Dog-eat-dog is not vegan
SONOMA, California––Miyoko’s Creamery founder Miyoko Schinner, 65, on February 16, 2023 officially got the unceremonious boot from the vegan cheese company she started in 2014 as Miyoko’s Kitchen and built into a $260-million-per-year non-dairy food-making empire.
Of course the Miyoko’s Creamery corporados did not tell the world “We shitcanned our mama.”
Miyoko’s Creamery announced via media release that “The company and its founder Miyoko Schinner have parted ways as the company enters a new stage of growth.
“With this, Miyoko has exited as CEO and is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.
“Passionate & mission-driven leader”
“Miyoko’s Creamery has partnered with esteemed executive search firm, Heidrick & Struggles,” the media release said further, “to fill the open seat with a highly qualified, passionate, and mission-driven leader,” a phrase consisting mostly of adjectives often used to describe Schinner.
Chief financial officer Jon Blair, employed by Miyoko’s Creamery for less than a year, “has stepped into the role of interim president to guide this transition,” the media release continued.
Blair was introduced as having previously “served as chief financial officer at Rebbl,” a plant-based beverage maker, “and head of finance at Plum Organics.”
From $1 to $260 million is not “one to 100”?
The other key figure in the ouster is financier James Joaquin, cofounder of the San Francisco-based venture capital company Obvious Ventures.
“The company is at a major growth inflection point, and for me as an investor,” Joaquin told Elizabeth Crawford of Food Navigator USA, “it’s never my first choice to part ways with a founder, but it is often the case that the skill set of a founder––that innovation engine to go from zero to one, to just create a new category that didn’t exist, those skills are often not the same skills to go from one to 100 and then scale that and make it more accessible and more affordable and bring those products to the masses.”
Joaquin mentioned to Crawford that Miyoko’s Creamer is soon to introduce “new branding,” perhaps a hint that Miyoko’s name is to be de-emphasized or perhaps even be removed altogether.
Cinnamon Raisin Plant Milk Cream Cheese
The announcement of Miyoko Schinner’s ouster concluded by touting “the company’s recently launched, category first-of-its-kind Cinnamon Raisin Plant Milk Cream Cheese product.”
“As for the kind of candidate the board is looking for [to succeed Schinner],” James Joaquin told Elaine Watson of AgFunderNews, “We’re looking for someone who is not just a hired gun operator but has an authentic connection to our mission around revolutionizing dairy with plants and our commitment to continue to make 100% vegan products: that’s non-negotiable.
“We also want to preserve the wonderful culture at the company Miyoko helped to build,” Joaquin insisted, “and we want a new leader who can work with the existing team, fit in, and amplify all the good things in that culture.
“Who is ‘we,’ white man?”
“The plant-based mission is bigger than any one person,” Joaquin said. “Miyoko’s is part of this movement of moving away from eating animals to eating plants.
“We’re fortunate to be the category leader of this new category that we helped create,” Joaquin added, “but it’s early days for the plant based dairy set, and we want to extend our lead.”
As Tonto asked The Lone Ranger, “Who is ‘we,’ white man?”
Backstabbed at Rancho Compasión
Wrote Anna Starostinetskaya, senior news editor at VegNews, “The public announcement of the separation came as a surprise to Schinner, who learned of the [Miyoko’s Creamery] press release as she was cooking dinner for 150 guests at a fundraiser for Rancho Compasión, a farm sanctuary she founded with her husband Michael Schinner.”
Schinner alleged that the Miyoko’s Creamery media release “was deliberately timed to coincide with the event she was hosting, such that she could not immediately respond,” Elaine Watson of of AgFunderNews elaborated.
Wanted to keep Miyoko as mouthpiece
Joaquin told Watson that “Vendors and retail partners needed clarity as to who was running the company ahead of the Expo West trade show,” coming up in March 2023.
“We were waiting to announce it,” Joaquin said, “because we were trying to craft a new role for Miyoko in partnership with her.”
Insisted Joaquin, “The board, out of good governance, made this decision that we needed new leadership.
“We unanimously removed Miyoko from the CEO chair and worked tirelessly to try to craft a new role, but Miyoko,” still a board member and a major shareholder in Miyoko’s Creamery] chose not to move into a non-CEO role.”
Smells like cheese from here
Joaquin acknowledged that Miyoko’s Creamery under Schinner had continued to be highly profitable, even as profits for the plant-based food sector as a whole declined slightly in the COVID-19 years.
Responded Schinner, to Starostinetskaya, “All of the work that I have ever done in my life—since I went vegan almost 40 years ago—has been to create a new food system that respects the lives of animals and doesn’t put [humans] at the top of the food pyramid,” Schinner says. “And I’ve done that for all the enterprises that I’ve had.
“I was actually removed from my position months ago, back in June,” Schinner acknowledged to Starostinetskaya, but negotiations over her departure from Miyoko’s Creamery continued until mid-December 2022, Schinner said.
“We did not arrive at this point by my choosing”
Expained Schinner via LinkedIn, “As we worked to grow the business, conflict grew around the best path forward for future growth while continuing to live our values, founded on the principles of veganism and animal rights. That we find ourselves here is representative of the extent to which my views and approach have not always prevailed, especially in the past two years.
“We did not arrive at this point by my choosing.
“It is telling,” Schinner added, “that I was patronizingly described as taking the company from ‘zero to one,’ in contrast to what is needed to take the company from ‘one to 100.’ The results that this company achieved under my leadership speak for themselves. We achieved these results––while I still had the ability to meaningfully ensure it––in a legitimately values-aligned way.
“Uncertain about how things will turn out”
“I am honestly uncertain about how things will turn out,” Schinner said, “especially after some (though not all) of my fellow directors decided that I would not be actively involved with the company.
“While I am hopeful that a new chief executive officer will be able to maintain our values while also driving growth, I also must temper that optimism with an honest consideration of and concern about what brought us to this point,” Schinner finished.
Schinner, recalled Jemima Webber of PlantBasedNews, “had been active in the vegan scene decades prior to Miyoko Creamery’s debut, teaching plant-based cooking classes in the 1990s, and launching a number of cookbooks, restaurants, and smaller vegan brands, while remaining “vocal about operating Miyoko’s Creamery in a manner that protects animals and the planet.
“Alongside her plant-based food creations and animal rescue endeavors,” Webber wrote, “Schinner has campaigned for vegan companies’ rights in the business world. In 2020, Miyoko’s Creamery was hit with a temporary injunction by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which took issue with the company’s use of descriptors like ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘butter.’ It claimed such terms were ‘misleading’ to consumers.
“Schinner fought back, stressing that ‘food is ever-evolving, and so too, should language to reflect how people actually use speech to describe the foods they eat.’ The vegan company ultimately won the legal battle.”
Discrimination in business
“Schinner has also used her sizable platform to speak out about discrimination in business,” Webber added.
“Even the media highlights men in business,” Schinner told Webber in 2021, Webber remembered, “while often overlooking or minimizing the accomplishments of women in the field. Men have more bravado. And, can be fearless in speaking up about what they’ve done, while women tend to downplay their own accomplishments.
“We women are at times our own worst enemy,” Schinner said then. “We’ve come to believe that we’re not good enough, that it’s the man in the room who knows how to run things. I’ve learned that it’s not true.
“Women are the natural-born leaders for this industry”
“So many times, I’ve doubted myself, given away my power. Only, in the end, to discover that I had known all along how to do something.”
Schinner told Webber on that occasion that, “I’m learning – as I age – to rely on my instincts and intuition more and more, and take command and lead.
“Women are the natural-born leaders for this industry,” Schinner said.
Removing the most successful vegan entrepreneur of the 21st century from her position, Blair and Joaquin evidently disagreed.
McPlant invades Germany
The Schinner ouster upstaged the February 15, 2023 announcement by McDonald’s that the 1,400 McDonald’s locations in Germany will offer plant-based McPlant Nuggets and McPlant burgers, starting on February 22.
The Beyond-made McPlant burger has already been added to the “permanent” McDonald’s menus in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, and the Netherlands.
The Beyond-made McPlant nuggets, including peas, corn, wheat and tempura breading, debuted for market testing at nine locations in Stuttgart, Germany, in August 2022.
This was around the same time that McDonald’s ended a U.S. test of the McPlant burger, after reportedly experiencing disappointing sales.
Mentioned CNBC, “Rival Chick-fil-A announced last week it’s testing a cauliflower version of its chicken sandwich as it seeks to appeal to health-conscious customers.”