The world’s largest organic yogurt maker.

Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm //
Number of Employees: 
Annual Sales:
$320 million

Gary’s Story

Gary Hirshberg was all about climate change and ecology. He launched his career in the 1970s as the Executive Director of an ecological research and education centre in Massachusetts. But during a rare visit to Disney’s Epcot Center, Gary witnessed a life-changing spectacle: Kraft Foods presenting the farms of our future, with test-tube plants and a dancing, animatronic Miss Cheese—among others. The fanfare of Kraft’s nutrition-less promise was drawing far more attention than the ecological centre Gary was directing. The lesson was simple: to have real influence Gary would need to penetrate the mainstream on a par with Kraft. And he did—albeit with far less mainstream business practices. In 1983, he teamed up with yogurt-making aficionado Samuel Kaymen and founded Stonyfield Farm, which has grown into the largest organic yogurt maker in the world. “For 18 years we’ve grown 25% annually, driving organic foods and eco-education into the average family kitchen,” explains Gary. Gary has captured his story in the very hopeful and visionary book Stirring it Up: How to Make Money and Save the World (Hyperion, 2008).

Meeting Renewal Partners

Joel Solomon has been a longtime friend of Gary’s. In Stonyfield’s earliest days, Joel personally invested without hesitation—confident in Stonyfield’s potential under Gary’s guidance. Later, Joel organized an investment from Renewal. Since that time Stonyfield has moved well along the path of success, with major investors like Groupe Danone. In doing so they have helped Renewal realize one of its founding hopes: to support good businesses at the right time, only to later witness the champions they become. In the early 90s—with a belief in using ones story to inspire others—Gary developed the model for the Social Venture Institute and its methods for educating values-driven entrepreneurs. Gary is now a close ally and advisor for the new Renewal2 social venture fund.

Making Ripples

Stonyfield focuses wholly on the wellbeing of people and the world they live in. While their competitors funnel profits into marketing, Stonyfield takes action to advance environmental protection, organic farming and family nutrition—maximizing the shared benefit of the dollars they spend. Each year they donate 10% of their profits to environmental initiatives, totaling close to 2 million in 2007 alone. They were the first US manufacturer to offset 100% of their facilities’ energy use, preventing over 14,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. They have helped keep 60,000 acres of farmland contaminate free, enhancing the nutrient content of yogurt landing on millions of kitchen tables. With this nontraditional approach, they are the third largest among all yogurt makers, organic and not. Simply put, they are trailblazers—creating a new path and inviting others to follow.