John Foraker, president of US organic pioneer brand Annie’s, is leaving the business after 18 years to launch a new organic venture.
Announcing the news himself on LinkedIn, Foraker names two reasons for his departure from Annie’s and General Mills (Annie’s owner since 2014). The first is the successful integration of the Annie’s business , which he says is now “100% complete”.
He comments: “When we decided to sell Annie’s to General Mills in 2014, I was asked to stay for one year. I’m not sure anyone wanted me around longer than that (LOL), and if you’d asked me then I’d have said no way I’d be there longer. But in my head I knew that I’d never willingly leave until I felt that the business and culture of Annie’s were strong enough post acquisition that they could self- sustain for the long term inside General Mills. The track record of big CPG in this area has been spotty, yet the Annie’s acquisition has been wildly successful. Facing consumer & industry backlash after the announcement of the Mills deal, I said “listen to what we say, but more importantly, watch what we do.” We’ve delivered on that promise.”
Commenting on the sale to General Mills, Foraker writes: “Facing consumer and industry backlash after the announcement of the Mills deal, I said ‘listen to what we say, but more importantly, watch what we do. We’ve delivered on that promise. Over the past three years we nearly doubled the business, nearly doubled the % of our business that is certified organic, and extended our reach from 8 million to 20 million households. By every measure, our fans are more passionate, more loyal, and more ‘bunny crazy’ (a reference to the brand’s logo and mascot) than ever because we did what we said we would do.”
He also explains why he is starting a new business project in the organic world: “I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I was never cut out to do the big corporate thing for the long term. I’m too impatient and too rough around the edges. I’ve seen many opportunities come around over the past three years and never considered any of them for more than a few minutes. I was having too much fun and the business was not ready as stated above. But recently I came onto a unique start-up opportunity that is exciting and terrifying at the same time, and that I cannot pass up. I’ll be developing a new enterprise located in the San Francisco Bay area that I intend to grow big and fast into a highly disruptive force in the organic food space. I cannot reveal the details today but you’ll certainly hear about it soon.”
Forager says he is to stay on as an “active adviser” to the Annie’s business, taking on the role of ‘Chairman of the Bunny’, he adds, tongue-in-cheek.