Shifts in the Trade Winds: IFT16 and the Opportunity of Conscious Consumption

If you haven’t met me, the basic introduction is that I’m using my time in the Oregon MBA to build a career that impacts sustainable food and agriculture. This path led me to interning with Mercaris, a startup that provides rare and valuable market intelligence to the organic grain industry. Also, nice to meet you, hope you’re having a nice summer, and welcome to the Oregon MBA!

The IFT16 Trade Show Floor

The trade show floor at IFT16

Two weeks ago, I represented Mercaris at IFT16, an international convention of food scientists and industry professionals. The conference promoted professional development through shared research. Meanwhile, an accompanying trade show attracted a cross section of the industry, all vying to show their “on trend” ingredients, equipment, and processes.

Being new to the world of food science, I noticed a unifying trend: the prevalence of informed, discerning, and wary consumers. If you have paid attention to food advertising in the last five years, you’ll recognize terms like “clean ingredients” and “sustainable sourcing.” You might also know a little bit more about technical ideas like probiotics, antioxidants, or minimal processing. You might be attempting a diet that is “free from” ingredients like gluten, sugar, sodium, and even meat. You might even classify yourself as a locavore, a flexitarian, or just a foodie in general. And the most interesting part of this amazing development is how it has taken the food industry by surprise.

A keynote seminar underlined the gap in understanding between the food scientists and the food consumers. A marketing executive presented the findings of C+R Research, which conducted a marketing study on the clean label trend. He stated that clean label claims and minimalist packaging are “a backlash and a challenge to Big Food companies” and they target a mainstream audience. 69% of those surveyed reported consistent label-reading behavior. Consumers are certainly awakened to the idea that some food products have negative health benefits. More importantly, consumers woke up to the idea that some companies have a consistent track record of stakeholder care. 47% of those surveyed reported the use of simple strategies to meet their personal dietary requirements, including trust in certain retail outlets or packaged products.


Me and a 2,000lb tote, a standard of transportation for food commodities

In another age, health and wellness were confined to certain high-value customer segments. However, the final takeaway from C+R Research pointed to a tectonic shift in consumer behavior: when it comes to food, education and socio-economic status are no longer the reliable barometers they once were. Conscious consumption now cuts across class, with consumer age playing a key role for segmentation purposes. Millennials and Boomers are more receptive to clean label claims than are Gen Xers, but all generations exhibit some level of food literacy which impacts their purchase behavior. As one Gen X member of a live consumer panel remarked, “they put [high fructose corn syrup] in our food and we got fat as a nation… I’m mad at them.”

And so, to what cause do we attribute this disconnect between consumer and industry? Alarmist documentaries like “Cowspiracy,” and “Food, Inc.” paint a grim picture of multinationals that hide their nefarious production practices or actively sacrifice the health of people and planet in the name of profit margins. From my position on the trade floor, however, the disconnect seems to stem from reductionist science. As one executive from the GreenBiz Group noted, the purpose of a food company is to create products with an eye toward cost, safety, and taste. Within this spectrum of values, raw food commodities boil down to fats, sweeteners, and emulsifying agents. They are designed for shelf-stability and are marketed for mass appeal.

Once you add nutrition to this mix, the food scientists begin to scratch their heads. A food product is only the sum of its ingredients, and meeting dietary guidance is a matter of stacking nutritional values. Under this lens, food science looks more like product development, while nutrition separates into another discipline altogether. Food scientists are rapidly trying to address this gap in their education; one of my favorite seminars was amusingly titled “Nutrition and Food: An Obvious but Little Appreciated Partnership.”


A consumer panel hosted by C+R Research

The trend towards health and wellness has seismic implications for the entire supply chain. Going forward, consumers will reward food companies for their attention to nutritional economics and transparency, rather than for their cost economics and quality control. Furthermore, as the world shifts towards more sustainable diets, food companies will be rewarded for communicating the environmental impact of their ingredients. The IFIC reports that for 41% of consumers, the sustainability of a food product is an order winner. And Big Food is responding with agility. A seminar on sustainable proteins illuminated the development—and the opportunity—of supply chains based around plant, insect, and cultured proteins.

At IFT16, I tasted the future of food. Protein bars made with chia, amaranth, and algae oil. Egg-free chocolate chip cookies made with a chickpea flour. 100% Guatemalan dark roast served on a nitro similar to Guinness, and an Indian spice cold brew made with tamarind. Naan pizza. Spaghetti-and-mealworms. I also had updated versions of trending classics like the mango smoothie and the grilled cheese sandwich. IFT16 stimulated all my senses and sensibilities, and I am fortunate for the experience.

Written by Joey Jaraczewski

Jaraczewski joins the Oregon MBA with a passion for changing the food industry. He grew up in rural Arizona and has spent the past four years exploring the world of food from multiple angles. He’s worked as a server and bartender in Flagstaff and traveled across the country visiting farms, feedlots, food distribution warehouses, and retailers. As an Oregon MBA on the sustainability track, Jaraczewski plans to build on that experience to explore ways to build a more sustainable food system for generations to come. Jaraczewski will graduate as an Oregon MBA with the class of 2017.


University of Oregon CCFSA Profile – Nishan Senthirajah

Originally from Tualatin, Oregon, Nishan Senthirajah is a junior majoring in finance with a minor in economics at the University of Oregon. He is in the Honors Business program and is also the consumer goods sector leader analyst for the University of Oregon’s Investment Group (UOIG). He was the president of the Financial Management Association (FMA) this past year and will be interning as an investment KeyBanc Capital Market analyst this summer. Here is what he has to say about his experiences in the Lundquist College of Business thus far:

Can you tell me a little bit more about UO’s Investment Group? (UOIG)
NS: I’m a senior analyst within the University of Oregon’s Investment Group, which is a student-led organization within the Lundquist College of Business that actively manages more than one million dollars in endowment funds. It’s comprised of student analysts as well as six students on the management team. Essentially, our job is to put together an equity research report every term on a stock that we believe would be a good investment. So, we generate investment models and do a lot of research to determine how the stock is valued. After the report, you do a presentation to the entire group with about a 45-minute Q&A session. It’s an intense atmosphere. This is my second year in the group so I have one more year after this. It’s been an excellent experience for me thus far. It gives students an opportunity to expand their learning in an environment that they wouldn’t find in the classroom, which is why it’s such a reputable group within the Lundquist College. We try to keep our strong name as we continue in our operations. You also meet a lot of people and a lot of great friends that are invested in the same things and have the same interests as you. People who actually care about the things you’re working on as much as you do. That’s been one of the best parts.

What was your role within the Financial Management Association (FMA) and how is it different than UOIG?
NS: I was the past president at the FMA, which was started two years ago. We’re a chapter of a larger national organization, similar to a lot of other clubs you find in the business school. It’s designed for the broader range of students. The FMA is a much broader-based finance group that covers topics ranging from corporate to investment banking to private equity. The goal for FMA is to provide students with a learning environment to get exposed to different areas of finance in order to determine if it’s something they’re interested in, and if so, what area and how can we help students get there. We do this by going on site visits locally and within the Pacific Northwest. We bring in different speakers from all different backgrounds to come and share their career paths, what they do with their job, skill sets in their current positions, and ways to navigate yourself into that position. It’s been a pretty decent success; it grows every year. Unlike UOIG, the application process isn’t as intense and selective.

What does the future hold in store for you?
NS: This coming summer I’ll be working as an investment KeyBanc Capital Market analyst. My goal is to work there for a couple years because it will provide excellent exposure as far as potential career opportunities going forward. Whether I want to move into private equity or take the industry route, I’m hoping to gain the necessary skill sets and experience while working with investment banking. It’s a work-hard atmosphere, so when you make a lot of great connections you gain extremely valuable experience. I haven’t decided exactly what I want to do – whether I want to stay in investment banking or private equity, or maybe a corporate finance field, but that’s what I’m looking at right now. Ideally, I would like to find myself working on the financial managerial division of a professional sports team or basketball team. After getting my experience in the financial executive department, the decisions I make post-grad will be either going back and getting my MBA or continuing within the field. Within UOIG you see a lot of people doing a couple years of investment banking but then they usually take a lot of different paths.

How do you like to spend your free time?
NS: I’m a basketball fanatic. I’m super into analyzing and catching as many games as I can, especially right now with all the games that are going on. I also play basketball and soccer. I love to travel when I get the chance to. I was able to do a lot of traveling growing up while visiting my parents’ family, so seeing as many places as possible has always been a huge interest of mine. I love Indian cuisine and I like playing blackjack too.

What are some tips you have for other finance students?
NS: Don’t use the mouse when you’re using Microsoft Office; always use the keyboard. I would also say networking is critical within the industry because it’s so concentrated. Because we’re from the west coast, making relationships and being able to network is critical for landing the ideal internship or post-grad job. I would say take advantage of the opportunities that are offered at UO outside of the classroom because not many other schools have them, and that’s what’s going to separate you when you’re going up against your peers or students from other schools. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it when it’s all said and done.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Dr. Michael Crooke

Lessons from the Oregon MBA Part II: Interview with Oregon Advanced Strategy Professor Dr. Michael Crooke

PART II: Interview with Dr. Michael Crooke, on sustainability, business, and the Oregon MBA. Conducted April 13, 2016 by Anna Raithel, Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA, 2017.

If we know that sustainability is important for companies and that sustainable choices often lead to profits, why do you think more companies aren’t choosing the sustainable approach?

The first thing to say is that there aren’t any sustainable companies. There isn’t one company on the planet that is actually sustainable, that is, net neutral impact on the planet. We overuse that term. I would say, “We are on a path towards sustainability.” Companies that don’t subscribe to this way of thinking are becoming more rare. Many of the world’s largest organizations now subscribe to a GRI (Global Reporting Initiative). The first step is to measure where you are and what you are doing, and then set goals for how you want to improve. You’re not judged on how good or bad you are, you’re judged on if you are improving. Sustainability initiatives managers are smart – they can see that this is coming but they don’t know how to do it. One of my clients simply had to bring millennials into their strategic planning process, and now they have all kinds of new ideas around sustainability. 250 companies hold ¾ of the world’s GDP; the power is with the corporations. That’s where change has to happen.


Is sustainability being driven by corporations’ deeper sense of responsibility? Or are firms responding to consumer demand?

 I think it’s both. It’s very difficult to argue that global warming isn’t real. It’s a powerful rising of the tide and it’s happening in real time, so companies know they need to get in front of that. If they’re on the backside of that and their competitors launch a similar product that’s more sustainably made, they’re not only going to have lower costs down the road, but the customers are going to follow those companies. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Jobs in 2008 and spent about an hour with him in his office. He thought that within 15 years the environmental aspect of his product was going to be as important as the form and function of his product. He was such a visionary, he could see beyond the horizon, and he was already building that into the company.

Consumers are demanding it. They want to see it in everything they do, what they wear, what they eat, the kind of house they live in, etc., just like any trend. When we started using organic cotton at Patagonia our jeans were $85. Now you can basically buy the same pair of organic jeans at Wal-Mart for $13. Whole Foods started supplying organic food to the masses and now Costco is the #1 organic food supplier in the world. It’s happening at different rates in different places, but overall from a regression line point of view I think it’s a rising tide and everyone will be able to benefit.


What is the role of government and policy in driving sustainability?

 Think of the greatest environmental presidents of our time. Why is Nixon one of them? That’s when the Clean Water Act was passed, and the Endangered Species Act – all of these major policies happened under Nixon, a Republican. I think the leadership has to come from government. Think about what those laws have done and how the basis for environmentalism was created in the 1970’s. Go back to the beginning and think about the food movement and Rachel Carson and Silent Spring (1962), and the power a book like that can have. I think it’s certainly synergistic, but the bottom line is that you need a progressive government. You need a government that understands and protects the people in our capitalistic society. There are a lot of people that believe in the Adam Smith model that a manager’s duty is to make money for shareholders. [There is] no mention of shared value or of societal value. That’s where you start to see b-corporations and nonprofits. Government is very important and it has to work hand in hand with the pioneers; the Yvon Chouinards, the Rachel Carsons, the Anita Roddicks of the world.


Do you think there could be a point where sustainability will no longer offer a competitive advantage because it’s such common practice?

 I don’t see that, certainly not in my lifetime. If you take the absolute ideal of what sustainability could be, Michael Braungart’s Cradle To Cradle (2002), you get done with your shirt, throw it into your garden, it composts, the organic and inorganic compounds go back into the soil, and there was no net loss of nutrients in that product. We’re a long ways off from that. But that’s the brilliance of Cradle To Cradle, to lay that concept out and really look at what that panacea could be. Or like the rocket fuel that was proposed at the New Venture Championships in Portland. The fuel was 50-60% more environmentally friendly, it worked better, and rockets could go farther. Sustainability was at the heart of that whole technology and they won the competition. We might be forced into that sort of thinking. We might not have a choice. Mars might not be ready yet.

Written by Anna Raithel

Anna is pursuing an MBA with a focus in Sustainable Business Practices, graduating 2017.


Honors Program Nike Site Visit

Members of the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program had the chance to tour the Nike World Headquarters and hear from a panel of highly experienced employees. Beyond learning about the heritage of the world’s premiere athletic apparel company, students saw firsthand what it means to make a career out of your passions.

The day began with a tour of the Nike Campus, led by Dana Reams of Nike Golf. On the tour students learned the rich history of the company’s humble beginnings, which involved selling shoes out of the trunk of a car mere minutes away from where the Lillis Business Complex stands today. While sharing with us how Nike became the world’s premier athletic apparel and supply company, Reams instilled an important lesson: never lose sight of who you are. For the honors students on the trip, this meant varying things; however, for Nike it means never losing sight of the innovation instilled in Phil Knight, the dedication of Steve Prefontaine, and the unrelenting drive and loyalty of Coach Bill Bowerman.

During the panel discussion at the end of the day, students heard from Heather Broderick, Jane Moss, David Pearce, and Amy Bartlett. Each panelist shared a very different story of their journey from childhood to Nike. Some took the “traditional path,” while others spent a stint as a bartender or self-proclaimed ski bum. These varying experiences led to distinct advice and core values from each. The one thing they all had in common is that each took something about which they were particularly passionate and found a way to turn it into a career.

One of the most resounding pieces of advice was “listen to your athlete.” Moss and Barlett explained that if you are “listening to your athlete,” simple comments, such as “I wish I could wear these shoes on the golf course” or “These are my favorite shorts,” can lead to revolutions in the industry and carry the athlete to victory.

Although the student audience members were not in a position to listen to comments from Tiger Woods or Maria Sharapova and create a multimillion-dollar product, many of them will likely be in the position in the future where they can either choose to follow the status quo or choose to innovate. The advice given by the panelists will undoubtedly linger in the minds of the students on the trip.

Beyond stories and lessons from the panelists, the site visit proved particularly significant for the members of the Business Honors Program. For the newly admitted 2016-2018 cohort, this was one of the first opportunities to meet and get to know one another. At the same time, the visit served as the last official Honors Program event for the graduating seniors in the upper cohort. Memories from this visit are sure to stick with everyone who took part in the trip.

Story by TJ Reardon ’17. Reardon is an accounting major minoring in economics. He will be spending this summer interning as a core assurance intern with PwC at their Portland office. Reardon will be graduating in the winter of 2017.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.


University of Oregon CCFSA Profile – Annelise Moss

Annelise Moss is an MBA student working toward her certified financial planner (CFP) certification here at the University of Oregon. Moss achieved her undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship and is the only female finishing the finance track of the MBA program this spring. Here is what she has to say about her experiences in finance at the UO.

Can you give me a short description of who you are?
Annelise Moss: Born in Scottsdale, Arizona, my family moved to the Portland area when I was two. I’ve spent the majority of my life in Oregon and I love it here. From an early age, I have loved to dance. Throughout the years I did ballet, jazz, and hip-hop, and I joined a traveling ballroom dance company as an undergrad. I also competed in Latin-style dance with my dance partner. I’ve always thought of myself as creative and found my analytical side close to the end of undergrad. I worked in advertising for a short time and quickly realized it was not the career for me. After doing some job shadowing I found a passion for the investment business. Although I was a business major in undergrad, I took very few finance classes and came back to school to expand my knowledge.

What are your future goals in terms of business?
AM: Ultimately, I would like to have own business. I was an entrepreneurship major in undergrad and have always liked the idea of calling my own shots. People have always intrigued me. In the near future I see myself in more of a business development type role. Learning about people’s motives and how to best support their needs is a passion of mine. I am currently working on my CFP (certified financial planner) certification and would like to start my career with financial planning where I can support clients’ needs.

You’re an MBA currently pursuing your CFP – can you talk a little bit more about that experience? Difficulties? What you enjoy?
AM: It has definitely been a challenge to be an accelerated finance student in addition to working on my CFP education. Luckily, the CFP board gave me some credit for the MBA curriculum but keeping balance in my life has been difficult. With that being said, if I could go back I wouldn’t change my decision. I knew I wanted to stay in Oregon, so expanding my network here is invaluable, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve learned in the CFP education program. Some may find estate and retirement planning dull but I really enjoy the thought of being able to help someone plan for a happy retirement and smooth transition.

What resources did/do you use at UO or the Lundquist College of Business that you would recommend current students take advantage of?
AM: The network here at UO is amazing. Ducks are truly dedicated people. As a finance student I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the Emerging Market Fund, which is a student-led investment fund. It’s been a great experience to come into the program with no idea how to value a company and leaving with the Emerging Market Fund owning two of my stock pitches. I would strongly recommend incoming students take advantage of the guest speakers the program brings in. I know it can be difficult to balance school and work, and it’s hard to give up a couple evenings a month, but it’s worth it. We’ve had a wide variety of speakers including private equity, consulting, wealth managers, and many more.

What are the most important pieces of information you’ve learned from your various internships?
AM: I had a fantastic internship last summer. I worked at Becker Capital Management in downtown Portland with their high net-worth team. I had the opportunity to learn most aspects of the business, including the investment team, trading, and client service. My major project for the summer was to become an expert, plan a lunch, and learn about Social Security. At the end of my internship I presented to a group of high net-worth clients, and I couldn’t speak highly enough about my experience. The team at Becker is outstanding; I had a wonderful mentor who took great interest in my development. My internship was definitely a highlight of my graduate school experience and I am so appreciative of it.

How has the Lundquist College of Business shaped who you are as a person?
AM: Coming into grad school, I felt strongly about who I was as a person. I still feel strongly that I am leaving the same person, but the Lundquist College of Business has given me the tools I need to successfully start the career I wish to have. Who I am as a future investment professional has developed greatly because of the professors here at the college. I’ve had some great professors, including Brandon Julio, Steve McKeon, and Michael Crooke, who have all shaped my experience here. Even though I have only been in for a year and a term, the Lundquist College of Business has made a major impact on my life forever. I would also like to encourage other females to spend some time in the finance world, and be open to finding out if it’s something they are interested in. I strongly recommend any female who thinks they might have an interest in finance to go for it!

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.