Episode Topic: In this episode of NutraPreneur, we welcome Heather Granato, the Vice President of Partnerships and Sustainability at Informa, and the President of Women in Nutraceuticals. The spotlight is on the critical themes of sustainability, the evolving role of women in leadership within the nutraceutical industry, and the prevailing trends shaping its trajectory. The discussion is a deep dive into the interconnected nature of these topics, shedding light on the symbiotic relationship between business practices, gender equity, and industry evolution. Her commitment to empowering women and driving sustainability initiatives positions her as a leading voice in navigating the complexities and embracing the opportunities within the industry.
Lessons You’ll Learn: Listeners are treated to valuable lessons, emphasizing the integral connection between sustainability and business success. Heather Granato passionately discusses the significance of gender equity as not just a moral imperative but a compelling business case. By intertwining these elements, the episode illustrates the benefits of a diverse leadership landscape and its positive impact on the industry’s innovation and growth.
About Our Guest: Heather Granato, the Vice President of Partnerships and Sustainability at Informa and President of Women in Nutraceuticals, brings a wealth of experience to the table. Throughout her three decades in the industry, Heather has been a trailblazer in empowering women, contributing to the historical foundations of sustainability in the nutraceutical sector. Heather’s role allows her to champion sustainability and gender equity, fostering positive change within and beyond the industry.
Topics Covered: The episode covers a broad spectrum of topics, including the historical roots of sustainability within the nutraceutical industry. It explores the profound impacts of COVID-19 on supply chains and highlights the imperative of transparency in sourcing and production. Moreover, the conversation delves into the mission and goals of Women in Nutraceuticals, touching on mentorship programs and the positive strides made in empowering women within the industry.
Our Guest: Heather Granato – Sustainable, inclusive leader in Nutraceuticals.
Heather Granato is a seasoned professional with a rich history of leadership roles in the nutraceutical and media industries. Currently serving as the Vice President of Partnerships and Sustainability at Informa, Heather brings over 11 years of experience to her role, where she actively seeks new partners and leads existing partnerships in the EMEA Food group. Her responsibilities include creating connections across the global food and nutra supply chain, engaging with industry and community stakeholders, and spearheading the strategic sustainability agenda.
Before her current position, Heather served as the Vice President of Content, Health & Nutrition at Informa, overseeing the content strategy for the Health & Nutrition group. During her impressive tenure of 9 years and 8 months, she played a pivotal role in developing more than 140 hours of conference programming for events like SupplySide West. Heather also demonstrated her strategic acumen by implementing synergistic models for media brands, actively engaging with sales teams, and leading the launch of the Vitafoods Insights media brand.Prior to her role at Informa, Heather held key positions at VIRGO, where she served as the Group Editorial Director for 3 years and later as the Group Editor for 9 years and 8 months. She demonstrated effective team management, content strategy, public speaking, leadership, and communication skills, contributing significantly to the editorial direction of the Health & Nutrition Network.
Heather began her career at New Hope Natural Media, where she worked for 6 years, initially starting in an entry-level editorial position and gradually rising to the role of Managing Editor. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Journalism and Theater from the University of Richmond, where she actively participated in various student activities and societies. Throughout her illustrious career, Heather has been a driving force in shaping content strategy, fostering inclusivity, and advancing sustainability within the nutraceutical industry. Her wealth of experience and dedication to positive change make her a notable figure in the field.
Heather Granato: Since gender equity is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and it’s one we championed through supply side and Vita Foods, we’re talking a lot more about how do we look at the opportunities, not just because it’s the right thing to do, which I believe it is, but because it’s actually a business case. We can talk about the benefits to the business and the industry when we have more women in leadership.
Bethany Jolley: Welcome to Neutra-Preneur, the Neutral Industry podcast. I’m your host, food scientist, and nutraceuticals consultant, Bethany Jolley. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry. From conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceutical industry. We explore the innovations and trends that are shaping the next generation in nutraceutical businesses. Welcome back to Neutra-Preneur. Today, we are honored to have Heather Granato, the Vice President of Partnerships and Sustainability at Informa and the president of Women in Nutraceuticals. With her profound understanding of the global food and nutraceutical supply chain, Heather brings unique insights into sustainability dynamics and the invaluable role of women in the industry. Welcome, Heather. It’s so great to have you today.
Heather Granato: Thank you so much for having me. Very excited for our conversation.
Bethany Jolley: Yes, I’m looking forward to it. So, Heather, could you share with us some of your experiences that have shaped your insights into the dynamics of the shift toward a more sustainable production system in the industry?
Heather Granato: Of course, it’s interesting to look back, and it’s been three decades of time. And really things started within the nutraceutical industry very much from sustainability. If you think about natural health and the use of botanical remedies or organic food, this was the foundation of the food and nutraceutical broader industry. What we’ve seen over time is a greater interest among consumers in their own understanding of the ingredients of the products they’re consuming. And that plays into nutraceuticals as that subset of food. Food supplements are designed to supplement the diet, not to replace what you’re getting. When we went into Covid, then all of a sudden we had this huge aha moment in terms of our supply chain. There was an emphasis on just in time ordering before, and we wanted to really maximize the profitability. You’re really waiting on things. Well, that’s not necessarily sustainable When the cargo ships get stuck at sea and in port for months on end. And I think we’re now seeing that sustainability is understanding transparency, being able to see where ingredients come from, who’s producing them, are we paying fair wages? Are we thinking about the regenerative aspects of ingredient production? So there’s a lot that happens. I can look back on touring different areas, whether going to India and talking to the farmers themselves about their connection to the land and how the ingredients that they’re producing there, are in fact, grown there in historical ways to maximize the sustainable supply chain, the circularity, but also their own personal lifestyle. Even the same thing going into China and looking at the production of lycopene. Well, that was an Oh! we could do something else. We talk about upcycling and really they were taking tomatoes and you’re making tomato paste and you’ve got all this left over and you go, ooh, we could get a high value ingredient out of this instead of just turning it immediately into animal feed. So all of that is how we’re now starting to look at maximizing what we’re getting out of the ingredients and making the most of them. So we’re reducing waste and being more responsible I think.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a lot of great points. And I think a lot of businesses had to look into sustainability and kind of changed their business model when Covid happened, because like you said, it was difficult to source things.
Heather Granato: It was difficult to source and unfortunately really opened people’s eyes into how things are produced and where they’re coming from. And I think when you can talk about ingredients coming from overseas, it’s one thing when you know it, it’s another when you can’t get things because everything is, in fact, stuck and you start thinking about what do we owe and how are we interconnected with others and that interconnection. And we have to be reliable partners in our supply chain to others.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. And as the vice President of partnerships and sustainability at Informa, can you speak a bit about how the company contributes to fostering sustainability across its diverse brands and businesses that are in the nutraceutical sector?
Heather Granato: Well, really, my role in that role has been just the last 18 months and focusing on our kind of EMEA business for the Vita Foods and Food Ingredients brands. But I also work with our central sustainability team. And it is a priority at Informa Sustainability. And we have fundamentals that encompass social responsibility, environmental responsibility, and this idea of sustainability inside. So across all of our businesses, what are we doing? What’s the big issue facing the industry, and how can our brands and our events serve as connection points? So when I look at the Natural Products Expo, supply side Biddeford’s food Ingredients, these brands are all seeking ways to talk about sustainability inside the industry. So we might say supply chain transparency for diversity, equity, and inclusion. These are important sustainability topics within the nutraceutical industry. So how do we embed that and make meaningful change? And then alongside is how are we as an event producer also taking responsibility and being more sustainable. And that gets into things like our Better Stands initiative, where we’re looking to eliminate single-use disposable stands by 2025. That’s something just being a responsible part of the exhibitions industry is important. So we have two aspects. We have our event production side of things, and then we have the industries in which we are embedded and in which we serve.
Bethany Jolley: That’s very interesting. And in the context of sustainability, how do you see the role of women evolving in leadership positions within the nutraceutical industry, and what initiatives has women in Nutraceuticals undertaken to address and advance this?
Heather Granato: You have better business outcomes when you have diverse viewpoints around the table. People bring their own perspectives, their own lived experiences. And sharing those, really helps us all think differently, come up with more innovation. We had an interesting piece that was presented by Solidaridad, which is our partner in this area at Vida Foods, and Neha, who’s their gender lead, was talking about gender equity in India. When you’re looking at production of ingredients and what they found was paying women directly supports families and businesses. So you’re really seeing the importance of women in the supply chain. And since gender equity is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and it’s one we championed through supply side and Vita Foods, we’re talking a lot more about how do we look at the opportunities, not just because it’s the right thing to do, which I believe it is, but because it’s actually a business case. We can talk about the benefits to the business and the industry when we have more women in leadership.
Bethany Jolley: Like you said, bringing in not just different backgrounds, but different genders as well, brings in different perspectives. And that’s really important from a business side of things as well.
Heather Granato: Absolutely, It is.
Bethany Jolley: Yes. Can you share with us some of the missions and goals of women in nutraceuticals, and how it leverages industry experiences and connections to inspire, empower, and motivate women in the nutraceutical sector?
Heather Granato: I’d love to. I love what we’ve been able to do. And really, our vision is this idea of achieving economic and societal equity that will change the global nutraceutical industry and doing that by empowering women in nutraceuticals to unlock personal and professional potential. So we established this group, a group of industry friends who got together and said, hey! We’ve been talking about we need more women in leadership for years, and we talk about it, and it’s not moving forward. What if we were to do something about this? What if we were to start something and officially launched on October of 22, and it’s entirely volunteer-driven. But a year in, we’ve got 30 plus sponsors, we’ve got 20 plus partner organizations, we’re over 450 individual members. And all of this speaks to the goals that we look to achieve. How do you have more women in senior leadership in the C-suite? How do you have more funding for women led and owned businesses? And how do you have more women in science and research? So that for us is reaching out, asking people to join in, bring their unique talents. And how do we set up our organizational structure? That’s where we’re at right now and just have hired a part-time executive director. So we’re delighted to be able to have some additional guidance there. But it’s getting beyond the people who look and think like me, that middle-aged white female. And I have my own perspective and my own unconscious biases. And I’d love to have more people, men and women at the table, sharing their experiences, sharing their desire for how we build a better, more equitable industry.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, and I think it’s great to have all sorts of people involved to really advocate for women in these leadership roles. I think that’s very important.
Heather Granato: It really is. The I can’t underscore enough allyship and this idea of not just mentoring, but sponsorship, as we find people within our industry who we believe in and their talents and they need us. I’ve certainly benefited from having men and women who have seen something in me and helped me along the way, and I want to do that and ask others to do the same.
Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. And. As we talk more about this, how does when really envision supporting women in achieving both personal and professional success? And there? Are there any strategies or mentorship programs that the organization offers?
Heather Granato: We are just launching a pilot mentorship program, and the first pilot was really designed around this. How do we get women from senior level into the C-suite that soft skills development? We will be extending that mentorship program and look to mid-level, but at the same time also developing out a toolbox. How do we help younger women in the industry and think about their career progression less this idea of how do you shatter the glass ceiling, then maybe thinking about it’s not a ladder, it’s a lattice. You may take roles this way or that way that ultimately are leading to your professional fulfillment, whatever that looks like for you. It’s going to look different for you than it is for me, than it is for X, Y, or z person. So we need to help meet people where they are and offer the tools they need to develop. And part of that will also be working with our sponsors, understanding the types of programs and initiatives that they have in place, or what they’d like to put in place to help from an almost that grassroots. How do we share best practices that inspired new ideas? Ultimately, we’re bringing we want to bring everyone along. We want to address that broken rung where we don’t have enough women being promoted at that first step into management. If we can fix that, that goes a long way on filling that pipeline.
Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. And I think providing those resources also will give women the confidence to go for those positions, because I think a lot of times they don’t feel they’re qualified or they feel like that’s always been a men’s position and they don’t even try to move up.
Heather Granato: You’re right. We all have a bit of imposter syndrome. And I also think that when you look at applying for positions, women tend to say up, I’ve got nine out of ten. I guess I’ll apply. A lot of men would look and go, I’ve got five out of ten. Sure, that sounds great. But research has also shown that men are promoted based on potential and women are promoted based on performance. And this is an area that we also need to address. It’s our own biases that we look at. We need to look and see the potential in everyone. And how do we recognize that and cultivate it for the potential it has for our own businesses?
Bethany Jolley: This episode is brought to you by Nutra payments.com. If your business needs credit card processing, that fully integrates with most major neutral software platforms, offers the lowest industry prices, and has built in features like recurring billing, $0 trials, and chargeback prevention. And visit us at Neutral payments.com for a free online quote. From your perspective, what positive impacts have you observed as a result of Women’s Initiative so far in empowering women within this industry?
Heather Granato: One thing that I’ve been delighted at is I’m seeing more female experts being included in conference programming. In media interviews, one of my colleagues, Rick Polito at Nutrition Business Journal, has reached out and he and I have spoken. He said it’s something that now it’s just in the back of your head. You go, oh, okay, could we find additional people, uh, who aren’t our go tos? And sometimes it’s harder, but that’s the work that we do. I think we’re also seeing more conversation around the topic of gender equity. And the more that’s being discussed or on the radar, the more much like marketing. You have to have a message, what, five times before it sinks in. If we can have the message five times and it starts sinking in, then we’re making progress. So I do think we’re identifying where the white space is. How do we have the ability to share information that’s inspirational. And then the how can we develop more the tools, the programming, the webinars that will ultimately move things forward toward those goals?
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, and it does sound like you’re already making positive progress and you have a lot of people invested in this. So that’s great.
Heather Granato: I think it was a right time, right place opportunity. I and as I said, we’ve talked about it for a long time and it’s something that I’m pretty passionate about and I hope that others will be as well that we can continue to take this forward.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And shifting focus a bit to talk about industry trends. So broader industry trends, how do you perceive the current landscape of the nutraceutical industry and what key trends are shaping its trajectory?
Heather Granato: One thing I think. We can obviously look at is changing demographics. I think we’ve got aging populations, but we also have a very motivated younger population. They’re the ones asking additional questions. They’re seeking out information. The way they engage with social and networks is going to transform how we do business. We need to think about it’s nonwhite, how do we have economic accessibility? And I do think that is going to challenge within the nutraceutical industry is the pricing of products and making sure that we are providing quality products at an affordable price for natural healing. And that’s something that consumers are showing a great interest in, is augmenting. So it’s not an either or. It’s how do I build out my health toolbox with pharmaceuticals when they’re called for with nutraceuticals, with a base of food and making that available to all? So that is obviously a trend. I think there’s more conversation around mental wellbeing, and you’re seeing that play out in products for cognitive health, for mood, for sleep. These are we’ve had products for a while, but I do think that these issues can be more common in women. And as we have more conversation about it and it takes some of the stigma away, then you have the opportunity to talk about natural solutions, natural ways to add and augment what you’re already doing. The transparency factor there as well, transparency in all things. We really need to be transparent about where do our ingredients come from, what are they used for, how are they produced? How are they produced is going to be a pretty interesting area when we start talking about biotechnology and precision fermentation, or even the use of AI, there’s lots of potential. But I think if we learned anything from the Flavr Savr tomato, it’s we need to be very open with consumers about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and that we’re doing it in a responsible way.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think consumers are becoming more educated and they want that transparency. They want to know what they’re putting in their bodies.
Heather Granato: Yes they do. I think we had the subway many years ago, had to change their bread because there was an ingredient being used for preservation, I believe that was also found in yoga mats. There was a huge uproar. Why would you have something in yoga mats that’s also in bread? Well, it was there for a purpose, but the company hadn’t been explaining that. And if you get behind consumers, they’re voting with their dollars. And we need to be responsible and respectful of that.
Bethany Jolley: Yes, for sure. And the nutraceutical world is constantly changing and evolving and how does Informa stay at the forefront of industry trends and contribute to connecting people, knowledge and ideas to the sector?
Heather Granato: I think it’s interesting to look, and I’m going to focus from my experience working with the the Natural Products Expo supply side by the foods and even food ingredients or brands that have been along around for a long time. And they’ve built trust over time with their audiences. And a lot of them have people with a lot of experience who are working there. So when these brands have the trust and they’re developed, delivering the right information to help people make the right business decisions and helping foster connections, that’s very authentic. And that’s where we talk about sustainability. Inside, we’re building a community of people, and they want to be engaged, and we provide a venue for them to do that. Ultimately, I think it’s important that we are a big tent in our thinking that we are allowing and inviting and making it feel very open and inclusive for for everyone to be there. Whether we talk about comp competition, we talk about competitor organizations. Personally, I love the other members of the media within the nutraceutical industry. They are some of my very dear friends and I respect the work that they do. Competition makes us all better and I love to see them when they come to supply side and they’re doing interviews and we’re talking about the issues when we’re connecting after hours or over breakfast. Ultimately it makes for a more vibrant industry. So that’s what I would say. We’re staying connected because we are connected to the people in the industry. It’s not just putting on an event for it. It’s really being part of the nutraceutical industry.
Bethany Jolley: And you bring up a great point. Everyone looks at their competitor in a negative way oftentimes. And. To look at them as a positive role, where they’re challenging you to be better and you’re seeing what they’re doing and you’re trying to do it better, and it just keeps the industry moving along. I think.
Heather Granato: It does. I mean, we haven’t changed that much since high school when we all wanted the A, and we always get that top gold star. I wanted to get as many gold stars as Susie Performer.
Bethany Jolley: So yes, always pushing each other to advance and be better.
Heather Granato: Yes.
Bethany Jolley: And so looking ahead, what do you anticipate as significant opportunities and challenges for the nutraceutical industry? And how can professionals, and particularly women, position themselves to thrive in this dynamic landscape?
Heather Granato: Well, I’d say opportunities creating communities. We have the opportunity to create more inclusive communities in the areas where we share areas of interest. So we are interested in botanicals and botanical sourcing and the issues around adulteration or testing. The American Herbal Products Association is a fantastic association and getting involved in volunteering and learning more. There are many of those types of associations of smaller groups building communities who share information. That’s an opportunity that will foster growth. I do think becoming more transparent in our sourcing and our communications, that’s an expectation for consumers, and it’s an opportunity for us to take the lead. I also think there’s an opportunity to commit to more scientific research on our ingredients and our finished products, to do that in a responsible way, and to do that in broader populations that match the target demographic. And I appreciate that. It’s harder sometimes to do research studies in women because got those pesky hormones and cycles. But men have hormones, too. And I do think that if our intent is to have products that are for a broad population, we need to be very aware that the population is a match. So that’s an opportunity to do more.
Heather Granato: Again, the flip side of that, that’s a challenge. It is a challenge to have a representative population. And how do we ensure that we’re reaching out into communities where maybe it’s harder for them to get into a research center, to have their blood drawn? Is it hard for them to find childcare? Where are the opportunities then, to use technology to use virtual, to maybe diversify the type of research that we’re doing? I also think we’ve got a challenge on distrust and consumers are with us, but we need to be within our industry addressing areas of concern. And that could be economically motivated adulteration that could be not communicating on the scientific research that you are doing. So that issue of borrowed science is, uh, I think even the technologies that we’re using and being very clear about what are they what can they do? Have they been tested? Are they safe to really being clear about that? Because consumers trust us now. They won’t trust us if we have a huge issue that comes up, something like the L-tryptophan production change that really caused significant health issues. So that’s a distrust.
Bethany Jolley: Now, those are all great points. And I even in my own research, I’ve seen various studies where it’s just men in India or just in domestically. And so you just are like, is this really applicable to me or is this dose that’s for a male applicable to a female and all of those things. So I think broadening that research is really important. But a challenge.
Heather Granato: It’s an opportunity and a challenge. I think really there are two sides of the same coin, and it really depends on how we approach it. I think if we’re asking questions, if we’re building community, if we’re thinking about how can we go further together? So as opposed to not going to show them all this information being very upfront, here’s what we’re going like, how can we get there faster and serve our consumers better? Trusting and verifying. But ultimately just saying yes, like, yes, we can do this. How are we going to do this together?
Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely.
Bethany Jolley: As we conclude this enlightening conversation, we extend our gratitude to Heather for sharing her wealth of experiences and insights and into sustainability, women’s leadership, and industry trends within the nutraceutical sector. For more information on women’s initiatives and informs contributions to the industry, we encourage you to explore the provided links. Stay tuned for more thought provoking discussions. Entrepreneur. And don’t forget to engage with us on social media. Until next time, stay informed and inspired in the realm of nutraceutical innovations. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Nutra Preneur. If you enjoy the show, please subscribe and better yet, leave us a review as it really helps us grow the show.