Gary Hirshberg (born 1954) is chairman and former president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, the world's leading organic yogurt producer, based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He joined the company just after its founding in 1983 and stepped down in 2011. He frequently speaks on topics including sustainability, organic agriculture and the profitability of green business.
Early life and education
Hirshberg was born in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1954. Hirshberg was one of the first graduates of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1976. He was also one of the first graduates of The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire.
In his early career, Hirshberg served as the Executive Director of The New Alchemy Institute, a research and education center dedicated to organic farming, aquaculture and renewable energy. He also held positions ranging from water pumping windmill specialist, to environmental educator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 1983, Hirshberg joined the Board of The Rural Education Center (TREC), a small, seven-cow organic farming school in Wilton, NH from which Stonyfield was born. Hirshberg led Stonyfield from its infancy to $360 million in annual sales when he stepped down as CE-Yo at the end of 2011.
Under Hirshberg's reign, Stonyfield launched many innovative marketing programs aimed not only at growing customer loyalty to the brand but also in building public interest in sustainability, the environment, and small family farming. In 1989, the Adopt-a-Cow Program (which was later renamed to the Have-a-Cow Educational Program), allowed frequent customers to "adopt" their own cow, learning about the value of small family farms in the process. Participants would receive a photo of their sponsored Stonyfield cow, updates about life on the farm and issues small farmers faced, as well as information about sustainable farming methods. Although originally envisioned as a one-cow-one-parent model, each cow ended up with multiple sponsors just weeks after the program launched due to its instant popularity. Other Stonyfield programs include Profits for the Planet, by which Stonyfield donated 10% of their profits annually through grants to various environmentally focused non-profit organizations and Salute Your Commute, a program designed encouraged consumers to use alternative modes of transportation to help reduce carbon emissions.
During Hirshberg's tenure, Stonyfield enjoyed a compounded annual growth rate of over 23% by consistently producing superior products and using innovative marketing that blended the company's social, environmental, and financial missions. Hirshberg arranged the sale of Stonyfield to Danone in 2001, and stayed on as CEO for an additional 10 years, naming former Ben & Jerry's CEO Walt Freese as his successor in January 2012. At that time, Hirshberg moved into the role of Chairman and also became the Managing Director of Stonyfield Europe, launching organic brands in France, Ireland, Italy and Spain. He resigned from his Danone responsibilities in March 2017 when Danone was required by the US Dept of Justice to divest its Stonyfield holdings. Hirshberg remains Stonyfield's Chair under the new ownership, Lactalis.
Hirshberg serves on several corporate and non-profit boards including Blue Apron, Inc. (NYSE- APRN), Forager Project (organic plant-based dairy alternatives), Late July Snacks (organic salty snacks), Orgain (organic protein drinks and powders), Peak Organic Brewing, sweetgreen (national organic and natural fast casual restaurant chain), Sweet Earth Natural Foods (organic and natural vegan and vegetarian entrees), and Unreal (producer of organic and non-gmo candy), as well as on the Advisory Board of Applegate (organic meats). He was also the chairman and co-founder of O'Naturals, a chain of fast food restaurants.
Outside the corporate world, Hirshberg is Chairman and a founding Partner of Just Label It, the national campaign to label genetically engineered foods. He is also the Chairman of Organic Voices, a consortium that seeks to eliminate consumer confusion about the benefits of organic. In March, 2011, President Obama appointed Hirshberg to serve on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, where he served from 2011 until February 2017.
Hirshberg is the author of the 2008 book, Stirring it Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, a book about socially-minded business that calls on individuals to realize their power to make a difference in the marketplace, while doing business in ways that adhere to a multiple bottom line - one that takes into consideration not only finance, but the environment and health as well.
- Label it Now: What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods, co-author, eBook, New Word City, Inc. 2012
- Anything But Neutral About Going (Carbon) Neutral, eBook, New Word City, Inc. 2011
- Stirring it Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. Hyperion, 2008
- Gardening for all seasons: The complete guide to producing food at home 12 months a year, co-author, Brick House Pub Co., 1983
- The New Alchemy Water Pumping Windmill Book, Brick House Pub Co., 1982
Hirshberg is the husband of writer Meg Cadoux Hirshberg and a father of three adult children, all of whom work in organic and sustainability ventures. He currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire.
Awards and recognition
A New Hampshire native, Hirshberg has received twelve honorary doctorates and won numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award by the US EPA. He was named a Yale Gordon Grand Fellow, one of "America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs" by Business Week and one of the top ten, "most inspiring people in sustainable food." by Fast Company. He was featured in the successful 2008 documentary "Food, Inc."
Throughout his career, Hirshberg has received the following representative awards:
- Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center Champion for Children award, 2015
- Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, Social Innovator of the Year, 2015
- US Environmental Protection Agency Lifetime Achievement Award, 2012
- Organic Trade Association Organic Leadership Award, 2012
- New Hope Natural Media Hall of Legends Inductee, 2012
- Yale University Gordon Grand Fellow, 2010
- Global Green Foundation Millennial Award for Corporate Environmental Responsibility, 1999
- Business NH Magazine Business Leader of the Year, 1998
- US Small Business Administration Small Business Leader of the Year, 1998
- Ernst and Young New England Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 1993
- Teather, David (May 18, 2007). "King of organic yoghurt adds UK to milk round". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "With Lynch out, lengthy list eyes governor's seat | New Hampshire". UnionLeader.com. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- "PAN in conversation Gary Hirshberg". Pesticide Action Network. November 4, 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Stonyfield Farm CE-Yo to Discuss How to Make Money and Save the World". Yale University. March 31, 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Stonyfield exec urges Bates grads to doubt 'experts'". Sun Journal. May 26, 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- Moss Kanter, Rosabeth (October 12, 2010). "Adopt a Cow: Strategy as Improvisational Theater". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- Makower, Joel (January 7, 2008). "Gary Hirshberg: Changing the Culture and 'Stirring It Up". Green Biz. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- Delves Broughton, By Philip (April 8, 2009). "Taking Care of the Customer". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Hirshberg steps down at Stonyfield, former Ben & Jerry's CEO to take over | New Hampshire". UnionLeader.com. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- "Gary R. Hirshberg". Bloomberg. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
- "What's next for fast food? McTofu?". Chicago Tribune. June 15, 2005.
- "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 3/29/11". whitehouse.gov. 2011-03-29. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- 01, US EPA,REG. "2012 Environmental Merit Award Recipients | US EPA". US EPA. Retrieved 2017-09-14.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- "Eat-onomics: The Ten Most Inspiring People in Sustainable Food". Fast Company. 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- Southwick, Katherine. "Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center Annual Review, 2015" (PDF). Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- "2015 Social Innovator of the Year". University of New Hampshire. 2016-10-26. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- "Award Honorees | OTA". www.ota.com. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- "Hall of Legends 2012 honorees". New Hope Network. 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- Stonyfield Farm Company Bio
- Hitched to Someone Else's Dream, an Inc. Magazine article on Stonyfield's early days by Meg Hirshberg
- Video of discussion with Gary Hirshberg on the organic food industry in Asia at the Asia Society, New York, 11/9/2009
- How I Built This Podcast - Stonyfield Yogurt: Gary Hirshberg