Flirting with Being a Foodie (and Fabio)
Written by Alex Hanifin for the AllergyKids Foundation
Traveling to Expo West this past week made me realize how much I love working in the natural food industry and how much I love the amazing companies I am surrounded by constantly. Each year at Expo West, ever more inspiring businesses and foodie heroes show up on the scene, people trying to change and grow our everyday lives for the better via food and food systems. More than 55,000 people attended (including Fabio!) all of whom are putting themselves out there in the name of their vision in food and entrepreneurialism. The place is full of dreams and visions, including my own.
Starting in the food industry at age 17, I had hopes of becoming a Foodie Pro early on. My career path began when I landed a job working for the amazing (then a start-up) company, Outrageous Baking. Learning how to be a commercial manufacturer was my first role, and as I began figuring how to create a successful company, I found assurance each day with continual customer appreciation. As I moved into operations and promotions at the local farmers markets, I was blown away with excitement with where I was what I was doing by age 18. As a lover of natural food business, It was exactly where I wanted to be.
A big test came when I decided that I wanted to develop a community event, which required putting my entrepreneurial skills to the test. With some fun ideas and love for baking, I ended up creating Boulder’s First Annual Baking Competition. Working two part-time jobs with Outrageous Baking and Seth Ellis Sun Cups in addition to an internship with Elephant Journal and going to school after hours, my motivation was tested. I had to figure out how to find the energy to make the event as successful as I envisioned. It worked, and in the end, I had over 15 sponsors including Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Earth Balance, Madhava Honey, and Fiona’s Granola. Over 150 people attended. Robyn O’Brien was a guest speaker, The School Food Project my fundraiser, and Vermilion Design my host. All in all, the event was more wildly successful than I had dreamed, raising awareness of food issues and drawing community together to have fun and support wonderful causes.
After graduating from school and continuing to move to larger food companies, my vision has continued to expand as I consider how to help this industry and the natural food movement grow. Recently I joined the teams of Justin’s Nut Butter and Naturally Boulder, which has provided me with some of the best relationships and learning experiences to date. Finding out the stories behind their success has been hugely inspiring.
As a whole, my journey so far has been perfect. Combining my second love and obsession—marketing and my passion for food—is what gets me up bright and early in the morning, thinking about what the fun new projects coming my way, and how I will take them on. I love being part of an amazing group of people working to save our planet through our relationship to food.
As citizens, we are responsible for creating change that grant our society better, healthier, less destructive choices. And the food movement isn’t just about food. It is about the ingredients we use, the people who make it, the environmental impacts of packaging and transportation, and the effect of our food on health and the economy. We need to keep asking the question, and on larger scales: how can we take the most sustainable route from start to finish while creating food products that are both nourishing and pleasing?
There is always room for improvement and more positive change, and we are in a race to help each other find solutions so we can all benefit, no matter what our social, political, or economic background.
Wanting to make the food movement a healthier, more sustainable, and successful place is what makes me shoot for the moon. Now, being 21 years old, I plan to continue my part in the food movement and be a huge part of it. I look forward to every second of my path in getting there and I can’t wait to see what happens, and who will come up with what.
I am eager to continue shining light on this majestic food industry as we all work together to expand what’s possible. I hope more and more people get involved, particularly young people like myself, so we can create a movement that has significant and lasting impact on our relationships with food.