Ever since they started Lotus Foods in 1995, co-founders Caryl Levine and Ken Lee have been pioneers in the organic rice industry, raising the bar for how this ancient grain is sustainably-grown and also becoming the first Regenerative Organic Certified® rice brand in the world.
Now, these two visionaries are entering a new chapter, as they have handed the reins of their company to current president and COO Andrew Burke.
Both of the founders will remain on the board and stay actively involved in Lotus Foods, but no longer having to oversee day-to-day management, they can spend more time focusing on the mission of the company.
“When we started Lotus Foods almost 30 years ago, we never dreamed of the profound importance this business would take on when it comes to pressing issues like combating climate change, preserving rice biodiversity and fighting poverty among smallholder rice farmers,” said Caryl Levine. “As founders and entrepreneurs with no formal training in this industry, we have always had to learn on the fly, hiring staff and consultants to work with us as the company expanded. Eventually, we realized we could only take the company to a certain level.”
The seeds of a succession plan were planted in 2019, when Lotus Foods hired Andrew Burke to be its first C-suite executive. With his vast CPG experience, as CEO of TCHO Chocolate, in addition to senior positions at E&J Gallo Winery, Diamond Foods and Nature Box, he has had direct oversight of all aspects of the company’s operations, supply chain management, finance, marketing and sales functions.
“Not only did Andrew steer the company through the pandemic — a very stressful time — by increasing revenue, recruiting new creative talent and developing a strategic vision for the company’s future growth, but he possesses a deep commitment to Lotus Foods and shares a passion for our mission. We can’t think of a better person to take on the CEO role,” put forth Ken Lee.
“I’ve had a wonderful four years working with Caryl and Ken, and I have been humbled to do this important work alongside them,” said Andrew Burke. “The entire team at Lotus Foods is united around our mission of changing the way rice is grown around the world, and we will continue to scale our impact.”
(Andrew Burke, the new CEO of Lotus Foods)
A central component of the company’s impact is to expand the number of rice growers using System of Rice Intensification (SRI) regenerative farming techniques. Lee will focus on working with existing and new supply chain partners and supporting advocacy and government relations, while Levine will lend her vision to new product development and innovation, as well as nurturing relationships with important partners such as Jubilee Justice, which supports Black farming communities using sustainable methods.
“We started Lotus Foods as a way to celebrate good food while also making a difference in the world, and this is the next step in fulfilling both of those goals,” shared Caryl Levine.
(Tapan Ray, CEO of PraTithi Organic Foods (right), alongside organic basmati farmers who use More Crop Per Drop™ growing methods, which enabled them to achieve Regenerative Organic Certified® status.)
(The first basmati rice in the world that became Regenerative Organic Certified®)
Max Goldberg, Founder
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