Sabra snags former Seventh Generation CEO

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Dive Brief:

  • Joey Bergstein will become the new president and CEO of hummus maker Sabra, effective July 8. He most recently served as CEO of sustainable cleaning and personal care brand Seventh Generation.
  • Bergstein spent a decade at Seventh Generation, becoming CEO in 2017. Prior to that, he held executive leadership roles at Procter & Gamble, Molson and Diageo.
  • Sabra, a joint venture between Israel’s Strauss and PepsiCo, is the U.S. leader in hummus, with 61.3% market share, according to IRI data sent by the company. Bergstein takes the company’s helm just three years after Tomer Harpaz was named to the position.

Dive Insight:

When Bergstein takes the top spot at Sabra next month, the company will be getting a new type of leader: someone well known as a progressive thinker with a reputation for speaking out about major social issues.

Seventh Generation was always known as a company with a mission, which was a big part of the reason Unilever acquired it for $700 million in 2016. But as Seventh Generation’s leader, Bergstein expanded that mission beyond the boundaries of its sustainable and renewable cleaning and personal care items. Seventh Generation made a big push away from plastic packaging last year, launching a Zero Plastic line that sells mostly concentrated products that can be mixed with water by the end user. During the 2020 presidential election campaign, Bergstein wrote an open letter asking both candidates to address climate change and commit to a clean and renewable energy policy, and spoke about it in interviews.

Molson

Joey Bergstein

Courtesy of Sabra

 

At Seventh Generation, Bergstein also led movements to bring racial and gender equality to the brand’s top workforce, which is not an easy feat for a company headquartered in majority-White Vermont. In a 2020 interview with The New York Times, Bergstein said that he’d been working hard on inclusion for about five years. Half of the company’s leaders were women, but only about 16% of the company’s employees were not White, which he said was not enough. In a June 2020 Facebook post titled “Black Lives Matter. We Must Do Better,” the company announced the Seventh Generation Foundation had donated $100,000 to The Bail Project to help people arrested while protesting systemic racism. Bergstein was also among several business and political leaders to sign an open letter to Vermont’s press corps at the beginning of this year, asking for more balanced coverage involving women.

Sabra has been relatively quiet on the issues front. The company has been known to take strong positions on some things — including its 2014 petition to the Food and Drug Administration asking to establish standards of identity for hummus — and it has been working hard to upgrade its ingredients, starting to source sesame seeds that have been optimized for tahini and grown in the United States. But these issues are mainly relevant to Sabra, and do not touch on larger, more universal concerns.

The company gave no reason why Harpaz was leaving the CEO’s job after three years. When Harpaz came into the role, he said in an interview he was excited to bring innovation and expansion to Sabra, making hummus a vital part of more eating occasions and not just a dip. And the company has innovated and expanded since 2018, including the introduction of Dark Chocolate Dip & Spread. Sabra’s board and investors may be thinking it is time for the company to also become known for its activism.

In a press release announcing his hire, Bergstein touches on what’s important to him.

“Sabra’s portfolio sits naturally at the intersection of better-for-you food and sustainability, two areas of personal passion,” he said. “Building on Sabra’s remarkable success, we have an enormous opportunity to satisfy people’s desire for delicious and accessible foods while helping to foster a more sustainable future.”



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