Dr. Miles Woodruff | Chief Executive Officer, Sophie’s Kitchen

Spotlight
September 16, 2021

What first got you excited about getting involved in the plant-based protein space?

While attending John F. Kennedy University in 2008, where I was working toward a bachelor's degree in philosophy, I enrolled in a sustainability class where I read  Harvest for Hope by Dr. Jane Goodall. This reignited my passion for creating a healthy planet with healthy foods.

That same year, Dr. Jane Goodall visited Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, while I was visiting my family. Dr. Goodall helped me realize that everyday people can do extraordinary things and have a crucial impact through persistence and dedication. She encouraged me to leave the job I had at that time and dedicate my life to sustainability. I then left all the comforts of home to help save and protect bush-meat orphaned chimpanzees in the Congo. I worked directly with primates, feeding, studying behavior, and caring for their health and safety while facilitating primate reintroductions to the wild. My time in Africa built the grit and willingness to go to any length for what I believe in.

Returning to America, I believed there was a for-profit solution to our sustainability challenges. My diverse background in startup culture, the food industry, entrepreneurship, and as a front-line conservationist, created a unique business approach and my mission to spearhead a brand that challenged the norm in a mission-driven industry like the alternative protein space.

I knew that Sophie’s Kitchen would give me a platform that would help me move closer to my mission of seeing plant-based meat sales surpass animal-based meat sales in my lifetime.

In your experience, what are some reasons the world seems to be shifting towards more plant-based foods?

With popular documentaries like Seaspiracy highlighting the impact of commercial fishing, consumers are more educated about what they are putting in their bodies and the effects our everyday practices are having on the environment. Studies show that consumers look for products to help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life. They feel more comfortable purchasing products and services from high purpose brands than from their low purpose competitors.

Can you tell us about what you're building at Sophie's Kitchen and what approach you are taking to the food space?

Since 2010, Sophie's Kitchen has created seafood alternatives that enable people to eat plant-based food without giving up the flavors and textures that they love. The vegan brand is free of preservatives; is gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO; and it offers a product portfolio full of great taste and clean, guilt-free alternatives. Sophie's Kitchen also strives to raise awareness around the destruction of ocean ecosystems and the wildlife that lives within them by providing healthy, plant-based seafood alternatives suitable for most lifestyles. The best way to achieve this goal is to create plant-based foods craved by vegans and meat-lovers alike while making our products accessible to consumers so they can also join our mission for change.

Where did the idea originally come from to bring plant-based proteins into seafood, which is a relatively new concept?

Plant-based seafood was developed as an alternative for those who cannot consume ocean or farm sources seafood either for allergy-related issues or ethical reasons. Today, modern consumers use this concept for breathing new life into a healthier lifestyle and moving forward with environmental and social stewardship and political change.

What differentiates Sophie's Kitchen from other plant-based companies?

We want others to join us in our passion and the movement to make the world not just a healthier place but a better place for all animals. As a disruptive innovator and high-growth leader in the plant-based food industry, we have spent years creating a seamless experience nearly indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts. The best way to achieve that goal is to create seafood alternatives that enable people to eat plant-based without giving up the flavors and textures they love. We are profoundly committed to making a positive difference globally by changing unsustainable and unethical industries into ones that are. Our mission is to create plant-based foods craved by vegans and meat-lovers alike while saving lives and protecting the planet one meal at a time.

How do Sophie's Kitchen's plant-based seafood alternatives also have a positive environmental impact?

Overfishing is a serious threat to our oceans. It is a common misconception that aquaculture is the more ocean-friendly way of meeting the soaring global demand for seafood - but it is adding to the problem significantly. By opting for plant-based seafood over traditional seafood, consumers are helping displace the need to extract ocean life. According to the United Nations, nearly 90% of the world's marine fish stock is exploited or depleted. Sophie's Kitchen is helping make the transition to plant-based seafood easy by offering a variety of options like Crab Cakes, Breaded Shrimp, Canned' Toona,' Fish Fillets, and Smoked Salmon widely available at grocery stores like Walmart, Whole Foods, and Sprouts.

Can you tell us about the current traction of Sophie's Kitchen?

My mission is to educate our customers on how they can make a difference each time they choose to eat plant-based food. This can be seen in the transformation of the Sophie's Kitchen brand. I am excited to say that we are maintaining our high-growth status in the industry. We are backing up that traction by focusing on high-margin domestic sales, building out a team of top-level experts, and bringing our teams in-house as we identify how to elevate the brand, expand our portfolio and reach our mission of creating a great tasting and accessible alternative food portfolio.

Currently, what challenges do you see alternative proteins needing to overcome to be more widely adopted globally?

We are lucky that there is an abundance of protein sources to choose from. However, there are still several challenges, including adapting technologies and production methods and cost and supply reliability and safety for us to offer a stellar alternative to flavor, functionality, and nutrition.

What would you say you are most excited about building right now at Sophie's Kitchen, and what potential impact do you see that having in the world?

We are making a difference. Each time we have a consumer opt for a plant-based diet, even if it is to supplement one meal at a time, we are working toward altering the status quo in how our environment and our animals are treated. Additionally, we can educate people on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, making "cravable" plant-based food accessible for every consumer.

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