lighting system for the band. After explaining how this was truly what I wanted to do, they supported my decision and again co-signed a loan for me. They always wanted to know that I was happy and fulfilled in what I was doing. I try to remember that every day.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes, an eleven-year-old, right handed pitcher. Some say he might get a scholarship to college one day. I just want to make sure he is enjoying himself even when working hard.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have tried to help others as they started in the food business. I hope that I have helped some great healthy products come to market while also creating good jobs for many people. For years, I also ran the hunger initiative for my church. We donated thousands of dollars to help people attain the tools and knowledge to help feed themselves.
Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
1. You will see multiple iterations of meal kits. The subscription model doesn’t work. Retailers that will be most successful will find out how to use the products they are already selling and bring them together. This way, the sales is not ‘one and done’, but a great sampling opportunity for future sales.
2. Delivery will become ubiquitous. Amazon will drive more and more at-home convenience.
3. Because of the prevalence of at-home delivery, stores will become more fun and friendly. They need to stay relevant and create a reason for shoppers to stay. Restaurants and other activities will be added.
4. Someone will create the “next” Whole Foods. Maybe its hyper-local, or maybe its hyper-techno. The code will be cracked. Amazon is not the end, rather, it’s only the beginning.
5. Food will become less pretty. Food recovery and waste reduction will become commonplace. Young consumers don’t need a perfect pear, just a delicious one!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Food Security. People need to know that they and their children are not going to bed hungry or waking up hungry. With this burden lifted, incalculable human capital will be unleashed.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us, this was very inspiring!
Originally published at medium.com