Stonyfield announced Walt Freese will join the company as president and chief executive officer. Co-founder Gary Hirshberg will continue as chairman and shareholder, while advocating for change in national food and agriculture policies, including the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Hirshberg hand-selected a like-minded successor in Freese, former CEO of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., who will take the reins of the organic yogurt company later this month.
"In Walt Freese, Stonyfield gains a leader with a stellar track record at another values-led company," said Hirshberg in a prepared statement. "Walt is well versed in fostering a sustainability mission in partnership with a global food company, and is deeply committed to Stonyfield's organic and environmental missions. Since our early days at Stonyfield, I've watched organic become a $29 billion industry and a healthy mainstay in peoples' diets. Now more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from and to trust the companies behind the brands. I look forward to working with Walt to continue to grow Stonyfield and further our mission of promoting healthy food, healthy people and a healthy planet."
As Stonyfield chairman, Hirshberg will remain involved with the company he co-founded nearly 30 years ago and he will maintain oversight of Stonyfield's European sister companies, its new Stonyfield Cafes and the company's Profits-for-the-Planet program, while serving on several boards at French parent company Danone. The move will allow Hirshberg to devote more attention to a variety of local and national political efforts including seeking labeling of genetically engineered foods with the Just Label It campaign and his work on U.S. food and agriculture policy as a Co-Chair of Agree, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy initiative.
Freese will assume his full duties as CE-Yo at Stonyfield later this month. He will be overseeing America's top selling organic yogurt company, with brands and product lines including Stonyfield's core organic yogurts, rapidly growing Organic Oikos Greek Yogurt, and popular product lines including YoBaby, YoToddler and YoKids.
As CEO of Ben & Jerry's, Freese led the company on a fantastic growth track, while championing environmental issues and acting to promote social justice worldwide. During his 10 years with the company, sales more than doubled and operating profit margins more than tripled. At the same time the company tackled critical issues in areas as diverse as global climate change, environmental sustainability, supporting family farms and challenging federal budget priorities to increase support for basic human needs. Prior to joining Ben & Jerry's, Freese was president of Celestial Seasonings, a values-led natural foods business in Boulder, Colo.
"When you look at both the boom in organic food sales and rapid expansion within the yogurt category, it is clear Stonyfield is perfectly positioned in the marketplace," said Freese. "I'm excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Gary and the Stonyfield team to further the Stonyfield organic and sustainability mission and expand the market for Stonyfield's unrivaled products. There's nowhere else I'd rather be."