Women Inspiring Plant-Based Food Innovation

Food technology is a fast growing space that addresses a plethora of global issues ranging from climate change to food insecurity. Women are leading innovators and entrepreneurs in this space. Despite a persisting gender gap in STEM, representation of women in the food and technology industry is increasing. In this blog article, we will highlight 4 women who are carving their own paths in the food industry – specifically spotlighting sustainable food alternatives. 

Haile Thomas Founder of HAPPY thehappyorg.org
 Haile Thomas–Founder of HAPPY 

 Haile Thomas was the youngest person to become Certified Integrative Nutritional Health Coach at age 16. She is now a 20 year old international speaker, plant-based influencer, wellness and compassion activist, content creator, and the author of “Living Lively”. She founded  a non-profit, HAPPY (Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful, Youth) at 12 years old. HAPPY’s mission is to provide interactive and exciting peer to peer learning for youth, grades 3rd-6th, in diverse communities across the United States and globally. Some initiatives include plant-based nutrition and culinary summer camps. The soon-to-be launched “HAPPY Academy” will offer both virtual and physical activities through in-classroom games, quizzes, recipes, and opportunities to join live cooking classes. With HAPPY, Thomas has impacted 90,000+ youths and created an expanding community of over 120,000+ members. Thomas has dedicated her career to this movement and utilizes the platform to promote wellness and empower youth through a plant-based lifestyle. 

Mitoko Schinner Founder and Owner of Miyoko's Creamery miyokos.com
Miyoko Schinner–Founder and Owner of Miyoko’s Creamery

Miyoko Schinner has lived a vegan lifestyle for over three decades. She published an array of award-winning vegan cookbooks such as “The Vegan Meat CookBook”. She is also an avid plant-based food entrepreneur. Schinner launched her vegan cheese company, Miyoko’s Creamery, in 2014. Her company continues to grow and evolve, with new products featured in  Forbes, Food & Wine, Bon Appètit and Bloomberg. Schinner also made the first YouTube channel solely dedicated to her vegan butter innovation. On the series “Making it Butter & Vegan”, chefs showcase original vegan recipes highlighting vegan butter all while sharing tips, techniques and more. Schinner also played a pivotal role in fueling the plant-based movement. She  was a founding board member of Plant Based Foods Association, the first and only trade association in the U.S. representing over 200 of the nation’s top plant-based food companies.

Kimberlie Le CEO and Co-Founder of Prime Roots primeroots.com
Kimberlie Le–CEO and Co-Founder of Prime Roots 

Kimberlie Le is the CEO and Co-Founder of Prime Roots, a California based company that makes plant-based proteins like bacon, beef, and chicken. Le has always maintained  a close relationship with the restaurant industry as she is the daughter of two restaurateurs. Once Le started studying microbiology at University of California, Berkeley, she understood the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Le’s studies prompted her to search for more sustainable alternatives. Le’s answer was koji, a fungi that has been used in Japanese cuisine for thousands of years used to ferment soybeans into miso, rice into sake, as well as  soybeans and wheat into soy sauce. Koji naturally grows into long, string-like fibers that mirror the muscle fibers in meat. When Le launched her first product, plant-based hickory bacon, it sold out.

Prime Roots' plant-based bowl Source: LIVEKINDLY
Laura Kliman Senior Food Scientist at Impossible Foods impossiblefoods.com
Laura Kliman–Senior Food Scientist at Impossible Foods 

Laura Kilman is the Director of New Product Development at Impossible Foods. Dr. Kliman leads teams that create nutritious and tasty plant-based meats through her robust understanding of chemistry, food, and flavor science. Her hard work and dedication led her to Fortune’s 40 under 40 list. She always knew she wanted to study science. She told LiveKindly, “When I took organic chemistry my sophomore year of college, I completely fell in love with solving problems related to the mechanisms of how different molecules react. I also loved the artistic aspects of visualizing molecules in 3D space.” 

Kliman ultimately pursued her passion, the culinary arts, which provided the perfect blend of chemistry, sustainability, and cooking. At Impossible Foods, Kilman led the R&D team that developed the Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage which are now widely available. Kliman has also worked on product extensions in an effort to continuously improve Impossible Foods’ offerings. 

Kliman explains to LiveKindly, “We not only have the ability to understand the specific chemical reactions that are going on when we cook food—we can also uncover what the most important flavor compounds are for the best sensory experience. Then we can modify our products in order to select for those delicious flavors, or remove an undesirable flavor.”

Women Inspiring Food Innovation 

Women are an instrumental part of entrepreneurship and innovation.  These 4 women, among many others, are at the forefront of the plant-based movement. Through their ingenuity, they will continue to pioneer change for the future with economic growth, innovation, and creativity. Their commitment and efforts will inspire other young girls, women and individuals.