Mamma Chia has just added four executive team members: Ken Vargha, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing; Lance Dermeik, Vice President of Operations; Steve Polzin, Director of Sales; and Brenda Quesada, Director of Research & Development and Technical Services.
“Mamma Chia has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years including the addition of two new product lines — Chia & Greens Beverages and Chia Vitality Bars. As a result of this growth, we’ve been looking for the right people to help continue to elevate our brand,” said Janie Hoffman, Mamma Chia Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Ken, Lance, Steve and Brenda are all as talented and experienced … and we’re incredibly excited to have them on board.”
Prior to joining Mamma Chia, Vargha served as the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Renew Life, which makes digestive wellness supplements. His extensive background spans across various industries from nutraceuticals and cosmetics to healthcare and non-profit.
“Janie and her team have built a very successful company around these power-packed seeds, and I am energized by the opportunities ahead to help further strengthen the brand,” said Vargha. “I look forward to working alongside Janie and the rest of the team to reinforce the reach of Mamma Chia’s organic chia-based foods and beverages….”
Dermeik will oversee the strategic operations and supply chain processes for Mamma Chia. During the past eight years he was the senior director of contract manufacturing at The Hain Celestial Group, where he worked with contract manufacturers to support Hain’s portfolio of natural and organic brands.
Polzin worked alongside Vargha at Renew Life and Alacer, where he increased sales and expanded distribution, most recently as the national director of sales. Quesada joins Mamma Chia with more than 20 years of diverse food product development and manufacturing experience.
The Original Cakerie, which makes high-quality frozen desserts for retail and foodservice customers across North America, has named Paul J. Lapadat as Chief Executive Officer of a new holding company established to accelerate growth. Lapadat, a longtime executive with deep experience leading both consumer product conglomerates and specialty food companies, succeeds Dave Hood, who was CEO of The Original Cakerie for more than 20 years. Hood will become an advisor to the board of directors of The Original Cakerie.
Concurrently, The Original Cakerie announced it has restructured its business under a holding company known as Desserts Holdings, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Desserts Holdings will allow a shared services model and integrated selling organization between The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods to better serve current and prospective customers. Both The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods are portfolio companies of Gryphon Investors, a San Francisco-based middle market private equity firm.
The Original Cakerie, founded in 1979, is based in Delta, British Columbia, Canada, with a second production facility in London, Ontario. Lawler Foods, a manufacturer of gourmet cheesecakes, layer cakes, pies and other desserts, is based in Humble, Texas. Together, the companies serve more than 200 customers in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe.
As part of the transition, Chris W. Rogers has also been named CFO for the holding company and will report to Lapadat in the St. Paul office. Doris Bitz, currently Senior Vice President, Retail Sales & Marketing, will become President of The Original Cakerie. The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods will remain stand-alone, independent operating companies with their own brands. The companies’ manufacturing operations will remain in Delta, London, and the Houston area.
Dennis O’Brien, a Partner at Gryphon Investors and Chairman of the Board of The Original Cakerie, said, “We are pleased to welcome Paul to Desserts Holdings. Having worked closely with him on our previous successful investment in Flagstone Foods, we are very familiar with Paul’s leadership skills and believe he will be instrumental to building this unique platform company. Likewise, we welcome Chris, and we are excited to see Doris move into her new role as President. We are fortunate to have attracted leaders of Paul’s, Chris’ and Doris’s caliber. We are equally grateful for Dave Hood’s continuing presence, and we expect to take full advantage of his immeasurable product and industry knowledge.”
Lapadat added, “I am excited to be working alongside Gryphon again to continue to grow this highly respected business in the premium dessert space. The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods are best-in-class companies, and I look forward to working with their teams to increase capabilities and expand our dessert offerings so that our retail and foodservice customers will continue to view us as their company of choice.”
Hood commented, “I am pleased to have worked with the Gryphon team on the ownership transition of The Original Cakerie, and I know it will continue to be viewed as the premier premium frozen desserts company in North America. I look forward to continuing my work as a strategic advisor.”
Renee Hicks, a 23-year food industry veteran, has joined The Fremont Company, a 111-year-old manufacturer of private brands products, as Director of Private Brands. The Fremont Company is one of the country’s leading producers of private brands regular and organic ketchup, as well as steak sauces and barbecue sauces. Hicks was most recently with Roehl Corporation, a brokerage company for the private brands food business.
“Renee will be managing The Fremont Company’s fast growing domestic account portfolio, dealing with our large pool of retail customers. Her background in account management on both the regional and national levels brings important expertise to help our company achieve new goals in new client acquisition as well as expanding existing relationships,” says Chris Smith, President of The Fremont Company. “The private brands industry is reaching record sales numbers, and professionals like Renee are in high demand to help companies understand and meet market needs.”
Store brand sales in the U.S. reached $118.4 billion in 2015, an all-time record. That was an increase of $2.2 billion over the previous year, according to the Private Label Association “2016 Private Label Yearbook.” Annual sales of store brands have grown by 5 percent, or $5.4 billion, in combined channels. Dollar share for store brands is now 17.7 percent, a new high for the industry.