It began with two friends and seven cows. Today, Stonyfield Farm and its organic yogurt is the No. 3 yogurt brand in the U.S. Todayâ€™s Sustainability column looks at the company and its CEO-Y, Gary Hirshberg.
Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Gary at Stonyfieldâ€™s headquarters in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Heâ€™s a lifelong environmentalist â€“ he once ran an ecological research center on Cape Cod called the New Alchemy Institute â€“ and a big believer that that business can and must become more sustainable.
â€œIn one of those ironic twists that make life so interesting, the same boundless thirst for profit that got the planet into trouble can also get us out of it,â€ he writes his new book, called Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World.
Hereâ€™s how the column begins:
LONDONDERRY, N.H. — Twenty-five years ago, on a visit to Disney’s Epcot Center with his mother, a young environmental activist named Gary Hirshberg came across an exhibit on farming sponsored by Kraft. He was appalled by the display of chemical fertilizers and pesticides – “chemistry gone mad,” he calls it – and vowed to find a way to produce food more sustainably.
Today, Hirshberg is president and “CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s largest manufacturer of organic yogurt. Now majority-owned by the French food giant Group Danone (GDNNY), Stonyfield generated about $300 million in revenues last year. Its yogurt is the No. 3 brand in the United States, behind Yoplait and Stonyfield’s sister brand Dannon.
It’s quite a growth story for a company that began in 1983 with the families of Hirshberg and his friend, Samuel Kaymen, milking seven cows on a farm in Wilton, New Hampshire. Hirshberg, who is now 53, says that Stonyfield has lots more growth ahead, as does the organic food business, which accounts for about 3 percent of the U.S. food industry sales.