Identifying the Elephant in the Room is an award-winning seminar series that tackles controversial topics that lack clear communication strategies and which need space to elevate voices that are not typically heard on the subject matter. The goal of the series is not to solve universal problems. Rather, the goal is to engage in informed conversations around contentious topics in order to learn better ways to approach, respond and communicate from the experiences of others. When people come into conflict, channels of communication must be opened to provide information necessary to understand each other and find solutions.
Sandy Almendarez, Vice President Content at Informa, has nearly 20 years of experience in developing and executing compelling, relevant content for targeted markets. She leads the content team for Informa Market’s SupplySide, serving the healthy, sustainable, conscientious consumer packaged goods industry. Her leadership spans community, editorial, content marketing and conference programming for the health and nutrition industry. Almendarez is an advocate for diversity and inclusion of women, people of color and LBGTQ+ individuals in business.
Karen Howard, CEO/Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Association is a visionary and results-focused leader who spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and healthcare organizations to develop innovative healthcare policy and programs. An advocate at heart, she has worked to strategically advance the mission and vision of organizations through effective advocacy and strong collaboration including the National Animal Supplement Council, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools.
Danielle Masterson, Deputy Editor of NutraIngredients-USA, joined the team in 2019 after making the leap from broadcast news. She is the host of “NutraCast,” an award-winning podcast that takes a deep dive into nutraceuticals and “NutraWomen Wednesday,” a weekly show that highlights the women behind the wellness. A Detroit native, Masterson received her journalism degree from Michigan State University.
Rick Polito, Editor-In-Chief of Nutrition Business Journal, writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.
Crystal Webber is a Registered Dietitian, Food Biochemist and Founder/CEO of Niche Nutrition LLC. With more than 20 years of experience in the natural products industry, she loves supporting ingredient manufacturers and retail brands of all sizes in the creation of finished products. Webber is a JEDI advisory council member, holds multiple board positions for CPG companies in the natural products industry, and is Vice President of the Board for the Naturally Proud Network.
Lisa Davis, MPH has two decades of experience as a health educator and broadcaster and holds a master’s degree in Public Health. Known as the creator and host of “It's Your Health” radio show and “Talk Healthy Today,” she is currently producing and hosting the “Health Power” and “DOG-EARED” podcasts. Davis is the author of, “Clean Eating, Dirty Sex: Sensual Superfoods and Aphrodisiac Practices for Ultimate Sexual Health,” and has a passion for helping people live their healthiest life.
James B. LaValle
James B. LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, is a clinical pharmacist, author, board certified clinical nutritionist and naturopathic doctor with more than 35 years of clinical experience in metabolic and integrative medicine. He serves as the academic co-chair for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine and is an appointed faculty member and course educator for the Integrative Medicine postgraduate program at George Washington University School of health sciences. LaValle has authored more than 20 books including, “Cracking the Metabolic Code.”
Sandra Lee is CEO of NJ Labs, a nationally recognized provider and advocate for quality in chemistry and microbiology testing that serves the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, dietary supplement, cosmetic and cannabis/CBD industries. Lee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Michigan. As a scientist and one of the few female CEOs in the analytical testing industry, she has a passion for chemistry and how it influences multiple aspects of our daily lives.
Dr. Keri Marshall
Dr. Keri Marshall is an Epidemiologist and Naturopathic Doctor with more than two decades of experience in the natural products industry and clinical practice and more than three decades experience in health and human research. She received her Naturopathic Medical Degree (ND) degree from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Marshall is the author of, "User's Guide to Protein and Amino Acids” and serves on several advisory and editorial boards for peer-reviewed medical journals and health advocacy groups.
Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., CFS, IFT Fellow, is a Senior Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and Founder and Principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a food science and research firm that expedites the development and commercialization of new food products and technologies. Shelke serves on the Faculty Advisory Board for Food and Agriculture at McGill University in Montreal and on the Board of Trustees of the Sonoran University of Health Sciences in Tempe, Arizona.
Aleksandra Crapanzano is a food columnist for The Wall Street Journal, recipient of the James Beard M.F.K. Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing, and author of, “The London Cookbook,” “Eat. Cook. L.A.,” and “Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes,” winner of two Gourmand Awards in France. She holds a M.F.A. in Film Directing from NYU, where she has taught advanced screenwriting, is a graduate of Harvard and currently serves on the board of Naturally New York.
Mariam Elghani is founder of Mariam's Garlic Sauce, a line of keto, sugar-free, vegan Levantine garlic sauces inspired by her grandmother's recipe. At age 15, she worked at her parents' Mediterranean kitchen where customers would rave about her grandmother’s garlic sauce. This inspired her to share a part of her family's food history with others, leading her to become a natural products CPG entrepreneur after graduating California State University-Sacramento. Mariam’s Garlic Sauce is currently offered in 100+ Bay Area grocery stores.
Tauri Laws-Phillips, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, focused on the Talent x Opportunity Initiative (TxO), to identify entrepreneurs who have talent, drive, and ideas to build great culturally relevant businesses, but lack typical resources. She has 10+ years experience in CPG and has worked on multiple beauty start-ups, served as an equity mentor and as a program director for the SKU Accelerator. Laws-Phillips is co-owner of ColdTowne Theater in Austin, where she is a frequent comedy performer, writer and diversity facilitator.
Ross Perkins, is COO/Co-Owner of Mason Dixie Foods, a leader in natural frozen food with products in more than 6,000 stores and hotels nationwide. He leads the operations team, demand and supply chain, logistics and fulfillment, and systems and data management. Perkins has authored more than 500 articles on restaurant trends and food and beverage regulatory in publications, including Eater and Thrillist. His love of entrepreneurship came after working with entrepreneurs as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi.
Heather K. Terry
Heather K. Terry is Founder/CEO of GoodSam Foods, PBC and Partner at BeyondBrands. She’s the mastermind behind the expansion of many popular clean beauty and wellness brands and an advisor and angel investor to many up-and-coming wellness products. Terry is passionate about direct trade and regenerative agriculture. Her work at GoodSam is an example of what it means to empower farmers and create alliances that support the quality of our soil and keep farms thriving for generations to come.
Claudia A. Lewis
Claudia A. Lewis, partner and co-chair of the FDA Group at Venable LLP, in Washington, D.C., counsels on matters involving FDA regulation, labeling, marketing of foods, OTC drugs, medical devices, and other products. She has prepared and presented constitutional and administrative law cases before federal agencies including the FDA, FTC and DOJ. Lewis frequently speaks on the legal and regulatory state of the sector. She received her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law, is admitted to the Connecticut Bar, and practices before Federal agencies
David Spungen is Partner and Wealth Advisor at RegentAtlantic and has developed an expertise in the food and beverage industry by working with restaurateurs, CPG and food tech entrepreneurs. He also founded Break the Mold, a network community for women in the food and beverage industry. Spungen currently serves on the advisory boards of Blanket, Simply Good Jars, and Snuk, and is a mentor in Beyond SKU, a CPG accelerator, and a founding partner and board member at Naturally New York
Debra Short, is Executive Director of SENPA, a non-profit trade association of retailers, manufacturers, distributors, brokers, educators, practitioners and service providers dedicated to protecting and advancing the natural products industry. With nearly 50 years experience in natural products starting out in the retail sector at her family's business, Short has served in presidential and executive positions for National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) Southwest Region and Natural Products Association (NPA). In 2011, she was awarded the NPA Industry Champion Award.
Heather Wainer is Owner, Publisher and Vice President of Media at WholeFoods Magazine, a family-owned, woman-led publishing and full-service natural products media company. Wainer grew up in the natural products industry watching her father publish WholeFoods Magazine until she joined the company and has since been instrumental in the growth of WholeFoods Magazine, its website, naturalproductfinder and its joint venture with Industry Transparency Center, in the development and execution of “Naturally Informed” virtual conferences.
Suzanne Shelton is Founder and Managing Partner at The Shelton Group, a public relations and marketing firm working exclusively in the natural products industry since 1990. She has served on the boards of Citizens For Health and the Natural Products Foundation and is currently an AHPA Communications Committee Chair and PR Chair with Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN), an organization advocating for gender parity. Shelton came to the natural product industry after her first career in the music business.
Harper Hall, Global Flavor Applications and Technical Service Lead at Ingredion, supports Ingredion’s DEI initiatives such as self-ID, access and policy creation. In addition to volunteering with Informa’s JEDI Content Creation Advisory Council and Naturally Proud Network’s board of directors, Harper assists Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. Harper holds a bachelor of professional studies in baking and pastry arts management from The Culinary Institute of America and a bachelor of science in Culinology® from Southwest Minnesota State University.
Heather Granato, Vice President of Partnerships and Sustainability for the Food EMEA division of Informa, is a 30-year natural products veteran, frequent presenter and published author on industry trends. Based in London, she leads efforts related to partnerships and broader sustainability initiatives for Vitafoods. She is founding president of Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN) and serves on the board of Organic & Natural Health Association. Granato graduated magna cum laude from the University of Richmond, Virginia, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Nana Pfeifer, co-founded Homescape Pets in 2018 with her husband Marcus after their first dog became ill and she couldn’t find natural, affordable supplements. Homescape Pets creates dietary supplements and treats to address common health issues dogs and cats face including anxiety, pain, joint issues, and dental disease. She has been featured in Modern Dog Magazine, BuzzFeed, Austin Business Journal and New York Magazine for their award-winning supplements that have helped thousands of dogs and cats live healthier and happier lives.
Rena Cohen-First is Vice President of Sales for Cepham, the global leader in Ayurvedic botanicals. She has 25 years experience working with leading multinational brands in the food, beverage, and supplement industries and invaluable behind-the-scenes market knowledge. She completed her MBA at The New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) and served in The United States Army as a linguist. Cohen-First is also a female empowerment author and blogger in the natural product industry.
Michael Modjeski, Chief Commercial Officer, leads the global commercial activities to more than 40 countries for Wakunaga of America, a family-owned U.S. company founded in 1972. With several decades of experience in natural products and CPG, he has traveled extensively around the world, gaining exposure and appreciation for diverse cultures. His professional experiences in sales, marketing, operations, finance, analytics and executive leadership equips him to take-on the business challenges of today, as well as those of the future.
Mark Alyn is Host of Late Night Health Radio, a show dedicated to health and wellness. In his career, he has interviewed more than 30,000 politicians, business leaders, celebrities and healthcare professionals. Alyn made a name for himself as a television host, reporter and anchor, and is a sought-after public speaker, known for his ability to inspire and entertain audiences. A master of his craft, Alyn always brings a unique perspective, a great sense of humor and a strong sense of empathy.
Amy Summers, Founder and President of Pitch Publicity®, has decades of experience working with major clients in the natural products industry to increase national publicity exposure across all mass media outlets, while developing key strategic communication strategies. In 2020, she launched INICIVOX® to help individuals improve a wide-range of soft skills centered on the complexity of communications. She is a board member and founding partner of Naturally New York and was awarded Best Diversity and Inclusion Campaign from PR News for producing the virtual seminar series, “Identifying The Elephant In The Room: Critical Communication Strategies in the Face of Racism.”
Moderator: Rick Polito
Mentor Panelists: Karen Howard, Sandy Almendarez, Danielle Masterson, Crystal Webber
Moderator: Lisa Davis, MPH
Mentor Panelists: Sandra Lee, James LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., Keri Marshall, ND
Moderator: Aleksandra Crapanzano
Mentor Panelists: Mariam Elghani, Tauri Laws-Phillips, Ross Perkins, Heather Terry
Moderator: Heather Wainer
Mentor Panelists: Claudia Lewis, Suzanne Shelton, David Spungen, Debra Short
Moderator: Heather Granato
Mentor Panelists: Nana Pfeifer, Harper Hall, Rena Cohen-First, Michel Modjeski
Moderator: Mark Alyn & Amy Summers
Special Guests and Participants
Redbook: The Results of a 1976 Survey of Women About Sexual Harassment At Work Remain Virtually Unchanged In 2017
The New York Times: Nancy Pelosi, Liberated and Loving It
CNN: Opinion: The right-wing approach to ‘parents’ rights’ puts kids at risk
The New York Times: Defining Nonbinary Work Wear
Guernica: Men Explain Things to Me
The New York Times: What Exactly Is ‘Locker-Room Talk’? Let an Expert Explain
Independent: What’s driving internalized misogyny in the workplace?
Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey To End Gender Violence
Tales from the Boom-Boom Room: Women vs. Wall Street
The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace
Grabbed: Poets & Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment & Healing
Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto
Know My Name: A Memoir
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
TED Talk: The urgency of intersectionality