Our Origin Story and Early Years (2016-2020)

Inspired by the need for a collective voice of the plant-based foods industry and representation in government, The Plant Based Foods Association was created in 2016 by our founding board members, Jaime Athos, Martin Kruger, Nicole Sopko, Miyoko Schinner, and Michael Lynch, and founding executive director, Michele Simon. The Plant Based Foods Association officially launched at Natural Products Expo West with 23 member companies in March of 2016.

The board, founding executive director, and these 23 brands were the pioneers of PBFA. Each company believed in the path of exponential growth and vision of the plant-based foods industry, and this created the foundation for PBFA’s post-launch accomplishments and current successes.

Founding Board Members (2016)

  • Jaime Athos, Board President
    Tofurky Company
  • Martin Kruger, Board Treasurer
    Follow Your Heart
  • Nicole Sopko, Board Secretary
    Upton’s Naturals

See our current board here.

  • Miyoko Schinner, Board Member
    Miyoko’s Creamery
  • Michael Lynch, Board Member
    Daiya Foods

In the five years following the launch of PBFA, the association has become the leading voice of the plant-based food industry. Since its inception, PBFA has successfully become a vocal advocate for its growing number of members.

PBFA Launch Video

PBFA’s history of contributions to the plant-based foods industry includes the following highlights:

  • Building a Strong Network of Members and Support: PBFA has grown to 185+ Member companies, 200+ Affiliate and Investor Members, a full-time staff of 7, plus consultants and advisors.
  • Policy and Labeling Victories: PBFA adopted voluntary labeling standards as well as lobbied against harmful labeling laws at both the federal and state levels. PBFA’s policy team embarked on legal fights at the state level (some of which are ongoing), with notable wins such as in Mississippi.
  • Research and Education Fund: An important milestone of PBFA’s first year was the launch of a 501c (3) affiliate non-profit organization allowing PBFA programs to expand into retail and food service. This program helped build relationships with numerous key funders, raising the necessary support for these programs.
  • Marketplace Development: PBFA’s retail team led the development of strong retail partnerships and commitment to plant-based foods, including merchandising and marketing programs at Kroger and Lucky. The results from these programs and broader industry trend reports have paved the way for expanded retail partnerships and support for plant-based foods that has created numerous opportunities for our members.
  • Putting Plant-Based Foods on the Map: PBFA has been one of the most active voices in promoting plant-based foods in the media, and at national conferences and events, including achieving top tier placements in publications like the New York Times, Forbes, and countless others.

PBFA is proud to have expanded into a team of dedicated leaders and subject matter experts, along with a team of experienced consultants and advisors. This team has continued to elevate the work in their respective areas on behalf of our members and the industry. The PBFA Board and team are committed to the success of the plant-based industry, and ensuring every member has a level playing field to thrive.

The Plant Based Foods Association has been an invaluable resource for us as a young and fast-growing business. We look forward to building lasting relationships with PBFA and its members.

Aubry Walch

Chief Manager & President, The Herbivorous Butcher