The driving force of Danone’s plant-based accelerator has joined the alternative cheese company to engage the brand with consumers
Portrait photo of Irina Gerry
Irina Gerry

Alternative dairy start-up Change Foods has recruited former Danone marketing leader Irina Gerry in a bold move to preparing the brand to engage with consumers ahead of the revolution that is imminently landing on their lips – dairy cheese without the cow.

The US-Australian company uses precision fermentation technology and is gearing up for launching animal-free cheese to market. Serving as chief marketing officer, Gerry will be responsible for delivering Change Food’s communications strategy, helping consumers understand the technology and accept the product, as well as the sustainable proposition behind the brand.

Change Foods was founded in 2019, and last May the company raised $125,000 in pre-seed funding. The start-up closed a second pre-seed funding round last month – oversubscribed totalling $875,000.

The company is backed by high profile investors from Google, as well as Twitter’s Maya Hari, Michal Klar, Simon Newstead, Tom Crago, Vikas Garg, and others.

Branding and marketing strategies

A plant-based industry veteran, Gerry brings a wealth of experience in plant-based foods and drink products. She was a force behind major brand initiatives on Silk, the iconic soymilk that entered the market in 1978. The brand joined Danone’s portfolio following the acquisition of WhiteWave in 2017. Gerry’s work on the brand included product innovation, packaging design, and multiple marketing campaigns.

Gerry championed Silk’s entrance into new segments, such as nutrition-forward beverages and ready-to-drink coffee. Gerry also led two major new platform launches for both Silk and So Delicious brands, hitting shelves in January.

“Irina is a true consumer expert who understands how to get to the core insight and deliver products loved by millions. Her impressive skills are matched only by her deep passion for sustainability,” said founder and chief executive, David Bucca.

“She shares our purpose to create a sustainable, thriving, and kind food system,” Bucca added. “We could not have found a better executive team member to shape our brand vision to drive this change.”

Prior to WhiteWave, Gerry worked for consumer goods giant P&G, and premier management consultancy, Deloitte.

“I was drawn to the Change Foods team, based on our shared mission to change the world,” said Gerry. “David and I are both parents and as we looked at the climate crisis threatening our children’s future, we just could not sit idly. This is our fight, and it is an urgent one.”

Gerry argued that removing industrially farmed animals from the global food supply is a key part of the climate solution. “We have the right tech, skills and team to do just that.”

Change Foods’ microbial fermentation process. Photo as seen on Sascha Baker’s Medium feed

Commenting on the challenges ahead, Gerry said: “When you are introducing new-to-the-world technology and building a new market segment, it makes a lot of sense to introduce a new brand, rather than trying to fit it into an existing one.”

Gerry believes that simply including animal-free proteins into existing plant-based or dairy-based brands could create a lot of consumer confusion. “A lot of storytelling needs to be done to bring consumers in on this journey and help them understand the world-changing power of this new technology. Change is a perfect brand to do that,” she concluded.

Date published: 2 December 2020

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